Articles on this Page
- 11/02/16--04:07: _Why are places like...
- 11/03/16--04:15: _I was assaulted by ...
- 11/11/16--03:47: _Zulfikar Ali Bhutto...
- 11/18/16--23:00: _Is America just a g...
- 11/19/16--00:00: _Will Karachi ever r...
- 12/07/16--06:16: _A Lahori’s first vi...
- 01/14/17--23:00: _“So, what’s Pakista...
- 02/02/17--07:37: _Will Careem and Ube...
- 02/04/17--03:22: _We care about Musli...
- 02/07/17--02:00: _Why has Pakistan no...
- 02/18/17--21:00: _A letter to Muniba ...
- 02/20/17--05:47: _PSL Final: What was...
- 02/24/17--01:23: _Is PIA operating pl...
- 02/24/17--02:04: _I was 16 when I was...
- 03/09/17--02:30: _Dear Ms Fiza Ali, h...
- 03/14/17--03:11: _Why every Karachiit...
- 04/27/17--04:48: _Noor: Another movie...
- 05/05/17--05:32: _Nothing can come be...
- 05/15/17--05:02: _Mooroo: Cool is mas...
- 05/24/17--05:18: _Why honest policeme...
- 11/03/16--04:15: I was assaulted by the Rangers for taking a picture
- 11/18/16--23:00: Is America just a glorified third world country?
- 11/19/16--00:00: Will Karachi ever receive the same affection as Lahore?
- 12/07/16--06:16: A Lahori’s first visit to Karachi
- 01/14/17--23:00: “So, what’s Pakistan like?”
- 02/02/17--07:37: Will Careem and Uber be able to survive in Pakistan?
- 02/04/17--03:22: We care about Muslims in the US but not minorities in Pakistan?
- 02/07/17--02:00: Why has Pakistan not had a census in 18 years?
- 02/18/17--21:00: A letter to Muniba Mazari, my inspiration
- 02/20/17--05:47: PSL Final: What was more important, the game or where it is held?
- 02/24/17--01:23: Is PIA operating planes or over-crowded minibuses?
- 02/24/17--02:04: I was 16 when I was forced to marry a stranger and move to Canada
- 03/09/17--02:30: Dear Ms Fiza Ali, how can you say Karachi has no culture?
- 04/27/17--04:48: Noor: Another movie that proves book adaptations never work out
- 05/15/17--05:02: Mooroo: Cool is mass marketed, quality has to be found
- 05/24/17--05:18: Why honest policemen can’t survive under the existing Sindh set-up
I’m standing at Alexanderplatz in Berlin, hearing music from three different directions coming from street artists who have set up their hats. One plays under a bridge, another next to a shopping district and a third outside a beer hall. I’m not sure which one to listen to when I get an urgent e-mail from Marium Kamal. Marium is an artist and a fine arts teacher who, in her free time, manages Shikari; a small indie duo who play only original Urdu and English songs in Karachi. I met her and the band quite cosmically at a coffee shop on my last day in Karachi. I used to watch them every day for a few months at the Zamzama branch of Espresso before I ballsied my way to getting their contact details. The coffee house in the crowded lane had organically become a co-working space for the playwrights and poets of the city. While doing many of my interviews, I used to find the band sitting with a bunch of their friends on couches, drinking coffee and singing their original tracks without charge to a creative-minded, music-starved audience working on their laptops. I loved the aspect of live music and they never distracted me from my writing or my subjects.
“They banned us at Espresso. Their guard practically threw us out; the waiters even refused to serve us coffee,” she wrote.In her email she spoke of a particular guest named Faheem who had found Shikari playing so offensive that he went and complained to the management at Espresso. Funnily enough, the person who complained about the music in the coffee shop is a professor who teaches critical thinking at a top university. But when the band asked him to share why he was offended by them playing a few instruments, he wouldn’t say. The creative duo responded to this banning, not by punches and kicks to the oppressor, but with satirical art stickers that they handed out to their friends and family. In a month since I had been away, my Facebook feed was inundated with news from Pakistan of alcohol shops being closed down, pushups in cricket being analysed and dance in schools being contested by authorities.
“Everyone is policing someone or the other in Pakistan,” says Billy to me from his makeshift studio in his parent’s basement.Billy aka Bilal Baloch sings and plays the guitar and ukelele for Shikari in the evenings. His day job is at Ziauddin Hospital teaching music as a form of therapy to children with language disorders and impairments, mental retardation, Down’s syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Learning Disabilities. The other half of the duo is raspy-toned Safwan Subzwari, a talented musician, filmmaker and visual artist who recently exhibited his artwork at the Fomma Trust. The Columbia College grad returned to Pakistan a few years ago and shot his directorial debut Laal about the plight of women, the increasing rate of forced marriages, and overall patriarchy in Pakistan. Laal is an evocative visual journey through the isolation and struggles of a typical Pakistani girl. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikEnMZj_AE4 The project set him back roughly Rs300,000 which he felt was completely wasted as it was never screened properly on Pakistani TV or the score played on radio channels. It took two years for the project to be nominated for a local film festival. When I ask him why he never considered sending it abroad to compete, he says,
“What’s the point? Why add to the already existing negative PR around Pakistan? The point is to create a change within the system here and that won’t happen by me sending this film abroad!”I was always under the impression that platforms like Coke Studio, Nescafe Basement and the upcoming Levis Live were really providing a platform to budding artists, but the artists in question disagree.
“They’re great platforms if you want to play covers but no one wants to listen or produce original music anymore,” says Billy.This comes as a surprise because the 90s saw tonnes of incredibly talented artists and original Pakistani music. Recently, Shikari have set out on an experiment to see how people respond to music at public spaces in Karachi.
“We have no performance spaces where we can try out our material, practice, jam, get ideas and feedback from other artists. Even at some of the open mic nights, we are charged as a band to play our music,” says Safwan.He notes that established artists have great studios and equipment, but offer no mentoring, support or training to younger artists.
“Even they are not making original music anymore,” he adds.They tried playing at Zamzama Park and Dolmen Mall and found themselves treated worse than terrorists.
“The guards at the park told us that playing music there could lead to a crowd gathering around us and that could potentially result in a bomb blast,” says Billy incredulously. “When we tried busking at Dolmen mall, the management lost their s***, used their walkie-talkies to track us and followed us around until we left. They even tried confiscating our instruments.”Granted even street musicians in Europe require permits and licenses to play in public places; this kind of treatment towards young talented artists who do not have a creative outlet feels a little extreme to me.
“I remember the girls working at Mango at Dolmen started dancing all around the store and begged us to stay there longer,” says Billy, noting the dichotomous response to their experiment. “I remember once there was this really grim bearded man at the park who stared at us arms-crossed without blinking for a few minutes. We thought ‘oh no, we’re screwed!’ But when the song ended, he broke down and told us how much he loved singing and asked if he could sing an Indian song. That’s when another man saw him and dragged him off for namaz,” laughs Safwan.Despite the bans and barriers, us Karachiites always figure out a way around the system. Upon my return to Karachi, they inform me that a new Facebook group has popped up which has been started by a photographer who opens up his entire house to artists every Friday. Shikari promises me a house full of free food, jamming in every room, and interesting artists scattered all around. On Friday, I follow their car and end up outside a beautiful house in Defence. They introduce me to the photographer who welcomes me in like family, despite my lack of musical abilities. I settle myself first in the front lawn with a drink and a tambourine. It’s one of the most perfect nights in Karachi, summer has faded and winter is slowly starting to creep in. The crowd is a mix of young men and women singing good and bad, loud and soft songs. My awkwardness as a newbie at the jam fades away when a group asks me to join them. In the drawing room, Shikari hands out their stickers to some of the first-timers at the jam. In seconds, a loud confident girl with a jazzy sound hears their story and comes up with an entire song about being banned at Espresso. Everyone sways and sings along. I follow the boys to the next room and they look happy and at home. They look original and fresh just like their music. And it solidifies my belief about real artists; you can oppress us, repress us, depress us, but we’ll always find a way.
On October 24, 2016, on my way to IBA University for a class, I encountered a horizontally parked ranger’s mobile on Shahrah-e-Faisal (at co-ordinates 24.851588, 67.032374). The flow of traffic had halted, and I was running short on time. I decided to take a picture of the scene so I’d have evidence to prove why I was late, to my teacher. A ranger’s official, upon witnessing this, rushed to my car immediately, grabbed me and started pulling at me. He dragged me out of the car and snatched my phone. More Ranger’s personnel gathered around me and without any justification, they proceeded to kick and shove me, with their guns pointed at me. I asked them what I had done and why they were afflicting such violence on me. I told them that they could search me. They sneered at how I had the audacity to take a picture. I started to shout, explaining why I took the picture. I told them that as far as I know there is no law that prohibits taking pictures in a public space. But that went unheard – in fact, it infuriated them even further. They started beating me like animals on their prey. I began to plead. In a state of helplessness, I begged them to delete the pictures and just let me go; all I wanted was to get to my class. But they continued to strangle me, punch me, kick me, shove me, and hit me with the butts of their guns. Even after deleting the picture, they refused to let me go. They threw me in their mobile and took me to their headquarters. An officer appeared and, after assessing the situation, he instructed the Rangers to let me go. The Rangers quickly disappeared, leaving me unaccompanied to walk back to my car, which by then, had been impounded by the traffic police. The fact that I had left the vicinity completely free of all charges was a testament to my innocence and their unjustified advances against me. If the officer had seen me as a threat or believed I was at fault, he definitely wouldn’t have freed me. I sustained injuries on various parts of my body: one on my forehead (possibly from a gun butt), on my back, knee, leg, and bruises on my arms and shoulders. Moreover, marks of strangulation were also visible on both sides of my neck. My whole body was in tatters and immense pain. I acknowledge that the rangers have done great work in Karachi for law and order, and as a responsible law-abiding citizen of Pakistan, I respect and admire the work of the Pakistani Security forces. However, this does not give them any right to treat a Pakistani citizen in this inhumane and animalistic manner. Their acts were a violation of civil and basic human rights, and the laws of these security forces cannot condone such brutality. Even if they perceived me to be a threat, they could have addressed this issue in a civil manner. I was ready to present myself for checking and an investigation as per the law. But they had no right to beat me. I could only note down the name of two officials, Zafar and Nazar, while the other four to five soldiers had ammo jackets wrapped over their nameplates. I can still identify them by face. I hope that the top officials of these security forces will investigate this matter, and take notice of this incidence (one of many) where civilians are mistreated by their personnel. These incidents raise a question and taint the good-work that our security forces accomplish. Civilians do not pay for their heavy budget, so they can boss people around and exploit ordinary citizens. The irony behind all this is that the institutions made for our safety seems to have become a threat to us. I will fight for justice. Please share this post to support the fight for our legal and civil rights #StopTheBrutality.
