Why is Karachi’s DHA Phase VIII being gated against its own denizens?
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.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.