ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Value Struggles in Karachi’s Agrarian–Urban Frontier

Receding Rurality, Booming Periphery

This paper advances new perspectives on peripheral urbanisation in South Asia by drawing attention to Karachi’s rural land transformations. It considers the shift from the metropolis to the agrarian–urban frontier as a process that signals the production of a new value regime centred on the devalorisation of a rural economy and its transformation into urban real estate, as well as the changing priorities and preferences of the state. It proposes that Karachi’s agrarian–urban transformations can be understood as value struggles that pivot on three interconnected processes: strategies of enclosure for the production of private property; accumulation by dispossession that separates rural populations from the means of subsistence through direct extra-economic force such as the state; and “value grabbing” or the appropriation and distribution of (surplus) value through rent between diverse state and private actors. Given that this is a deeply political process, the state’s role remains salient in terms of its alliances with varied groups—real estate developers, politicians, brokers, waderas—to make land available for capital.

When we first met in July 2013 at hisautaaq (meeting place) in Khairabad approximately 20 km from thecity centre, 70-year-oldYM cut an impressive figure seated comfortably in a charpoy flanked by an armed security guard and a gleaming Pajero. I was struck by how the autaaqwas a picturesque vista of rural Karachi: a bucolic landscape of rows of vegetable fields and rose gardens that faded far into the distance. The meeting had been arranged by a community activist who was helpingYM securesanad (land title) for 12 acres of land under the Sindh Gothabad Scheme. I was interested to learn about a new phase of rural land conversions in whichwaderas (landlords/village elders) likeYM are deeply ensconced. He belongs to the Baloch Brohi tribe and along with his two brothers he has been cutting deals with state
officials, brokers, and politicians to sell lands. Waderas like him have secured extensive financial gains in this dealmaking momentum, and some are redirecting profits to build small-scale housing schemes of their own in Karachi’s periphery.
The wadera Ghulamjan is constructing a new society scheme located approximately 2 km from Khairabad—the Ghulamjan Society Scheme on 1,000 acres of pastoral land. As the communityactivist later remarked

When the land had no value, the waderas sold milk, cut wood and travelled in a donkey cart. Today, because the land is considered valuable, they drive Pajeros, make deals with politicians and develop society schemes.

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Updated On : 22nd Mar, 2018

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