I recently came across an Urdu newspaper in which the date was stated to be October 32, 2016. Apparently the editor didn’t know that October has only 31 days, and it can’t ever have 32 days, not even if Imran Khan wants it and threatens to lock down the whole world if it is not done. Teachers of English in our schools are not qualified to teach, which is why most Pakistanis routinely add an apostrophe before an “s” even when it is not required. Education standards have deteriorated drastically. I usually come across such phrases as “his” husband or “her” wife. At such times I wish that the writer would stick to his mother tongue instead of massacring the English language. One of the aims of a good education is to train students to express themselves (if not in English, at least in their mother language). Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. It was undoubtedly Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who gave the death blow to quality education in the country. His rampant nationalisation of schools and colleges to provide jobs for his party workers (one of whom became the principal of a school despite not being able to sign his name) ensured that the common man would never be able to provide a decent education for his children. Teachers no longer took their work seriously, knowing that being government employees, they could never be sacked. A couple of years ago (40 years after the reckless nationalisation of education), I interviewed a graduate of a prestigious business institution of the country. He didn’t even know basic math (including how to calculate percentage increase or decrease in prices). In fact, he could not even do simple addition or subtraction. When I asked him what he would do without a calculator, he said a modern cell phone can also be used as a calculator. I asked him what he’d do if he didn’t have a calculator or a cell phone and needed to do simple calculations like when paying for groceries.
“I’ll ask someone who knows how to do it”, he said.When I asked him how he was able to get his current job, he smiled and said,
“My father is a senior government officer”.Way back in 1972, in the first cabinet of Bhutto, the health minister, Sheikh Rasheed, announced that by introducing generic medicines in the country, prices had come down by up to “a 1000%”. And he said this at an international conference outside Pakistan, which made us the laughing stock of the whole world. One foreign reporter asked the minister how prices could be reduced by a 1000%, since a decrease of only 100% in the price of any item would mean that its price would now be zero. I don’t remember how the minister retrieved himself from this awkward situation. Someone should have told him that by reducing the price of something by a 1000%, the pharmacy selling that item would not only have to give it away for free, but would also have to pay Rs900 to the buyer. So, even before Bhutto nationalised schools and colleges to provide jobs for his party activists, quality education was not available in some government schools (like the one in which Sheikh Rasheed studied and passed his matric exam). I was surprised that Bhutto didn’t replace him (perhaps because he was a senior member of the party and already beyond retirement age). I, myself, was fortunate to have studied in a missionary school which is famous for having produced a president of the country, a prime minister as well as a provincial governor and chief minister, a senior Indian politician and some army generals (a couple of whom were my classmates). One of my class fellows is a well-known columnist writing for a leading English newspaper of the country. Teachers were dedicated and strict. The school was run by Dutch Christian priests who spoke to us only in English. They were strict disciplinarians who didn’t hesitate to cane us if we didn’t do our homework. This school was among the two missionary schools in Karachi that were not nationalised, but when I had my son admitted there in 1980 I found that the former teachers had retired and had been replaced by those who were products of nationalised schools and were not as good as ours had been. Nowadays, of course, private schools have sprung up and children of the elite are being trained to get good jobs after they graduate. But even some private school teachers are not as good as the ones we had when we were kids. My teachers were so good that I didn’t need tuition, but most children nowadays need to avail private tuitions to be able to pass. Perhaps it’s because school teachers are not paid more than the minimum wage prescribed by the government. It will be a long time before things improve, and I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.
Copies of the Koran, Islam's holy book, sit on a bench as the shadows of boys, looking into the Zakariya madrassa, fall onto a classroom wall in Karachi
I slept the night Donald Trump was elected president of the United States (US). Not out of a sense of peace, but a resigned knowledge that nothing I did now would stop the waves and currents of history. I didn’t know the outcome, and I almost didn’t care; because whatever happened, ordinary Americans would have to deal with it. I was one of them, whether I liked it or not. My friends had stayed up after midnight, watching the election coverage on their laptops.
“Look at how many states are red!” my friend Amina exclaimed, horrified. “The Republicans are leading the House (of Representatives).”She was worried and she was rightfully so. A majority republican house and senate were far more disastrous than even a republican president, because it meant larger policy implications for minorities like ourselves, for women, for the poor and for anybody who was anyone in the US, simply because national policy affected us whether we liked it or not. Whether we voted or not. I slept the night Donald Trump was elected. Not out of indifference, but a hard headed sense of reality, and an implicit acceptance of what would happen. I didn’t know if Donald Trump would win. But I expected it. I remember when I woke up that morning, tired from staying up the night before, tired from all the schoolwork I inevitably had to do regardless of who won, I felt a shift in the air. It was instinctive, almost primordial, but I felt as if something was drastically different. I felt not as if the world had changed overnight, because the world had been changing in my lifetime, it had been changing before my very eyes, far before November 8, 2016. But I felt as if there was no going back now. I palmed my cell phone. I had a headache that comes from lack of sleep. I opened Google and typed in ‘US Election 2016’. And I saw that Donald Trump had won, and Hillary Clinton had lost. Google had colour-coded it. The red far exceeded the blue. There was no denial, no panic and no pain. I laughed. I laughed as if to say,
“He really won, didn’t he?”When I left my house, the sky was overcast, grey; the weather stuffy and cold. The clouds teemed with rain. I regretted leaving my hair down because it would now frizz. Nobody said anything, but I saw it on their faces; a scowl, a worried misery, an almost subtle underlying frustration with what had happened. Seeing passive and unfriendly faces in Philadelphia was nothing new. It was going to rain, it was the middle of the week, and I was in one of the poorest cities in the US. But today was different. Nobody said anything, but we all knew what had happened. When I reached the protest against Trump, I was late. People had congregated since noon to express their feelings about what had happened. I saw a girl, whose mascara dripped muddy tracks down her face, holding a sign against Trump. I saw individuals preach and gesture and weep. I saw people say how shocked they were, and how they wish this had not happened. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="553"] Berkeley High student Ariana Melton holds a sign during a protest in response to the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States in Berkeley, California. Photo: Reuters[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="556"] People in Seattle, Washington carried not my president and fight racism placards during the anti-Trump protest. Photo: Reuters[/caption] Their emotional display was foreign to me. I empathised with them, and I understood, but I could not reconcile myself to their shock and surprise. Did they not realise they were in America? The nation built on the enslavement of millions of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans? Had they forgotten the wars George W Bush flagrantly started in the Middle East on the false premise of weapons of mass destruction? I knew how it was to be a person of colour in the US, a category which does not even exist in Pakistan, because we lack white people against which to differentiate ourselves. I knew how it was to be hated, disdained, and humiliated on an almost daily basis. I knew how to smile at white people and nod as if everything was normal, because that was what they expected of us. If you didn’t, you could lose everything you had worked so hard for. You could lose the hard-won sacrifices your parents made to live in this country, the fruits of the American Dream, which people now wondered even existed anymore, or if it ever existed in the first place. Trump brought everything to the fore. What Americans thought but were too polite to say out loud, he shamelessly stated. What Americans acted on but denied drove their actions, he openly did. What Americans wanted but justified with liberal rhetoric, he acknowledged was racist. The people in America now weeping over the Trump victory — a democratic victory, despite his tyrant complex, which is more than can be said for the dictators of Pakistan past— don’t realise that the US was heading towards this crash course. In the past few years, we have seen the deterioration of post-racial Obama America. We had a black president and yet black people were still shot dead in the streets. We had national health care and yet 45 million Americans lived below the poverty line. We had graduates with PhDs who could not find jobs, much less pay off their student loans. The US resembles a third world country in many respects. Water isn’t drinkable in Flint, Michigan, and residents on Pine Ridge Reservation use generators to get a few hours of electricity a day, the healthy American middle class has been replaced with the enraged white working class, laid off industry jobs and paid minimum wage. I see children selling candy on the streets of Philadelphia, no different from child vendors knocking on car windows on the streets of Karachi. The only difference is Americans have not fully accepted the precariousness of living in what is supposed to be the wealthiest and most democratic country on earth. The Trump victory drove this reality home for us. If many of us were in denial, now we have a president-elect to confirm what America had already become. But young people know this best, because we saw it first. We were promised everything, but got nothing in return. And we will continue to fight for our sanity and survival in this country because we have no choice. We deal with history, not because we desire it, but because we have no choice but to face it. We won’t stop living, hoping, and fighting. There is time after the end of the world. That time is now, and nobody can take it away from us.
With state-of-the-art bus stops, multiple lane roads suitable for the most developed countries and educated traffic police to remind one to put on a seatbelt, the chief minister has done well to clean up the most metropolitan city in the country—Karachi. Suddenly, the daydream is broken with an ear-piercing horn from behind. The traffic light turns green, or at least appears to be, as the cars in front start inching forward. To be honest, it’s difficult to see through the cloud of smoke emitted by the Lal-Kothi-bound bus. As one throws the car into drive and honks at the stationary Flintstone mobile in front, I realise that my daydream is nothing more than a pipedream. People averse to change will love a city like Karachi. They’ll be glad to know that the same khadda or ditch can still be found at the same place it was a decade ago. Just in case you are also against development, the Pakistani metropolis is again the place to be. After all, the only growth that has taken place in some areas, apart from the rate of street crime, is the size of the khaddas. But that’s not to say they are totally useless. They are a multitude of applications they can be used for. Since I live in an area that is quite confusing to navigate, I use them to usher in a lost friend.
