Why is Karachi’s DHA Phase VIII being gated against its own denizens?

Published: February 12, 2016
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The natural proprietors of Karachi – everyone and not just DHA Phase VIII residents – can and should protect Karachi. PHOTO: DHA TODAY

The contours of Karachi through which its inhabitants tread the city alter once again as e-tagging electronic gates surge in DHA Phase VIII. In an attempt to “enhance security” and “monitor those entering” from the eight entry and exit points of the locality, the housing authority plans to erect gates with sensors at the barrier that will recognise e-tags and allow cars to pass, create separate lanes for residents and visitors, and install closed-circuit television cameras to record all vehicles entering the area.

Weapons of/for ‘protection’

The apparatuses or symbols of “security” – walls, checkpoints, barricades and now the recent e-tagging gates, are a mere façade of added securitisation and protection. They change the architecture of the city and give the illusion that danger is indeed at bay. What they actually succeed in doing, though covertly, is to create geography of insecurity, paranoia, fear and anxiety. Even when the danger of robberies, mobile snatching or similar crimes is or will be low, the city will seem to be hostile and aggressive, as though at a battle with its inhabitants.

Disguised exclusion and fragmentation 

But forget the sense of perpetual trepidation that will grip Karachiites at some level and time or the other, let’s examine the space and power dynamic created by this forced gated community. Let’s elucidate the new way of subscription to power within and across the bifurcation.

In this apparent and ostensibly “free” country, friends on a motorbike can no longer pass through DHA Phase VIII, you and I cannot drive through the area for an ice-cream cone and uncle Tahir with his untrimmed beard and hundreds of responsibilities no longer has a ‘right’ to walk, cycle or drive through the vicinity alone. According to the new rules, visitors will not need e-tags to enter phase VIII, but will be allowed to pass through, as long as they are accompanied by their family or are driving a car.

The new city landscape, then, succeeds in every way possible at legitimising certain regimes of control, highlighting “otherness” and reinforcing, perhaps even further segmenting classes and society. People without families, vehicles and ‘contacts’ in this phase of Defence are automatically excluded and become ‘targets’ of increasing security.

Sadia Shirazi in her article City, space, power: Lahore’s architecture of in/security, states paradoxically, the process of “securitisation” does not ameliorate the tension experienced by citizens, rather it actually creates violence in their lives as the victims of these security checks are the lower and middle classes citizens.

Creating selected ownership

The creation of this gated community obliterates transparency. It represents the city in a way the urban planners deem fit. The latter, in this case DHA Phase VIII and retired army personnel behind the highly innovative electronic new gates, formulate a new way to own Karachi. They must realise that their pretext and garb of “protection” appears to stem from ingrained inferiority complexes. The problem of security will not be solved by confinement. The natural proprietors of Karachi – everyone and not just DHA Phase VIII residents – can and should protect Karachi.

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Yusra Hayat

Yusra Hayat

The author has a Bachelor’s in English Literature from LUMS. She is a sub-editor at The Express Tribune Peshawar desk. She tweets at @hayat55y (twitter.com/hayat55y)

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

  • Hamza

    As a resident of Phase VIII, I very strongly condemn this maneuver. It only serves to increase class division among the people of Karachi and it almost feels as if we’re being isolated from society. Bad move.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    I live in one of those buildings shown above. No amount of security measures can protect the residents, as long as the terrorists are determined to wreak havoc. Recently the drivers objected to the imam of the mosque situated outside the complex and persuaded the building management to build another mosque inside the complex. Now anyone can enter and pray in this mosque which has been built in the children’s play area. How will the security personnel ensure that among those who want to pray there are not terrorists? Finally, even if a car has “family” (meaning women), how will they know the women are not terrorists?Recommend

  • JP

    Phase V III is private property. Owned by DHA. [Gated residential communities
    exist everywhere in the world] This is good security. Keeps the people living
    there safe. In this day and age when crime is rampant, home invasion robberies
    are every day occurrences, never mind what the Rangers say. Specially, motorcycles, are used for target killings, purse snatching,robberies and mugging. Just a few months ago, a robber/bandit/mugger came all the way from Lyari to mug and rob people in DHA. He was shot and killed by the police. Family claim he was a student in Malaysia, on vacation here. Not true at all. Blatant lies. Passport shows visitor visa. Not student visa.
    So keep the unsavory elements OUT. You need ice cream? Find a different route to
    get there.Recommend

  • ors

    Clearly this writer seems to be a keyboard jihadi without ground level knowledge. First of all, she is not aware of the fact that people have plots in DHA phase 8. This area has become a parking ground for city’s bus walas. Motorcycle walas in thousands with their blaring horns visit the area and become a nightmare for the people living there. Maybe the writer is also not aware of the rape, shooting and regular robbery cases occuring in phase 8, near the Do Darya (Kolachi) area.
    Secondly, as per notice by DHA, no one will be stopped from entering phase 8, but only suspicious people will be checked before entering, thus, creating a sense of security.
    furthermore, How big is phase 8 in size compared to the size of karachi? 0.2% maybe, and why did that become a problem of middle and lower class divide? are they stopping you to buy plots or apartments there? its a private society and they can put up security if the people residing there require, there are gated communities all over the world even in secure cities like dubai. nothing wrong with it. so get out of this childish attitude where you can write anything as long as you have a keyboard and impose your own myopic view of social justice on the already troubled citizens of Karachi.
    If you wanna get rid of this sense of insecurity, please first fire your chowkidaar/guard who sits outside every house, building, office of karachi and Pakistan. maybe then you will feel more “Secure”. Since your definition of feeling secure is to not have any Security.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    Just curious…Has the author never seen a gated colony before?Recommend

  • http://axpheykhan.wordpress.com Axphey

    This blog doesn’t worth to be posted. Let the locals live in secure boundaries and what actually bugged you seems absurd to me.Recommend

  • khanji

    Another stupid idea by DHA. DHA is worst ran slum in Asia. Why don’t they have police patrols. Disarm thugs roaming around on pickup trucks and fix civic problems. Military guys can run sincietues. It should be left to city government or people like Malik Riaz. Recommend