Port of Karachi
Review and History

On the shores of the Arabian Sea just northwest of the Indus River Delta, the Port of Karachi is the capital of Pakistan's Sindh Province. It is the largest city and main seaport of the country. Located about 50 kilometers west of the Port of Muhammad Bin Qasim and some 380 kilometers northwest of India's Port of Kandla. The Port of Karachi is also an important industrial and commercial center in Pakistan. In 2005, some 11.6 million people lived in the urban area of the Port of Karachi.

Karachi is Pakistan's financial and commercial capital as well, and the Port of Karachi accounts for most of the Pakistan's revenues. Some 50 banks and insurance companies are headquartered in the Port of Karachi. One of the busiest ports east of the Suez Canal, the Port of Karachi handles all of Pakistan's and Afghanistan's sea-borne trade.

The major products manufactured in the Port of Karachi are textiles and footwear, and other manufactured goods include metal products, paper, food and beverages, machinery, wood and furniture, chemicals, leather, petroleum, rubber, and electrical goods. Cottage industries in the Port of Karachi produce hand loomed cloth, carpets, lace, brass goods, pottery, and silver and gold embroidery. The Port of Karachi is linked to the interior by the Karachi-Peshawar highway and to coastal cities by the Karachi-Ormara highway. Pakistan's railway system, which terminates in the Port of Karachi, transports goods between the city and the interior, and there are many passenger trains for commuter traffic.

Port History

The ancient Greeks had many names for the Port of Karachi. Krokola was a camp for Alexander the Great as he departed for Babylonia after his battles in the Indus valley. Alexander's admiral Nearchus set sail from Morontobara. Barbarikon was a port in the Indo-Greek Bactrian kingdom. The Arabs called the Port of Karachi Debal. In 712 AD, it was the starting point for Muhammad Bin Qasim's army.

Baloch tribes established a small fishing village near the site of today's Port of Karachi, and their descendants still live on the island of Abdullah Goth near the Port of Karachi. In the 1550s, Ottoman Admiral Sidi Ali Reis visited the city. Karachi was first mentioned as a port in an Arabic essay, Muhit, about navigation on India's west coast and in the Persian Gulf. The paper advises sailors to seek shelter in Karachi Harbor if they were in trouble.

Legend reported the existence of a flourishing coastal town, Kharak, in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. Heavy rains silted up the harbor in 1728, and the merchants of Kharak moved to the area of the modern Port of Karachi. The old fishing village grew steadily and, by the late 18th Century, it was soon trading with Muscat across the Arabian Sea and with ports in the Persian Gulf. To protect the village and Port of Karachi, the merchants built a fortified town they called Kolachi and armed it with cannons from Muscat. The new town was surrounded by a 5-meter high mud and timber wall with two gates and gun-mounted turrets.

The Port of Karachi changed hands many times from 1729 to 1783, as the Khans of Kalat and the rulers of Sindh struggled for dominance. In 1783, the Talpur Mirs of Sindh took the town and built a fort on Manora Island at the harbor's entrance. The British were attracted to the port, and they built a factory in the Port of Karachi in the late 1700s. Disagreements about trade tariffs ended in the closing of the factory.

Concerned about Russian incursions in the area, the British East India Company conquered the Port of Karachi in 1839 when the fort surrendered without resistance. When the Sindh region was defeated in the Battle of Miani in 1843, the Port of Karachi was annexed into the British Indian Empire. Kumpany Bahadur troops entered the city in 1839, creating a new section of the city, the military cantonment. This was the beginning of what would be known as the "white city" where Indian's could not enter without permission.

In the 1840s, the Port of Karachi was made capital of Sindh and, despite the resentment of locals, it was later made part of the Bombay Presidency. Recognizing the potential importance of the Port of Karachi as a military base and as an export port, the British developed the harbor for shipping and laid the foundations for municipal government and infrastructure. The town began to grow quickly.

The modern Port of Karachi began to mature in 1854 when the navigation was channel was dredged and a causeway was built linking the harbor with the city. The town was divided into two major sections. The "white" town was the center for Europeans, with work and residential areas were separate. The "black" town held the growing Indian mercantile segment of the population. During the First Indian War for Independence, the 21st Native Infantry aligned with the rebels in 1857, but the British quickly squashed the uprising.

In 1864, the first telegram was sent from India's Port of Karachi to England. In 1878, the city was connected by rail with the rest of India. In the latter half of the 19th Century, many new buildings arose, including the Frere Hall and the Empress Market. By 1876 when Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was born in the Port of Karachi, the Port of Karachi was a busy city filled with mosques, churches, civic buildings, paved streets, and an impressive harbor.

Between 1856 and 1872, the volume of trade grew dramatically in the Port of Karachi. The American Civil War stimulated much growth, as the Port of Karachi exported cotton that had earlier been supplied for the British textile industry by the United States' southern states. After the Suez Canal was opened in 1869, the Port of Karachi began to export oil from the Sui region in the Balochistan province of British India (today's west central region of Pakistan).

The first modern wharves were started in the Port of Karachi in 1882. By 1899, the Port of Karachi was the largest port exporting cotton and wheat in the East, and the city was home to over 100 thousand people. The residents of the Port of Karachi included Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, and many languages were spoken in the streets. The population included natives of the Port of Karachi area, Europeans, Persians, and Lebanese.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Port of Karachi's streets were clogged, and the first tramway in Southwest Asia was created. The British installed public works for sanitation and transportation, and the colonial rulers established military camps, a European quarter, and organized market places.

When the capital of British India was moved to Delhi in 1911, the Port of Karachi became more important as a gateway to India. During World War I, the Port of Karachi important as the first Indian port for ships traveling the Suez Canal and the gateway to both Afghanistan and the Russian Empire.

By 1914, the Port of Karachi's Napier Mole Boat Wharf and the East Wharves were finished. Between 1927 and 1944, the Port of Karachi gained many new facilities that included the West Wharves, lighterage berths, and ship-repair berths. Unfortunately, most of these facilities were outdated by 1947.

The Port of Karachi again served as an important military base during World War II, as it was a supply point for supplies to the Russian front. When the country of Pakistan was formed in 1947, most of the Port of Karachi's Hindu population was drive out of the country to India.

By that time, the Port of Karachi was a modern cosmopolitan city with beautiful architecture and many modern conveniences. The Port of Karachi was chosen to be the capital of Pakistan. Many new residents arrived as Muslims left India, bringing a population boom and a dramatic change in the city's culture and economy.

In 1958, the country's capital was moved to Rawalpindi and then to Islamabad in 1960. The move began a period of decline for the Port of Karachi in which little new development occurred. In the 1970s, labor struggles erupted in the Port of Karachi's industrial areas. Refugees from the Afghan War poured into the Port of Karachi in the 1980s and 1990s, and they were followed by refugees from Iran. Political tensions between native groups and the immigrants exploded in racial and political violence.

It is said that the years of 1992 through 1994 were the bloodiest time in the Port of Karachi's history. The Army conducted "Operation Clean-up" against the Mohajir Quami Movement that largely represented the 1947 immigrants.

Today, most of the older tensions have faded. The Port of Karachi retains its position as an important industrial and financial center in Pakistan, and it handles most of the country's overseas trade.

The Port of Karachi is one of the world's fastest-growing cities, and it faces the challenges of rapid growth: traffic, pollution, street crime, and poverty. These problems plague the Port of Karachi with a reputation for being a not-very-livable city. Traffic and air pollution are major problems facing the city, and the city has created new parks and planted trees in hopes of reducing pollution and improving the environment.

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