“Take a left after the third big ditch,” usually gets them there.For those with more nefarious designs, splashing a pedestrian with rainwater accumulated in the ditch can be a fun activity, but it could also result in destroyed tire rods or suspension struts for your car. Remember, karma is a b*tch so best not to try your luck. Moving on from b*tches and ditches, let’s talk of bridges. Some of those meant to cross over troubled waters may send one to the bottom of the kind of sewage that created the teenage mutant ninja turtles. Driving over a newly-constructed bridge can be an exhilarating experience. Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like uncertainty. Even more rewarding is the knowledge that you have made it through to the other side—unscathed. The next morning’s news reports of cracks in the same bridge almost makes one feel like a war veteran; the man who lived to tell the tale of March 24. The status quo is likely to remain for the foreseeable future as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which the people of Sindh vote in, time and again, seems far more interested in filling up its own pockets rather than the dreaded khadda. Not to say that its leaders haven’t built roads, but most of them ironically get the PPP’s top brass, and their friends, to the comfort of palatial farmhouses in interior Sindh. All the while, the poor sod trying to reach Hyderabad from Karachi through either of the two major highways bumps and grinds his or her way to their destination. So I will beg you not to be judgmental when I turn green with envy when looking at Lahore’s roads, buses and bridges. The man who built them may be considered the devil by some, but there is little doubt that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has done his fair share of work for his capital city. The roads lull you into a strange sense of comfort which is almost similar to sharing a waterbed with a soundly asleep Sofia Vergara. Compare that to Karachi where traveling on the roads is about as pleasant as getting a tooth extracted and you get an idea of the difference. Does that even come as a surprise? After all, Sindh’s Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah was busy drinking milk for the last decade, while his counterpart in Punjab was building away. Perhaps Shah and his pals got lost in the vastness of the Sindh Chief Minister House and never had the chance to sit down and map out any sort of a road, let alone one that leads to progress. Colourful as Karachi’s buses may be, it is the metros of Lahore that will inspire you to leave the car at home. The flipside to the wonders of Lahore is the rest of Punjab, which doesn’t seem to feature to prominently on Shahbaz’s radar. In his earlier tenure, the initially famous and now permanently infamous Honey Bridge in Lahore was built at a backbreaking cost. At the same time, the rest of Punjab was not the object of similar affection. So why haven’t I moved out of the boulevard of broken dreams and into the utopia of Lahore? It is because Karachi is the beating heart of one of the most fascinating countries in the world. Here, people from all over Pakistan come together to fight, love, wed, birth and earn their bread. The city is always abuzz with activity and the historic commercial centres dwarf their counterparts in Lahore. And let’s face it, Karachi’s food is much better—no matter how many Lahori charghas stake a claim to fame. Speaking of food, I have a fantastical theory about Karachi, but one I like to believe is true—here, nobody sleeps hungry unless it is out of choice. There’s always somebody just around the corner to feed a growling stomach—such is the character of the metropolitan’s people. Here, you will be hard pressed to find a damsel in distress or a man stranded on the side of the road. Help is always at hand; whether needed or not. Indecision, married with a lack of vision, has left Karachi and the rest of Sindh with an infrastructure that may as well not exist. It is almost as if the most important city in the country has been left orphaned by the state and those who claim to be the champions of its people. Dear mister new chief minister and same old political party, please realise the beauty of the people that you house and give them at least a small portion of everything they deserve. Otherwise the people may just realise that the right man for the job done is a little further north.
This summer, I had the chance to pay a short visit to Karachi – a city I’ve never had the opportunity to visit before. Soon after landing and taking a cab to the hotel, we started hearing stories of locals out and about in the city. This aged driver, who drove us to our hotel, told us how, for the last few months, Karachi has been a lot more peaceful because of the Rangers’ operation. He also said,
“This operation should be extended to the entire province to ensure complete implementation of law and order.”That driver was not the only one who felt that the Ranger’s operation brought peace in the city. Almost every other Karachiite we met had similar views. One of our acquaintances said,
“Before, things used to be so bad that we would not even take out our cell phones, when we were out on the roads, out of fear that they’d be snatched. Now, it’s a lot safer.”The first thing to greet us was the lovely breeze of Karachi which, for a Lahori, was great respite in the monsoon season; at this time in Lahore, the weather is extremely suffocating. The cool breeze is one thing that I thoroughly enjoyed during my entire stay in Karachi. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The lovely view from my hotel room. The trees prove how breezy it was in the city.[/caption] As is usual, I asked friends and acquaintances to recommend places I could explore, considering I was visiting for the first time. There was one place that everyone insisted upon; a restaurant known as Kolachi at Do Darya; although some of them sarcastically suggested that I also visit Nine Zero and Katti Pahari. Of course, they were not being serious in those suggestions. Beaches are a place that someone living in a land-locked area like Lahore would definitely want to visit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare so we could only visit the Clifton beach on a Sunday evening. It turned out to be an extremely awful experience since it was the weekend and it was incredibly crowded, noisy, and surrounded with trash. Surprisingly, there were people around that were selling water in disposable bottles of various sizes for washing one’s feet after enjoying the beach. Even we had to buy it since there was no tap water around. Your visit to a new place remains incomplete if you don’t try its specialty foods. When it comes to experiencing Karachi, biryani is one thing one must not forget to try. So we ended up at a road-side restaurant at Boat Basin and ordered some handi biryani, which is cooked and served in an earthen pot (hence ‘handi’). Thankfully, the taste met expectations; unlike the biryani that’s available in Lahore. Even though Lahore is a foodie’s paradise, biryani (with needs all the right spices and ingredients) is frankly not made properly at its eateries. As suggested, we did make a visit to Kolachi. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong day to go (the same Sunday that we had visited the beach). Since it was the weekend and dinner time, Kolachi was s0 crowded that we would’ve had to wait for at least an hour to get a table. Hence, we dropped the idea and went to another nearby restaurant which was fine too. In any case, Do Darya, the place itself was quite mesmerising and a great place to spend your evening. Another specialty of Karachi that I’ve come across is the sohan halwa which I bought from Rehmat e Shirin at Jinnah International Airport just before leaving to take back for family (upon their request). I specifically mentioned ‘Karachi’s sohan halwa’ here because there is a famous Multani dessert that is also called sohan halwa, and they’re two entirely different things. In Karachi, that Multani dessert is called Habshi Halwa. A friend took me to Dolmen Mall which I was told was the biggest mall of Pakistan, for now anyway, until Lahore’s Emporium Mall becomes fully functional. PAF Museum was another great place to visit; it’s not only a rich museum, it’s also a recreational space. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] PAF Museum was another great place to visit; it’s not only a rich museum, it’s also a recreational space.[/caption] It was definitely a treat to learn things about the Pakistan Air force and the great men who have served our country till date. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="228"] It was definitely a treat to learn things about the Pakistan Air force.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="294"] And the great men who have served our country till date.[/caption] There are obvious differences between Karachi and Lahore. The former has a more ethnically diverse population made apparent while visiting public places. This is probably because a port city offers a vast number of opportunities to earn a living and thus attracts people from across the country. After the short visit to the city, my fellow companions felt that Karachi is more liberal than Lahore, especially when it comes to female dressing. When it comes to Karachi’s airport, it is far better than Lahore’s. Thankfully, the impression one has once they’ve stepped out of the Lahore airport changes the initial disappointment (the greenery and cleanliness wins everyone over). There is a considerable variety of small eateries at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, something lacking at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport. However, Karachi has its cons, and quite big ones at that. Considering that Karachi attracts so many people, it should be developed and equipped with good infrastructure. However, this is not the case. It’s only after visiting Karachi that I realised how well the Punjab government has developed Lahore. It’s no wonder that a frequent traveller to Karachi once said to me,
“Come to Karachi and you’ll start loving the Sharifs (for all the development they have done in Lahore)!”Karachi has big buildings but most of them look very old and ill-maintained. Same goes for the bridges, which aren’t just old; they’re filthy as they’re laden with garbage. Trash on bridges is a sight I have never come across in Lahore. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Trash on bridges is a sight I have never come across in Lahore.[/caption] But it’s not just bridges; holistically speaking, Karachi is a filthy city because garbage is dumped almost everywhere. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Karachi is a filthy city because garbage is dumped almost everywhere.[/caption] Besides this, there is excessive air pollution as well which adds to the terribly unhealthy environment. Another thing I noticed in Karachi was that everything is ‘so far away’. Being a large city, it is a very common phrase heard in Karachi. Getting late seems to be a common problem owing to the ‘distance and traffic’, since it is a big city that is home to a huge population. Since Karachi is the economic hub of the country, it deserves its fair share of development and maintenance. Unfortunately the political parties that have been ruling it for years only seem concerned about controlling the city rather than working towards making it better. Comparatively, Punjab has developed its main city quite well and one can clearly feel the difference in a single visit. Introduction of campaigns like ‘Clean it’ and ‘Fix it’ makes us hopeful of growing awareness among Karachiites to fix the city within their own capacities. Moreover, with the new Chief Minister in place, lets hope that one of the most important cities of Pakistan will start looking a lot better in the times to come. May Karachi achieve the peace and prosperity that it rightly deserves! All photos: Kiran Wali
The old man had the most startling blue eyes, the kind that glittered in a wizard-like way. He was a contractual worker fixing some room in the building where I work, and I met him in the kitchen over my morning coffee. He asked where I’m from and widened his eyes. He didn’t comment on how good my English is, but how American my accent is (which I take no offence or pride in – it’s not the two years of Master’s in St Louis but all those American movies and TV shows I watch). And then he asked me that question,
“So, what’s Pakistan like?”The question always bounces off me like a gummy ball against the wall. It’s a loaded question, even if it’s not really meant to be, and I usually respond in two ways: 1. The most generic of answers:
“Oh, it’s really nice.”Which means absolutely nothing and really, when you think about Pakistan, nice really isn’t the most appropriate adjective. How about – incredible, wild, crazy, tragic, beautiful, turbulent, difficult to describe? 2. Or I say something completely inane like,
“Well yeah, the traffic is horrible.”Which is true, of course, but when someone asks about what your birthplace/homeland is like, do you really want to start, and in most cases end, with that? For some reason the question makes me antsy. I feel the need to invite the inquirer to a presentation where I can have at least 30 minutes to go through a stack of 15 slides, highlighting some aspects of what my country is like. There is an insistent need to not say anything negative because there is already so much negativity out there. But if I don’t mention any of it and say it’s beautiful and lovely and the crispy tandoori parathas make everything worthwhile, then I’d feel dishonest because how can you not mention the poverty and the overpopulation and the widespread intolerance? See my dilemma? What’s it like? I wish I could say it’s horrifically dirty and there are slums like Machar colony in Karachi where children about the size of bonsai trees run around barefoot in five inches of sewerage, poking at tired dogs with patches of skin visible on their skeletal bodies. There are so many people – it’s like when you shake a can of Pepsi and open it, and there’s an explosion of foam, people pouring out, milling about in streets, squatting on their haunches, sipping tea from small glass cups, standing behind stalls selling bright purple eggplant and pale coloured cabbage, spread out on dry grass in parks sharing sandwiches and samosas, buying plastic jewelry and plastic slippers in markets, perched precariously, three, four, five and a baby on motorbikes, playing ludo late at night under streetlights… It’s haphazard and unruly; nobody follows the traffic rules and there are too many cars, the bus drivers are psychotic and pedestrians more thrill-seeking than the young men who throw themselves off cliffs – they’ll dart in front of speeding cars or pause in the middle of crossing the road to glance back at a straggling child. There are no bus lanes, no bike lanes and the 1,000 ton-containers are never bolted down on their barreling wagons. Sometimes there are cows and camels. We have too many stray dogs and cats and street children and beggars with amputated limbs. And then there is the sea that surges on and on, despite everything that has happened, and there is joy at the dirty, polluted smudgy Sea View beach where thousands of people wade in, fully clothed, holding hands as the gray sea sweeps over them, toppling them like an unruly friend, backing away just so they can get back on their feet again and then coming back again, cresting, jumping over, drenching, and if you want, there is popcorn and french fries and charred cobs to munch on. And sometimes there are fiery sunsets that whip across the sky like the orange-gold-yellow streaks of paint by a madly talented artist and your mind is wiped clean of all thoughts as you watch the burning ball of sun slipping slowly down and into the misty gray sea. It is scattered with large pockets of intolerance that breeds in small madrassas and small minds, fanned by poverty and frustration and evil. It is fed into young minds and shared in fancy living rooms and offices too. It is peppered with smaller pockets of beautiful, brave people who speak out against injustice and preach love and peace, it’s scribbled in moldy notebooks and discussed on the grey seats of classrooms and in cozy cafés with art on the walls and warm orange lamps, and every now and then at larger gatherings under palm trees and wind-blown canopies next to stalls of books and children browsing through them. It is populated with passionate, persistent people who have left lofty jobs and neat queues to come back to their unruly messy country and work there despite its maddening ways. It has sunny blue skies. And when it rains in Pakistan, people don’t put up their umbrellas or pull on their Wellingtons, they rush out and get drenched. Kids hop around in puddles and mothers fry pakoras and friends share cups of steaming tea. It has people who are nosy and judgmental and you call all strangers aunties and uncles and bhai and behan, and old women you meet for the first time on a bus will ask you if you’re married and why you don’t have kids and what you earn, and many men will stare at you as you walk down a crowded street. It has people who have hearts as big as the sky and if you visit their house, with a survey or a question, they’ll offer you anything from fried bhindi to roasted peanuts, and chai – they’ll always offer you chai. They’ll help you reverse out of a tight spot and they’ll help you change your tire, and they’ll give you directions even if they don’t actually know the way, and you can always ask to hold their cherubic baby, they won’t think that’s creepy at all. It has hundreds and thousands of people who march for things they don’t fully understand. It has artists and film directors and writers and festivals celebrating culture, literature, food, music, and these are slowly growing. It has mouthwatering delicious food – Karachi’s bun kebabs to Lahore’s fresh water fish and tikkas to Peshawar’s chapli kebabs and have you ever tried the cottage-cheese rotis in Hunza served with apricot chutney? Fruits and vegetables and nuts and don’t ever forget the chai, the spherical dense doughy parathas crispy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside. And it has the world’s most majestic mountains that will take your breath away and when you stand in front of a snowcapped jagged brute of a mountain with the sky for a crown and the sun for a mirror, it will be like a zap from a wand. You’ll be turned into a tiny speck of dirt and you’ll never feel so insignificant and you’ll never love that feeling of insignificance anywhere else. So you see, “what’s Pakistan like?” is not an easy question to answer. Because, you see, Pakistan is complicated and rich and diverse and beautiful and horrible all at the same time. And then, Pakistan is home.
