At one time, DHA was considered to be an affluent, safe, clean and well-maintained area of Karachi. While according to DHA’s own web site: ‘Pakistan Defense Housing Authority has emerged as the largest and most prestigious residential estate of the country. Through a well-managed and regulated administration, it provides the best educational, recreational, cultural and civic facilities in an aesthetically dynamic environment’.
Unfortunately, many residents living in this ‘prestigious residential estate of the country‘, do not share the same sentiments, especially those who have had bitter experiences of dacoities and in resolving their complaints.
For them, DHA is a Dysfunctional Housing Authority and many disillusioned residents feel that it has just become a property developer, a money making machine and is used by the army as a ‘retirement and pension home’ and providing green pastures to some of their senior, ‘blue eyed’ officers.
As such, they have a ‘devil may care’ attitude and feel they are not accountable to the ‘bloody civilians’ and see any interaction with the residents as intrusive and do not wish to be held accountable or answerable to them.
The above portrayal may be a little harsh, but it is pretty close to the truth, as many residents have been victims of armed robberies, repeated flooding during the monsoons, constant shortage of water supply, broken roads and street lights, overflowing and open gutters and uncollected garbage.
No doubt, DHA is no longer responsible for the maintenance of the area, which is now the responsibility of CBC, but the security and safety of the residents is still the responsibility prime of DHA.
According to a recent report in the News, titled ‘Danger zone DHA’, (http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-4-124854-Danger-zone-DHA), DHA is no longer a safe neighborhood and robberies in Defense and Clifton are on the rise. The report states that there has been an alarming surge in daylight robberies, burglaries and vehicle and mobile phone snatching in recent months.
Due to the lack of proper security arrangements, DHA is no longer a ‘crime free zone’ as it once was and is fast becoming a hub for criminals. Cases of street crime, molestation, robbery and vehicle snatching are reported on a daily basis, with law enforcers of the area seemingly powerless to stop such offenses.
Fifty homes have been looted since January 2012 and the crime wave has affected both the commercial and residential areas. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as many robberies are not reported to the police.
This lack of security had also allowed the ‘White Corolla’ rapist to roam the area freely and sexually assault women at will for several months. Simple crime of eve teasing and street crimes had escalated to cases of terrorist attacks. A major terror attack that had taken place was an attack on SSP Mohammad Aslam Khan’s residence, when a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into the police official’s house.
I also had a traumatic experience in 2010, when the Angel of Death came visiting my house on a Monday morning. Four smartly dressed young men, wearing ties, entered the driveway, while the cars were being washed and pushed my two drivers, guard and cook into their living quarters, with the intention of robbing the house.
As my employees are very loyal, they resisted and a scuffle started between them, which resulted in indiscriminate firing by the dacoits and the immediate death of a driver, while the other three suffered serious injuries.
The response from 15, ambulance services, police and CPLC was immediate, but the Vigilance department of DHA and its Patrol were nowhere to be seen. Col. Rizwan, who was head of DHA Vigilant Department at that time, was clueless about the incident or the gang.
According to police report, the gang has been operating in the Defense area for the last one year and a number of cases had been registered against them. I was not impressed with the initial investigations, but after a lapse of one year, I was informed by the police that all members of the gang had been killed in a ‘police encounter’.
In contrast, Lahore and Islamabad DHAs have put the comfort and safety of the residents first and are a pleasure and a joy to drive through. They are well planned and managed and there are no broken roads, open gutters, debris or uncollected garbage on the roads and just one or two entry points have been established, which are manned by trained vigilant staff. As such, the crime rate in these DHAs is low.
No doubt these DHAs are much smaller then the sprawling DHA of Karachi and as such, more difficult to manage, but even then, the Karachi DHA can improve its management by appointing dedicated and experienced officers to maintain and monitor its various phases.
CCTV cameras have been installed in various sensitive areas of DHA, in order to improve the security. However, no positive improvement in security has taken place and in fact, there has been an escalation in crime.
The DHA Sunday Bazaar, located on Khayaban-e-Shujaat, with over 2000 stalls, is totally vulnerable and could be an easy target for the terrorists and although a fence has been erected round the bazaar, it does not provide adequate protection.
DHA must take cognizance of the deteriorating security situation in the country, especially DHA and take positive steps to improve the workings of its Vigilant Department. It must establish CCTV cameras around the Bazaar and its parking areas and establish a working arrangement with the area police and CPLC, to prevent any criminal or terrorist activities.
DHA must also provide two fully functional ambulances, with trained medical staff, at the bazaar, which could provide emergency medical services to the victims, in case of a terrorist attack.
Therefore, instead of investing the resident’s money on new projects, the failed Cogen Plant and other development programs, DHA should improve its existing facilities and give the safety and comfort of the residents a priority.
It must improve the services of its Vigilant Department and hold it accountable for any lapse in their performance.