The worth of being a Karachiite = Actually worthless!

Published: April 29, 2014
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The population of Karachi is almost twice that of Lahore but the city has only seven more seats in the National Assembly. MAP: Sajjad Hashm

Being a democratic country, Pakistan is governed by the National Assembly comprising of elected representatives from all over the country. The very essence of democracy is that all citizens are considered and treated as equals with equal rights and opportunities given to all of them.

The total population of Pakistan is currently said to be 182, 490,721 out of which around 23, 500,000 lives in Karachi which means that almost 13% of Pakistan’s population are Karachites. Although the last census was conducted in 1998, the data used here is based on estimates in 2013 calculated through the population growth rate as accepted by the United Nations (UN).

Unfortunately, denying the real essence of democracy of providing equal rights to all, urban Sindh and especially, Karachi has been intentionally denied the rights and powers they deserve. The voice of Karachi has always been systematically ignored, reducing its share in the national and provincial representation.

The National Assembly of Pakistan has 342 (272 are directly elected and 70 are reserved) seats out of which Karachi holds only 20 which means that Karachi, home to 13% of the country’s population, only holds 6% of representation in the National Assembly.

For a more in-depth understanding of how Karachi is being deprived of its rights at both national and provincial level, please read on:

In the National Assembly

The table below contains population data of the major cities across Pakistan and the number of seats they hold in the National Assembly.

Karachi – the biggest city in the country with a population of 23, 500,000 people – holds a mere 20 seats in the National Assembly from NA-239 to NA-258. Lahore is a far second in the list with a population of 12, 500,000 but holds 13 seats in the National Assembly.

City Population NA Seats People per seat
Karachi 23,500,000 20 1,175,000
Lahore 12,500,000 13 961,538
Quetta 896,090 1 896,090
Peshawar 3,500,000 4 875,000
Gujranwala 1,124,799 7 160,686

The population of Karachi is almost twice that of Lahore but the city has only seven more seats in comparison.

Going even deeper, the real analysis of this situation can be understood in this way – one National Assembly seat represents the will of 1, 175,000 citizens in Karachi but in Lahore one National Assembly seat represents the will of 961, 538 citizens. Consequently, based on the data in the table above, one citizen of Gujranwala is seven times more powerful than a citizen of Karachi and so on.

Now, if we reverse our steps and apply the seat distribution formula of Gujranwala to Karachi, that is, if 160,686 citizens represent one seat, Karachi will end up with 140 seats in the National Assembly.

This will make the equation very simple, that is, whoever wins Karachi will win Pakistan.

In the Sindh Assembly

Things are even more shocking in the provincial arena. The table below shows the data of population of major cities across Sindh and the number of seats they hold in the provincial assembly.

City

Population

PA Seats

People per seat

Karachi 23,500,000 42 559,524
Nawabshah 1,135,131 5 227,026
Sukkur 850,000 4 212,500
Larkana 270,283 6 45,047

Karachi, by its population size, again stands on top of the list with 42 seats in the provincial assembly from PS-89 to PS-130; thus, one provincial seat in Karachi represents 559, 524 citizens in the assembly.

But it is from here that things get really shocking. The population of Larkana is lowest in the list at 270,283 and the city holds six seats in the provincial assembly implying that its one seat represents 45, 047 people.

Now if we apply this rule of 45,047 people to one seat in the case of Karachi, we would get 509 seats allocated to Karachi in the provincial assembly. This number is even higher than the total number of seats in the Sindh Assembly today which is 168!

It is worth noticing that the seat to people ratio in Sindh significantly decreases as we move from areas where the ruling party has less influence to areas where it has more influence. This distribution plays an important role in electoral counts. For example, 12 votes cast in Karachi are equal to only one vote cast in Larkana.

So, if today all the cities in Sindh were given seats on an equal basis, Karachi would get 92 seats out of 168, that is, 50 more than it currently holds.

Thus, an equal distribution of seats in the assembly would flip the whole face of politics in Sindh. And instead of increasing the number of seats in Karachi, if we normalise the distribution to other cities as per the ratio applicable to Karachi, the effect would be similar.

Quota system in Sindh

The miseries of urban Sindh and Karachi don’t end here. After being deprived of their rights in the national and provincial representation, urban Sindh is further pushed away through the most discriminatory quota system which sub allocates Sindh’s share into two parts: urban areas – namely Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur, which make 65% of the province’s population – are given only 40% share of provincial resources including funds, jobs and educational institutes while rural areas which consist of 35% of the population, enjoy 60% share.

This is why students from Karachi have to suffer and compete with those from other parts of the province or country in spite of having much higher grades than them.

Bloodshed of merit, isn’t it?

Karachi as a province

You might have noticed that Karachi itself contains enough weight that if given equal representative rights, it can steer the overall politics of Pakistan. Technically speaking, this electoral power and the size of the city makes it an ideal, not to mention long overdue candidate, to be declared a province itself. However, due to reasons known or unknown, this topic is never discussed at national level.

Distribution of power based on population

One may question whether it is justifiable to distribute power according to the population size. The answer of course, is yes; this is what democracy means. If everyone is not treated equally and a smaller group is given more weight than the majority group, it won’t be a democracy anymore.

Such systems are models of feudalism or monarchies.

Moreover, the population size does not simply represent the number of people living in an area. It also represents the tax collection and the revenue generated for the state from that area. Moreover, population also determines the funds allocated to a particular area. Hence, unjustified distribution would make one group in the country work more and earn less while another group works less and earns more.

This is an open denial of merit and justice.

The end word

These are just a few hard facts and figures to give you a glimpse of how power and resources are being kept away from those who deserve it through a systematic murder of justice and merit. But unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here; this is only the beginning of the deprivation that Karachi and Karachiites are made to suffer.

Sajjad Hashmi

Sajjad Hashmi

An IT professional with interests in political and social issues; with strong belief in left wing politics and loves satire. He tweets @SajjadHashmi (twitter.com/SajjadHashmi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.