The government of Pakistan, both federal and provincial, remains in a deep slumber. It does not counter any illegal business activity but only takes action when the project strengthens its roots in society and provides an alternative to public woes in a certain segment. It is the government’s responsibility to provide adequate, reliable and secure modes of transport to the public to commute from one place to another. Unfortunately, the government has completely failed to do any such thing and hence, most of the country’s transport is in total control of the private sector. The tram service, which was operating in Karachi before independence, and was considered a safe and convenient mode of transportation, was shut down in April 1975 because of the tussle between various stakeholders. Nawaz Sharif, in his first tenure as the prime minister of Pakistan in 1990, introduced the Yellow Cab scheme. A vast number of yellow cabs were bought by educated youngsters from middle class families who earned their income by operating these taxis in their spare time. The Yellow Cabs scheme was very successful in its initial years. The educated drivers even received approval and applause from commuters who found the fares of air-conditioned taxis fixed with electronic meters competitive or in some cases, lower than the conventional taxis and rickshaws operating in their respective cities. The scheme, however, experienced a downfall when Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) in its second tenure made it compulsory for all Yellow Cab drivers to wear uniforms. Due to this order, educated people pulled out of the transport sector and it once again fell into the hands of the transport mafia, who has been running the sector for decades. The transport situation, especially in metropolitan cities, is a grave issue. Buses are in deplorable conditions and have closed operation on routes which they consider "non-profitable". According to a report, buses are to ply on more than 300 different routes in Karachi but they are operating on only 115 routes, causing huge difficulty to commuters. Taxis and rickshaws, plying on roads of the city, are charging arbitrary fares and the public, with no viable option in sight, has to avail these services. Considering the existing pathetic situation of our public transport, two multinational transportation network companies decided to launch an app-based car booking service in Pakistan. From the very beginning, they received a positive response from the masses. Careem, a Dubai-based company, started its operations in Pakistan in 2015, while the world renowned company, Uber, launched its services in Pakistan a little later in 2016. These companies are different from the conventional transportation companies because the company itself does not own the cars, it acts as middleman to connect the taxi driver with the intended passenger through their respective mobile app. Careem even offers a different range of cars to the customer so that the passenger can select the vehicle according to his or her budget. These companies offer a variation in fare at different timings, and are convenient and reliable. Initially, everyone thought that these app-based taxis would be more expensive than the conventional rickshaws and taxis, but time and again, they were proved wrong. My family often relies on the conventional modes of transport. For a distance of 14 kilometres, rickshaws would charge them between Rs325 to Rs375, whereas with Careem, in an air-conditioned car, would cost them between Rs225 to Rs275 for the same distance. Similarly, at a recent family wedding, my cousin called in one of these app-based services for a family who didn’t have their own car. They reached home in half the price of what a conventional rickshaw was costing them. To make the journey cheaper, these companies also give special offers. Females consider travelling in rickshaws safe but in the current scenario, I have observed many women availing Careem or Uber’s services confident that they have nothing to worry about and are safe. Uber is operating in more than 536 cities of the world while Careem is operating in 32 cities of the world. Wherever they are operating, they are following the laws and regulations meted out to them. For example, in India, a person who wants to become an Uber driver has to obtain a business license. It is also the responsibility of Uber and other mobile-app based taxi services to pay taxes from all the fares collected from customers. In Pakistan, Careem and Uber are not only providing safe, convenient and inexpensive rides but are also providing an alternate way to earn. It is a general belief that drivers of these services are earning Rs 70,000 to 80,000 per month, which is a decent income for any average Pakistani. Furthermore, Careem also went a step ahead and included female drivers in its fleet. Many people, university students or friends, avail one taxi which makes their ride cheaper. In a country like Pakistan, where the job market is tough and employment is low, these app-based taxi services have opened the door of self-employment to otherwise unemployed or under-employed youngsters. At the moment, there is no other industry or service in the country that has created close to 10,000 new, well-paying jobs in a matter of just over a year. As these app-based taxi services are strengthening their presence in Pakistan, provincial governments in Punjab and Sindh wake up from their deep slumber to regularise these services. For the past two days, service operators have been facing uncertainty and the service remained inoperative for a day due to fear of confiscation. It is then good to hear that some sense prevailed and both the provincial governments are now working to regularise the service. I hope while bringing new regulations for these vehicles, the government brings different ideas and not bound these cars to obtain fitness certificates or route permits. I am sure that most conventional taxis and rickshaws plying on city roads are doing so without route permit while their fitness is unsatisfactory. A fitness certificate is granted to these vehicles by bribing officials of the concerned departments. Buses, which operate after obtaining route permits, are seen violating routes with impunity. Like India and many other countries of the world, the government of Pakistan has the authority to bring these services under the tax net. I suggest the government to follow the Indian model of tax collection where the company is responsible for collecting and depositing tax at the national exchequer. The government also needs to revisit their existing decades-old laws and should frame new regulations, instead of asking vehicles plying under Uber and Careem to follow those laws. I hope that unlike in the past, where a tug of war destroyed an alternate transport option and the general public was left at the mercy of the transport mafia, governments of Sindh and Punjab in consultation with tax experts will devise laws that benefit the country, its business and most importantly, its people.
careem and uber ban
In what was arguably the upset of the century, Hillary Clinton was defeated by Donald Trump in the US presidential elections last year. Almost everyone was convinced that the greatest democracy in the world would, for the first time in its history, elect a woman as head of state. Pakistan – a long-term US ally in the ‘war against terrorism’ – was monitoring the situation closely. The country’s most revered commentators started off by joining in the chorus of making fun of the fact that Trump, a business tycoon, was even in the race, conveniently ignoring that most, if not all, of our politicians are business tycoons themselves. When Trump’s daughter Ivanka sat in an official meeting between then president-elect Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, we were reminded of the numerous times Maryam Nawaz has been part of Nawaz Sharif’s official meetings. While Pakistanis have as much as a right to scrutinise Trump’s politics, we have much to envy when it comes to how Americans are responding to Trump’s presidency. Do we as a nation have the courage to stand up against the incessant impunity on human rights violations in our own country? History proves we do not. Earlier this week, an Islamic centre and a mosque were gutted down in Texas. Two days later, GoFundMe.org managed to raise more than $900,000 to rebuild it. Pakistanis, like everyone, joined in on condemnation, conveniently forgetting that just last month, a mob of around a thousand people besieged an Ahmadi place of worship in Chakwal – and we remained silent. Do we stand united to protest against targeted attacks on minorities? Not really. When was the last time we raised funds for rehabilitation? Recently, five social media activists who spoke out against state policies disappeared in Pakistan. Four of the five eventually returned home, only to leave the country soon after. But how many people protested when the bloggers went missing? Perhaps only a handful. Similarly, disappearances of political activists remain unacknowledged. Whether it’s Karachi or Balochistan, the issue is swept under the rug leaving little room for victims to find justice. In contrast, Trump’s travel ban on refugees and Muslims from seven countries has faced criticism from every quarter – regardless of race or religion. Americans stand unified against the controversial ban. Protests erupted all over the country, with people from all walks of life showing up at all major airports to show solidarity with the Muslims, and soon after, #LetThemIn began trending on social media. Businesses like Google, Starbucks, AirBnB have officially sided with refugees, and have even decided to offer them jobs. A New York court blocked part of Trump’s executive orders, responding to a petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) while lawyers began working overtime, taking pro-bono cases to help stranded travellers at airports. Furthermore, victims and organisations continue to sue the US president and the government while around 16 attorney generals condemned the travel ban. Former acting US Attorney General Sally Yates was even fired for refusing to enforce the ban on refugees as directed by Trump. Meanwhile in Pakistan, finding justice in a state where blasphemy cases are a norm, for members of minority communities to manage to get an FIR registered is considered a win. A nation that applauds its government’s decision to send Afghan refugees back, is infuriated by Trump’s executive order barring refugee immigration from war-torn countries. Hypocrisy much? The state can make decisions it deems fit for the country’s betterment, as Trump argues that the travel ban will “make America safe again”. How we as a nation stand up for policies which violate human rights, begs the question: Are we insensitive or indifferent? [poll id="734"]
Now that the country will have a census after 18 years, doubts are already being expressed about the accuracy of the data that will be collected. Farooq Sattar, MNA and former Karachi mayor, says that the census should not be influenced by the landlords as the census commission is very close to the landlords and there should be no injustice with the people living in Sindh’s urban areas. Mir Hasil Bizenjo, the chief of the National Party and the incumbent federal minister for ports and shipping, has said that the census should be put off in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) till the four million Afghan refugees return to Afghanistan and all the Baloch who have gone into exile return, else the Baloch population will be under-reported. There is some merit in these arguments. During the floods in the rural areas of Punjab and Sindh, social workers noted that many women had more than 10 children (in some cases even more than 15), but many men and women did not know how many children they had. So, if asked about the number of children in their families, how will the census tabulators know what to record? Being locals, they will be tempted to exaggerate the figures, knowing that recording more people in their districts will mean more funds for development in their areas. This will, of course, render the entire exercise meaningless. As a result, urban areas will not get their due share of the development budget that they would otherwise be entitled to.
“How many children do you have, Allah Ditta?” “15, 16 or 17, I’m not sure.” “Okay, 17, all boys?” “No, maybe 10 boys and seven girls.”So, the enumerator will record that Allah Ditta has 10 male and seven female children. Assuming that out of 200 million Pakistanis, the Allah Dittas number at least 50 million, the data will be skewed in favour of rural areas and will not be accurate. This has probably been happening in all past censuses. Urban dwellers, on the other hand, are all registered with the National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA). They have to report the births of their children immediately to the authorities, so they cannot claim to have 15 or 17 children. But holding a census (even a flawed one) is vital for the country. The government needs the census data to plan for development, allocation of resources, and formulation of policies to cater to the different needs of its citizens. The census reveals the exact number of seats each city can have in the national and provincial assemblies. The census will determine, for instance, if the number of people in rural areas has increased or decreased (as a percentage of the population). This is necessary specially for Karachi, where it is widely felt that more than half of Sindh’s population lives in the city, whereas for planning and development purposes, it is taken as having less than a third of the province’s population. The census will also determine the percentage of minorities in the country. I have often heard some people say that the number of non-Muslims in the country is increasing rapidly and Muslims will soon be outnumbered by others. The 2011 census in India, for example, laid to rest the fear among Hindutva extremists that the Muslim population in India is exploding at an exponential rate. At the rate the Indian Muslim population is growing, Muslims will always be around 15% of the total Indian population for at least another 100 years. But in spite of all the doubts, I feel that the government should go ahead and hold the census in March this year. Despite inaccuracies, it will at least give us a fairly good idea of the state of the country and the direction in which it is headed.
Dear Muniba Mazari, You don’t know me like you don’t know the other hundreds of people who you inspire every day. I am Amna Raheel, a 25-year-old, differently-abled girl living in Karachi. I’ve always wondered how many fan messages you get every day and if you respond to them personally. I don’t know if you’ll reply to my letter and to what I have to say because you probably have heard it a million times already. But I’m going to say it anyway. There are people in your life who guide you and instil certain beliefs that you carry through life, even though you’ve never met them. For me, you’re one of those people. I got to know about you last year when one of my friends showed me your TedX speech and told me that he sees me in you. He believes that I have the same passion and courage that you have. And to be honest, since that day, it has been my wish to meet you and tell you how I want to follow your every footstep. You inspire and motivate me during difficult times when I need words of encouragement. Whenever I feel like giving up in life, because every day struggles become too much to handle and disheartening to the point that I don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning, I think to myself:
“What would Muniba do?”And then I imagine your smiling face, concealing the hardships you endure every day. I then say to myself,
“If Muniba can do it, so can I”.You became my reason to get out of bed on a lot of days. In a world full of complaints, you need that one person who seems to be content. In a world full of selfishness, you need a person who is humble and down to earth. In a world full of comparisons, you need a person who is a trendsetter. Most importantly, in a world full of helplessness, you need a person who can be a symbol of hope. For me, that person is none other than you, Muniba. Honestly, I can relate to you on a personal level. I know that you have your fair share of struggles and problems that you don’t talk about, that you deal with every day without letting the world know, because you have to be strong and put on a brave face, not just for yourself but for a million others who are depending on you, just like me. I’m sure you have good days as well as bad days. I’m sure there are days when you question God asking “Why me?” but then I also know there are days when you thank Him for all the blessings He has bestowed upon you. I don’t know you personally, but I admire the immeasurable strength that you possess, both physical and emotional. To me, you’re the definition of a confident, independent woman for whom failure is not an option. For the first time in my life, I feel myself staring at a woman I hope to one day embody in every sense of the word – a woman who has the power to lift people up when they are at their lowest; a woman who refuses to believe and succumb to negativity. For the first time, I’ve come to understand what it means to admire someone, to envy a person in a way that is not a reflection of the ugly green monster of jealousy, but rather a beautiful envy that would lead to positive, necessary personal growth. For the first time, I am truly and undeniably inspired. You say you want to change lives. I am here to tell you that you will change lives, because you have, without a doubt, changed mine in ways that I cannot put into sentences or paragraphs. As I speak these words, I am speaking for dozens of other people whose lives you have touched, souls you have healed, and hearts you have forever imprinted on, which will never, ever, fade. So whenever you feel lost in this oftentimes unrelenting world, or frustrated with how your life is going, or confused as to what God’s plan for you is, remember these words: You are admirable, you are valuable, you are exceptional. And when you find yourself feeling insignificant and wondering if what you’re doing with your life makes a difference, remember that the girl who is writing this letter to you is a strong, confident individual now because she knows about someone who lights a fire in her. And that someone is none other than you, Muniba. So thank you for everything! Love, Amna Raheel
When Najam Sethi initially announced the Pakistan Cricket Board’s intentions to host the final of the second Pakistan Super League (PSL), it received critical acclaim. Everybody, fans and the administration, realised the need to eventually bring the league back home, but nothing has ever come easily to Pakistan and, similarly, the idea, though appealing seems difficult to execute. Many things have changed since the intentions were first disclosed including an alarming shift in Pakistan’s security situation resulting from series of unpleasant acts of terrorism. Most recently, it was confirmed that the final would still be held in Lahore, with or without foreign players. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: SHAFIQ MALIK/EXPRESS[/caption] But then again, under pressure is when the Pakistan Super League management thrives and we saw that during a highly successful first edition when they were subjected to undue criticism at times and they responded by achieving even more success. Having the final in Lahore should be considered a breakthrough moment in Pakistan’s pursuit of regaining hosting privileges in the country. However, like with all the high reward outcomes, there is an exponentially higher risk involved. Pakistan’s security situation, at this point in time, is the worst it has been in years and nobody can deny the fact that Pakistan is possibly vulnerable to more attacks in the near future. The entire country was divided with everybody coming up with all sorts of suggestions. People had suggested shifting the final to either Karachi or Islamabad, having the final without the players who do not wish to come and holding a new draft to bring in internationals who would be willing to play in Lahore. However, it has now been confirmed that the board is sticking to its original plan. https://twitter.com/wasimakhtar1955/status/832127937788932096?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: PCB.[/caption] To being with, it was never a matter of whether it should be held in Karachi, Islamabad or Lahore because the entire country has been jolted by these bomb blasts and every city, for the time being, is equally vulnerable. The actual problem at hand is the international players willing or unwilling to come to Pakistan for the lone match. To date, none of the players have come out and explicitly said either yes or no and, thinking from a neutral perspective, one could safely assume that in their heads they are more inclined towards the no rather than the yes. What would the final of an international league be like without the presence of some of the stars that have played throughout the tournament? They would be placed in a situation where they are either forced to play in a country recently shaken by a series of blasts or return home without actually completing the task. In complete fairness, it does sound unreasonable. All those people who have come out and backed the idea of having an all local players final are nowhere to be seen during other domestic matches where the same local players are playing it out with each other. Can we not look beyond a packed stadium in Lahore and use it to gauge the success of a league? To clarify my point, I want to see cricket return to Pakistan. I have been an avid supporter of everything that the league has achieved thus far, reiterating the fact that the PSL will only uphill once it does come back. However, the sensitivity of the matter requires everything to be perfectly in place for the league to return to Pakistan. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: PCB.[/caption] Moreover, leaving out members that have been part of the team since day one would have its consequences on the team combination and strategising as well. An all local players final would require a complete shift in plans and potential team combinations. For example, until now we have seen Islamabad United field a power-packed top order that boasts the likes of Dwayne Smith, Sam Billings, Shane Watson and Brad Haddin. Suppose these players opt not to play the final for Islamabad. The only other two batsmen that Islamabad have sitting on the bench are Asif Ali and Hussain Talat, both of whom albeit talented are rookies who might see themselves play an all-important final with little to no game time throughout the tournament. Furthermore, Mahela Jayewardene, Kumar Sangakarra and Chris Gayle have all refused to play the final in Lahore if Karachi Kings does qualify. As a result, Karachi might even have to appoint a new captain. While people would see that as an opportunity for the local talent to step up and take charge, the overall quality of the game would take a serious hit and the final may be remembered as a major coup in terms of the return to Pakistan, but the actual plot would be lost somewhere in between, which is playing your best team and playing the best cricket. Moreover, if the Pakistan Super League does somehow manage to rope in players who are willing to play the final in Lahore, chances are extremely high that they will be third tier players who have remained far away from top flight cricket for most part of their careers, which again would be a compromise on the overall quality of cricket being. Names that have been making rounds over social media are disappointing to say the least. Franchises will be left with little to no team to actually allow these new players to gel in with the team and the end result could look choppy. To sum up my point, that will be taken in a negative sense by many – the fans, the administration and anybody for that matter who may be even remotely interested in PSL should not have made playing the final in Lahore an ego issue. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: PSL[/caption] For cricket to return to Pakistan the timing needs to be perfect and, at the moment, it is far from it. Need I remind that, as a cricketing nation that has been deprived of cricket for the past eight years, we cannot afford anymore slip-ups that have even the remotest of potential to take our cricket and chances of hosting international matches again another 10 years back. Best of luck to the Pakistan Super League management for the final. [poll id="737"]
In Pakistan, we are all used to seeing overcrowded minibuses force miserable commuters to travel standing because they are carrying customers beyond capacity. And when the vehicles are crammed to the point where it is impossible to fit anyone else inside, they dangerously accommodate passengers on top. People only travel like this because they don’t have a choice and are helpless. Of all the ways Pakistan International Airline (PIA) has mistreated its customers over the years, I never thought it would force passengers to travel like they would on a minibus. Yet on January 20, 2017, PIA flight PK-743 forced seven paying customers to stand for a three-hour journey after overselling tickets. Over the years, the national airline has certainly used its monopoly to push customers as far as it can. But before we get into this incident, here is a recap of PIA’s other recent abuses of its customers, from drunken pilots, to blackmailing passengers who posted pictures of PIA food with fungus, to a pilot who refused to fly for two hours until a sandwich was delivered to him from a hotel. As far as I am concerned, this is a new height (or low) for PIA. If you think about it, the return airfare between Karachi and Madina is around Rs50,000. Don’t customers, at the very least, deserve to fly comfortably for their hard-earned money? Imagine standing on a flight for three hours. Sadly, this goes beyond comfort. One can’t even fly on any other normal airline without being constantly reminded to stay seated, and during moments of turbulence have their seat-belt fastened. Even if the weather is clear and no instability is encountered, at the very least, during take-off and landing it is imperative for passengers to stay secure. During either take-off/landing or through turbulence, a passenger who is not seated or is not seated securely is at risk of serious injury or even death. This is no exaggeration. It was just recently reported that on an Air Canada trip where turbulence was encountered, several passengers were seriously injured only because they didn’t fasten their seat-belts. When the plane landed in an emergency, these people were carried off in stretchers. It is reported that those affected actually went flying because they had ignored simple safety precautions. Meanwhile, we have PIA here, flying passengers who were forced to stand. Imagine if PK-743 had run into a storm or encountered any other kind of irregular weather. What would the fate of those passengers have been? This aside, these people also didn’t have access to oxygen masks either like other passengers. What’s more, they were crowding passageways creating further safety risks. I can’t imagine the frustration faced not only by these passengers, but their fellow passengers as well. I also can’t comprehend the pain of making extensive travel arrangements, especially in a busy city like Karachi, only to be told that you were mistakenly sold a ticket. I used to travel frequently between Lahore and Karachi a few years ago and PIA flights were a nightmare. On one occasion, one-third of our aircraft was without air-conditioning, making the situation insufferable and especially hazardous for senior citizens. On another instance, our flight was delayed by two hours because we were waiting for an engine part to arrive so we could it carry to Lahore. In yet another instance, the flight was cancelled without warning and passengers were kept in the dark. In all three episodes, the PIA employees treated us like dirt, not even bothering to apologise or having the courtesy to provide refreshments to passengers sweltering in the heat. As far as this incident goes, according to news reports, ‘the pilot, senior purser and traffic staffers’ are refusing to take responsibility for the possibly criminal negligence and are passing the blame on to each other, which is not surprising. Other sources indicate that officials ignored the proper protocol of returning to the airport to disembark the extra passengers in order to save on fuel costs. Glad to see that as far as PIA is concerned, the bottom line is more important than the lives of paying customers. Unless the government starts pressing criminal charges against the guilty, and guts this bloated organisation like a fish, the national airlines will continue to be a source of vexation and humiliation for the country. As far as things stand, with few other decent options, customers are left at PIA’s mercy, much like travellers on a minibus. I wouldn’t be surprised to see PIA strapping customers on top of the plane with oxygen tanks to keep them company in the near future. Perhaps some employees will be hanging from the door as well, chewing on paan.
When I was a kid, my only goal was to get a good education. I dreamt of attending Harvard or Stanford, and planned to become a doctor one day. I was the eldest of four daughters in a Pakistani Muslim family. We lived in Ruwais, a small town in the United Arab Emirates, where my father worked in an oil plant and my mother was a teacher. At school, I always stood out among the girls in my class—I was brash, clever, outspoken. I took pride in acing every test. When I brought home top marks, my father would celebrate by handing out sweets. One day, when I was in Grade 10, I was in my bedroom doing math homework. My mother walked in. She told me I’d received a marriage proposal. I laughed.
“Mom, what are you talking about?” I asked.She didn’t crack a smile, and I realised she was serious.
“I’m only 16,” I said. “I’m not ready for marriage.”She told me that I was lucky. The offer came from a nice man who lived in Canada. He was 28-years-old and worked in Information Technology (IT). His sister was a friend of hers. The woman thought I’d make a perfect match for her brother—I was very tall, and he was six foot two.
“They’re going to look so great together in pictures,” she had said to my mother.For weeks, I pleaded with my mom not to make me go through with it. I’d sit at the foot of her bed, begging. She would tell me it was for my own good, and that a future in Canada would give me opportunities I wouldn’t have here at home. She assured me that she’d spoken to his family about my desire to continue my education.
“You can go to school in Canada. And we don’t have to worry about you being alone,” she said.The next thing I knew, his parents were measuring my wrist for wedding bangles. The date was set for five months later, in July 1999. My friends would talk about their own dream weddings—the gowns they would wear, how they planned to be dutiful wives and homemakers. When I told them about my doubts, they thought I was crazy, that I was a fool, that Allah would punish me for being ungrateful. Marriage was their ultimate goal in life. But I didn’t want it. I just didn’t know how to get away. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="515"] The author, top centre, at age seven, shown with her father and three younger sisters at their home in the United Arab Emirates.[/caption] For the next few months, I had recurring nightmares about my impending marriage. In my dreams, I was trapped inside a house, watching from the window as students made their way along the sidewalk to school. I’d wake up sweating and scared in the middle of the night. My mother would try to calm me down, telling me I was being hysterical. One night, when I woke up screaming, she decided to do something about it. She phoned my future husband in Canada and allowed me to speak to him for the first time. All I knew about him were those few details my mom had shared with me the night he proposed. When I picked up the phone, I was meek. I only had one question:
“Will you let me go to school?”He reassured me:
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll let you go to school. Don’t worry.”The first time I saw him was on July 22, 1999, the day before the wedding, at his family’s home in Karachi. As we sat sipping tea, I snuck furtive glances at the man who was going to be my husband. I felt dwarfed by him. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="578"] The author was just 16 when she learned she would be marrying a 28-year-old IT worker in Canada.[/caption] The next day, we were at my grandfather’s house for the wedding. As my mother adjusted my gown, I pulled back. I told her I wanted to run away.
“Don’t be silly,” she said. “All the guests are here.”Someone put the marriage licence in front of me, I was told to sign it, and I did. Later we held a celebration at a high-end restaurant in the city. Strings of lights and red ribbons decorated the room, and 200 of our parents’ friends came. There were piles of food, and everybody laughed and sang and danced long into the night. I wore a long red lehenga sari. I was told to sit there quietly and look down at my hands, playing the demure bride. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448"] The author on her wedding day at age 17.[/caption] This was the first of two ceremonies—we had to make it official so that my husband could apply for my sponsorship in Canada. The second ceremony was still months away, as was my wedding night. In the meantime, I continued to live with my parents and attend school. My new husband stayed in Pakistan for a month. We saw each other a few times, but never for long and usually with others around. One evening, we went to Pizza Hut with his older brother and his brother’s wife. It was my first date, and I was so shy I barely spoke. We talked regularly online, over MSN Messenger, and occasionally on the phone. Slowly, I grew more comfortable with the marriage. Nothing about him struck me as special. He wasn’t smart or funny or warm, but he was a normal enough guy. He told me how pleased he was that his wife was so smart. He suggested university programs I should consider in Canada. He agreed to wait to have kids until I finished school. He said all the right things. When my immigration papers came through in August 2000, we both flew to Abu Dhabi for our second, smaller celebration. After it was over, we slept together for the first time. I was petrified. I knew nothing about sex or birth control, and neither did he. My aunt had told me about ovulation, explaining that I couldn’t get pregnant if I had sex on certain days of the month. I thought our wedding night was one of those days. I’d never even seen a condom before. Later that week, we flew to Canada and I moved into his two-bedroom condo in Mississauga. I missed my parents, my friends, and my school. I was so unhappy that I stopped eating, and I spent most of my days watching TV while my husband was at work. I stopped getting my period right away. At first, I thought it was because of the move, the abrupt change in environment. But a month passed, then another. I was getting sick every morning. My nausea was so severe that I was afraid to go outside in case I fainted. Finally I told my husband that I needed to see a doctor. I sat in the doctor’s office, listening to him ask me if I understood what being pregnant meant. All I knew was that it meant I couldn’t go to school. This can’t be happening, I thought. This isn’t happening. I was only 17. During the first few months of my pregnancy, my husband was kind and thoughtful. He took late night trips to the grocery store to satisfy my cravings. He’d call a couple of times a day from work to ask how I was feeling, and every night we cooked dinner together. I discovered an adult learning centre near our condo and enrolled in an English as a second language (ESL) course. I thought our marriage was going well. Then, two months before our daughter was born, he told me his parents would be moving to Canada and staying with us. He had planned for them to live with us all along, but this was the first I’d heard of it. We moved out of the master bedroom into the smaller one so his parents would be more comfortable. Everything changed when they arrived. My husband and I stopped spending time alone together. His mother got upset when he paid attention to me, so he didn’t show me any affection. When I would ask if I could call my parents in Ruwais, he or his mother would tell me we couldn’t afford international calls. In May 2001, I gave birth to our daughter. When we returned from the hospital, my husband slept on the couch while I stayed with the baby in the second bedroom. I’d never felt so alone. I fantasised about stealing money from my husband’s wallet and taking a cab to the airport, calling my parents and asking them to buy me a plane ticket home. But I didn’t want to leave my daughter behind. When she was a few months old, we bought a four-bedroom house in Streetsville with his parents. I was rarely allowed to leave. I never had a penny to my name. My mother-in-law gave me her cast-off clothing to wear. I didn’t have a cell phone. I wasn’t allowed to go to the grocery store on my own. If I didn’t iron my husband’s shirts or make his lunch or finish my chores, he and my in-laws told me that I was a bad wife who couldn’t keep my family happy. I walked on eggshells all the time. If I asked my husband something, he would reply,
“B****, get out of here.”Two years in, the abuse got physical. He would grab my wrist and shove me around. I’d be sitting on the couch and he’d slap me upside the head, or grab me so hard on my upper arms that my skin would bruise. Once he tossed a glass of water in my face; I slipped on the floor and threw out my back. Another time he punched a hole in the wall next to my head and told me,
“Next time, it’s going to be you.”On several occasions, he picked up a knife and said he was going to kill me and then himself. I was having suicidal thoughts all the time. I was convinced my life was over. One time, I took a razor blade into the shower and thought about cutting myself, stopping only when I heard my baby cry. I believed my unhappiness was my fault—that the secret to perfect wifehood was eluding me. If I’d just done the dishes better, been quieter, anticipated that he wanted a cup of coffee or a glass of water, then none of this would have happened. When my daughter turned three, I learned about a parent drop-in centre called Ontario Early Years, funded by the Ministry of Education. Located in a Streetsville strip mall, the space was bright and cheerful. My daughter would make crafts or play with play-doh, and the parents would gather in a song circle with their children and recite nursery rhymes. My husband took my daughter and me there a couple of times. Eventually, he let me walk over on my own. I looked forward to those two afternoons a week, when I’d be allowed to step outside by myself without fear, when I’d feel fresh air on my face. The woman who ran the centre was Pakistani, and she recognised some of the signs of abuse even before I knew what to call it. She saw how jittery I would get if the sessions were running long, or how I’d have to ask permission from my husband if there were any changes to the schedule. She let me use the phone to call my parents. I tearfully told my father what was happening, that I felt imprisoned and helpless. He was horrified, but advised me to wait until I got my Canadian citizenship.
“That way you won’t risk losing your daughter,” he said.And so I waited another year. Throughout this period, I resumed my education, taking high school courses by correspondence. I applied to university several times. I was always accepted, but my husband would never pay the tuition. In 2005, I told my husband that I wanted to go home to visit my family for four months. It had been five years since I’d last seen them. When he told me he didn’t have the money, my father sent plane tickets for me and my daughter, who was four by then. On my way to the airport, I asked my husband for $10 to buy myself a coffee and my daughter a snack.
“B****, go ask your father for that too,” he told me, as he dropped me off at Pearson.When my parents picked me up at the airport, they almost didn’t recognise me. I’d lost so much weight I looked skeletal. My family were shocked. The bright, confident girl they knew had been replaced with a skittish, scared young woman. It took a couple of months for me to realise I could go to the mall on my own, or to the grocery store. These were small triumphs, but they helped build up my confidence. By the end of my visit, I was resolved not to go back to Canada. As soon as I delivered the news to my husband over the phone, he unleashed a flood of apologies. He told me he’d never hurt me again. He promised we’d move out of the house, that we’d live alone together like we used to. He wore me down. In August 2005, I returned to Canada. We moved into a new apartment, and my husband was paying both his parents’ mortgage and our rent, leaving little money for anything else. At first, he was kind again. But within a few months, I got pregnant with our second daughter, and the abuse resumed. I needed an escape plan, so I began tutoring and babysitting children in our apartment building, slowly saving money for five months until I had enough for my daughter and me to fly to Karachi, where my sister was getting married. This time I wasn’t coming back. My father had been diagnosed with kidney failure before I’d arrived in December, and over the next few months I watched helplessly as his condition deteriorated. One day, I sat with him in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
“Papa, if something happens to you, what am I going to do?” I asked him. “Realise the strength you have inside of you,” he told me. “Go back to Canada and find a way to get out of your marriage.”He died two days later. My husband arrived in Karachi that week for the funeral. Sex was the first thing he wanted. It wasn’t until he’d finished that he asked me how I was feeling. I said I was fine, got up and walked to the bathroom. I turned on the shower so he wouldn’t hear me cry. When I asked my mother what to do, she told me I should go back with him. After all, she had two more daughters to marry off, she said, and she didn’t have the money to support me. I couldn’t work. I had no education or experience. And I was pregnant. Resigned and defeated, I went back with him. While I’d been away, he’d moved back into his parents’ house. This time I got a small room in the basement, with bare walls and a little window in the corner. My daughter slept in her crib in the room next door. In June 2006, I gave birth to my second daughter. I was miserable. And yet my father’s words had ignited something in me. I knew I was smart, and I knew the only way out was through school. I studied in my room every night, finishing the last course I needed for my General Education Development (GED), a Grade 13 economics credit. A few months after my younger daughter was born, I earned my diploma, and decided to apply to university again. I knew my husband would never let me leave the house to earn money for tuition, so I resurrected my babysitting service, telling him I was earning money for the family. I co-opted my mother-in-law with the promise that she’d earn easy money taking care of kids, and my husband even let me buy a van to drive my charges around. I was making between $2,000 and $3,000 every month, and though I had to turn over my earnings to my husband, I managed to sock away a few hundred dollars here and there. It took me two years to save enough for one year of school. In 2008, I applied to University of Toronto’s (UoT) economics program. I was accepted. Nothing was going to stop me from going.
“Who’s going to pay for your tuition?” my husband asked. “I am,” I responded.My in-laws were so angry about my decision that no one in the house spoke to me for six months. I didn’t care. This was my chance to get out. It had taken me nearly 10 years, but I’d gone from victim to survivor. My first day of school in September 2008 was one of the best days of my life. I got to school 15 minutes before my class started and walked through the Kaneff Centre at UoT Mississauga. After everything I’d been through, I’d finally achieved my dream. I sat in the hall, tears running down my cheeks. If only my father could have seen this, I thought to myself. I thrived in my new environment. I aced every class, and other students gravitated toward me, asking to study or socialise. My success changed my thinking. If I was the scum on the bottom of my husband’s shoe, like I’d been told all these years, why were my marks so high? Why did classmates want to be my friend? I could feel vestiges of confidence I hadn’t had in years. One day in October I was walking to the campus bookstore to buy textbooks. Just around the corner, outside the health and counselling centre, a flyer on a bulletin board caught my eye. On it was a list of questions.
“Do you feel intimidated? Do you feel like you don’t have a voice? Do you feel like you’ve lost your identity?”As my eyes ran quickly down the list, my brain screamed over and over again: yes, yes, yes.
“Come in and make an appointment,” the poster read.I opened the door and walked inside. A few days later, I sat across from a counsellor, describing what was going on at home.
“I don’t know what to do,” I told her. “I’m trying to keep my husband happy and I’m still not good enough. He keeps telling me I’m worthless. All I want to do is fix it.”She grabbed my hand.
“It’s not your fault,” she said.It was the first time anyone had said that to me. As I continued my counselling, I realised that what had happened to me was wrong. My agency had been stripped away. I learned about the cycle of abuse that characterises so many unhealthy relationships. Our marriage was becoming more toxic every day. He once bought me a cell-phone as a present, but installed spyware on it so he could monitor my calls. He kicked me in the stomach. He kept threatening to kill me. A year after I started counselling, I told him I wanted a divorce.
“What are you talking about?” he asked me. “I love you. I can’t live without you.”One January night in 2011, he picked a fight. I wasn’t doing enough housework, he said. As he loomed over me, tightening his fist, I picked up my phone.
“If you touch me, I’m going to call 911,” I shouted.And then he spat out the word divorce, in Urdu, three times: talaq, talaq, talaq. According to some Islamic scholars, uttering those words means the marriage is over. I thought I’d be thrilled when he left, but I was terrified. I’d never lived on my own, and I was bracing myself for the shame I believed I would bring to my family. He sold our house out from under me, leaving me and the kids with three weeks to pack up. We had nowhere to go. I even registered at a couple of shelters, expecting to be homeless. One day, I was at the UoT tuition office, and a woman overheard me lamenting my situation. She suggested I look into campus housing; luckily, the university had one family unit left. Two days later, I had the keys to my very own shabby three-bedroom townhouse. I couldn’t afford movers. I packed all my belongings into garbage bags and made 10 trips back and forth every day for five days, in the van I used to drive the kids who attended my home day care. I used my last $100 to pay a couple of students to help me move my furniture. I was relieved not to be out on the streets. I slept in one room with my youngest daughter. My eldest had the second bedroom, with enough space just for a single bed. I rented out the third room to a Pakistani student who watched my girls while I worked in the evenings. It was tiny, but it was ours. That year, I juggled five jobs to stay afloat. I worked as a teaching assistant (TA), a researcher with the City of Mississauga and a student mentor. I did night shifts at the student information centre on campus. I even ran a small catering business out of my apartment. One day it dawned on me that my husband was a man willing to put his own kids out on the street to teach me a lesson. I drove to the police station and reported everything. I gave a three hour long videotaped statement, offering as much detail as I could about the decade of abuse I’d endured. The officer said he likely wouldn’t be able to lay charges because there weren’t any bruises on my body. But it didn’t matter. Just telling the authorities was a huge relief. It was my way of acknowledging everything to myself, of finally saying, it wasn’t my fault—none of it was my fault. The officers interviewed my doctor and counsellors, and two days later they arrested my husband for assault. He pleaded guilty. We finalised our divorce, and he got joint custody. My older daughter refused to see him, but my younger daughter visited him every other week. There were many times over the next year that I thought I’d made a mistake, that I couldn’t do it on my own. I thought the shame would never go away. After my marriage ended, none of my old friends would speak to me. My mother refused to tell people back home. I had no family in Canada, no friends at school who knew what was going on. I was completely isolated. I’d always been told that women are responsible for upholding the family’s honour. A woman living alone is a sin. A woman travelling alone is a sin. When everybody around you says you’re in the wrong, that your dreams aren’t valid, you start to believe that. And there were many times that I’d fall into those sinkholes. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Zafar graduated from the University of Toronto at the top of her class.[/caption] Education was my only refuge from my dark thoughts. I focused all my energy on school. In my fourth year, I was promoted to head TA. I worked as a senior mentor for the school’s first-year transition program. I carried an eight-course load and earned a 3.99 Grade Point Average (GPA). One day, I got an email from my department advisor. In it was a description of the university’s highest honour, the John H Moss Scholarship, a $16,000 award that’s given to an outstanding student who intends to pursue graduate work—the Rhodes scholarship of UoT. My advisor encouraged me to apply. No one from UoT Mississauga campus had ever won it, she said. The deadline was only a few days away, but she convinced me to hustle up the paperwork. A few weeks later, I got an email saying that I was one of five finalists. I arrived for my interview on February 6, 2013. The committee ran through questions about my academic record and leadership experience. I’d written about my abusive marriage in my application, too, and at the end of the interview, the panel asked me how I go on after everything I’ve been through. My polish wore off in that moment.
“Every day I feel like giving up,” I told them.“But I don’t want my daughters to grow up thinking that being abused is normal.”Forty-five minutes after my interview concluded, I got a phone call. John Rothschild, chair of the selection committee and the CEO of Prime Restaurants, was on the other end of the line with a few other panellists.
“Congratulations,” they said. “You’re our winner this year.”I couldn’t believe it. I grabbed my daughters’ hands and danced wildly around the house with them. I wanted to tell the whole world. Since then, John has become a friend, a mentor, and the closest thing I have to a father figure. He taught me how to believe in myself again. He says if I ever get married again, he wants to walk me down the aisle. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Businessman John Rothschild funded her non-profit organisation for abused women.[/caption] In September of that year, I started my master’s in economics. By the time I graduated, I was surviving off the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), and my debt load was piling up. I wanted to stop borrowing money as soon as possible, so I decided not to pursue a PhD. Instead, I accepted a job at the Royal Bank of Canada, where I work today as a commercial account manager. Around the time of my graduation, I was named the top economics student at UoT. At the award ceremony, a journalist introduced herself to me (her daughter was in my class). I told her my story, and she published an article about it in a Pakistan newspaper. As my story circulated through the community, I received hundreds of messages from women all over the world trapped in forced marriages and looking for help. So many of them sounded like me five years earlier, isolated and helpless. Women who show up at shelters or call assault hotlines or leave their homes find themselves completely alone. Without any help, they return to their abusers or fall into new relationships that are just as bad. Once, while I was TAing at UoT, a father barged into my office yelling.
“You’re pushing my daughter to get her master’s degree!”I couldn’t believe it. To me, it was natural to offer encouragement—his daughter was the top student in my class.
“She’s supposed to marry a boy in Egypt. Stop poisoning her with your Canadian bullshit,” he barked.Years ago, a woman wrote to me asking if we could talk on Skype. She was a Canadian university graduate whose parents forced her into a marriage in Pakistan after she finished school. Brutally abused for three years, she returned to Canada to have her baby. She wanted to leave her marriage. After we finished talking, I drove to her house and encouraged her to do it.
“No one will ever love me again,” she said.Three years later, she graduated from a master’s program and got a job working full-time in Toronto. I realised I couldn’t stop abuse from happening. But I could offer friendship to women in similar positions to my own. I started a non-profit called Brave Beginnings that will help women rebuild their lives after escaping abusive relationships. John Rothschild, my mentor, provided our start-up funding, and we’re piloting the project this year. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400"] Zafar lives with her two daughters, age 15 and 10, in a condo in Mississauga.[/caption] For the past three years, I’ve lived in a three-bedroom condo in Mississauga with my daughters, who are now 15 and 10. I serve as an alumni governor at the University of Toronto, and I speak about my experience for organisations like Amnesty International. I’m happier than I ever imagined I could be. I want women to know that they deserve a life of respect, dignity and freedom—that it’s never too late to speak up. It infuriates me that many women are expected to uphold their family’s honour, yet they don’t have any themselves. Last April, I called my ex. I wanted to help him repair his relationship with our older daughter. It had been four years since we had spoken in person. I decided to meet with him. Despite everything, I believed that my girls deserved to have their father in their lives. I sat in a coffee shop at Eglinton and Creditview Road, desperately hoping that I was no longer scared of him. I saw him walking across the parking lot, and waited for an avalanche of fear to hit me. It never came. Sitting across from me, he was just another person. To my surprise, he apologised.
“I cannot believe after everything that you’re still willing to help me repair my relationship with our kids,” he said.That day in the coffee shop, I finally felt free. A few weeks ago, I lay in bed cuddling with my youngest daughter. Every night, we snuggle for 10 minutes before she goes to bed, just the two of us, unpacking the day. Out of the blue, she said,
“Mom, I think Daddy’s family picked you because you were only 16. They thought you were just going to do whatever they told you to do and they’d be able to make you into whoever they wanted you to be.”And then she paused,
“Man,” she said.“They picked the wrong girl.”All photos: Luis Mora This post originally appeared on Toronto Life here.
They say the best way to discover a settlement’s “culture” is on foot. Try walking around on a busy street of my city (and yes, I say the “my” with a sense of unapologetic pride and ownership). Try sitting in a bustling chai dhaba here. Try taking a walk on one of its beaches on a crowded Sunday. Try experiencing the sights and sounds and smells of Karachi. Try and shun stereotypes and just enjoy the Karachi experience…. Karachi is the dream of a writer and a photographer and an anthropologist and of anyone who has an eye for detail and is interested in humans and the fabric of human culture. And then one day as a Karachiite, I stumble upon a morning show, one of the generally better ones with the host talking to one guest on the show about his/her life and times. The show is shot on board a boat sailing on the Bosphorus. It’s visually catchy. I watch it for about five minutes and am about to change the channel when, in answer to a question posed by the host, the guest, a TV actress called Fiza Ali says,
“Lahore has culture. Karachi has no culture. Fishermen have no culture”.Her comment was offensive for more than one reason. Seriously offensive. If by saying, “maacheron ka toh koi culture nahin hota” (fishermen have no culture) you are alluding to the original settlers in Karachi who belonged to this soil and were fishermen by profession, it is offensive that you use such demeaning words for a community. Descendants of the original Karachi still reside here, they have rich traditions and a unique way of life unlike any other community. [embed width="620"]http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5ebba1_sunrise-from-istanbul-fiza-ali-morning-show-see-tv_travel[/embed] Secondly, the remark was comparative – juxtaposing two of Pakistan’s biggest cities, Karachi and Lahore, which was bound to trigger unnecessary debates and flaring of arguments. With Pakistan facing so many other challenges, do we need public figures triggering such debates to create rifts between people belonging to different parts of the country? The two cities are both brilliantly rich in culture but very different and any comparison is, thus, unfair. One is a diverse multilingual megacity; the other is monolingual for the most part, and is rich in history and architecture. One is the soul if the other is the heart of Pakistan. Why, then, must we compare? But more than anything else, it is offensive that she said that this city has no culture. Clearly, Ms Ali, you know very little about Karachi. Neighbourhoods in Karachi bustle with pluralism. What started out as a small coastal settlement is now the teeming hub of people from all over Pakistan. If I start listing the communities and languages and dialects, one blog would not suffice. Artist Rumana Husain who produced two brilliant books based on Karachi’s diverse population, exploring the culture of those belonging to various ethnicities and speaking different languages, mentions 64 communities in her first book ‘Karachiwala’, and says that experts feel that up to at least 76 languages are spoken in all of Pakistan, and all of these are spoken in Karachi, if not more. As Pakistan’s largest multicultural agglomerate, the city of Karachi houses speakers of every possible language of Pakistan in every possible dialect. Rapid urbanisation has made Karachi the hub for not just the economy and industrial activity, but also a melting pot of culture – a culture that is rich, layered and ever evolving, for Karachi is not static; it is fluid in nature. Television as a medium, and morning shows in particular, have viewership in the hundreds of thousands. What an important and immensely productive role these shows could play in sensitising the masses and raising awareness about important issues. This is not to say that all shows are always bad. Giving credit where due, every once in a while a show comes up that raises the bar a little and people are talking sense. But most of the times, there seem to be no limits to the kind of provocative and senseless conversation on these shows that can have a negative impact on viewers. As for Ms Ali, may be its time she took a detailed tour of Karachi, and rethink the meaning of the word ‘culture’ before it is uttered so callously.
Fiza Ali 2
Last month, I grabbed a copy of ‘Karachi, you’re killing me’ by Saba Imtiaz. The title was quite relatable and I knew I had to get my hands on that book. Since I live in Karachi, and have the privilege of going through the same misery (and joy) that was written at the back of the book, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible, even more so because Mohammad Hanif recommended it. The story opens with the happening life of a female journalist named Ayesha. The book illustrates the agonistic life of a journalist who has to wake up early for a work crisis; the act of presenting lame news as breaking news just to increase ratings, and having a wardrobe crisis for every social event one has to attend. Furthermore, it shows people constantly being judged by the society they live in; it shows how hard people try to find love, cope with failure and betrayal, try to meet expectations yet end up miserable. All of these are scenarios that most girls can relate to. Ayesha is depicted as a strong, independent, and smart girl in her 20s living in modern day Karachi. The other main characters of the novel include Saad, her best friend that she trusts with her life; Zara, her sassy friend who works for a digital media industry; her boss Kamran, who is annoying yet considerate, and Jamie, the foreign CNN reporter that Ayesha has a crush on. Imtiaz has a way with words that make her dialogue so realistic. Every conversation between Zara and Ayesha made me think, wow, this is the way I talk to my friends. Throughout the novel, every time there was a crisis in Ayesha’s life – be it social, professional, personal or even about her love life – it made me think, “Oh my god, same here”. The way Imtiaz referenced Pakistani trends in almost every situation was extremely relatable and amusing. When she described fashion week turning into a disaster by cashing in the current political turmoil, I believed it. When she illustrated the models dressed up as suicide bombers to boost lawn sales, I could see it. From the time when Saad hits on a girl because she dances well at a mehndi to the pseudo-intellectual discussions at the Karachi Literature Festival, from petrol or CNG strikes to constant traffic jams, from ‘goray’ (foreign) journalists stealing the limelight to fixers working as intelligence reporters, everything came to life in my mind, all because of Imtiaz’s intricate description of Ayesha’s life in Karachi. Furthermore, the book resonated with me on a deeper, personal level. As I live in Karachi, my parents are always worried about me returning home safely and not too late when I’m out with my friends. The fear and entrapment that I experience has been aptly described by Imtiaz. Moreover, since Karachi is known as the hub of organised crime, there’s a bizarre mugging incident included in the novel which made me recall all the times I’ve been mugged on the streets of Karachi. When it comes down to deciding what to wear, us girls have to be careful in certain parts of the city. We see Ayesha with a dupatta on her head during a religious protest. We see perverted activists constantly calling and bugging her on her cell phone, and then we see her stuck in a violent situation trying to catch a ride in a rickshaw. In Karachi, there is always this lingering danger and fear when you are a girl venturing alone and Imtiaz highlights that perfectly. Moreover, we get to see Ayesha’s insecurities as well; her character is so well-rounded that Imtiaz uses her flaws to develop her into a strong character. She has to make sure her saari is perfect when she’s around Karachi’s socialites, depicting the inherent judgment that exists within our society. This book invites you into the upper crust lives of Karachi’s elites which are limited to attending lavish parties, wearing designer clothes, and fancy vacations. The novel also goes on to aptly portray the double standards prevalent in Karachi’s society. People give Ayesha looks when she smokes yet they don’t bat an eye when a man smokes. Her male counterparts label her as aggressive because she has a voice and she’s opinionated. But that’s Karachi for you, and fiction is the best way to bring it to life. Imtiaz depicts all of the above through the life of a female journalist; she uncovers how everything in Karachi turns into news that Ayesha must report, constantly capturing Karachi’s movement. Ayesha represents the fiercely independent women who are struggling to balance their careers and their social lives, the women who are told to be silent yet the ones who are not afraid of having their voices heard. This is why every woman living in Karachi should read this book. When Ayesha questions her best friend, Saad, for leaving Karachi, we understand her predicament as she secretly wants to leave as well. I would recommend the book to everyone living in Karachi as it pulls you into the Karachi’s web all the while making you fall in love with it through every chapter yet secretly questioning why you haven’t left. It’s a refreshing read, one that everyone should explore.
Perhaps the notion that ‘no movie can come close to its book’ holds true for all movies and especially so for the recently released, ‘Noor’. The movie, adapted from Saba Imtiaz’s novel ‘Karachi, You’re Killing Me!’ narrates the life of Noor Roy Chaudhary (Sonakshi Sinha) who dreams of making it big in the field of journalism. Her big, round glasses may make her look nerdy but her acting is just average.
Noor has spent most of her career covering small and insignificant events but she dreams big; she aspires to cover a story so spectacular that it would transform her status as a reporter. Her work-life balance could be seen as a case study for young professionals working in demanding jobs. However, some moments in the film seem unrealistic. For one, the fact that Noor’s father understands every idea she puts forth doesn’t seem very believable – considering the fact that in an Indian society, parents are extra cautious about their children’s well-being, and even more so when it comes to their daughters.
Conversely, Noor’s overall character and the way she handles her profession as well as her life goals are relatable.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sonakshi Sinha in Noor (2017)
Photo: IMDb[/caption] Noor is a light-hearted romantic comedy with some twists and turns. Noor’s portrayal of a 28-year-old girl hits the sweet spot. The story mainly follows Noor’s life with Sinha recounting some of the events through voice-overs; this makes the movie a rather personal affair and helps the viewers really understand Noor’s life. The dialogues are simple and believable; the credit must go to Althea Delmas-Kaushal, Shikhaa Sharma and Sunhil Sippy who as scriptwriters kept the essence of Imtiaz’s book intact. However, the movie could have done with more in-depth explanations of the events that occurred. Despite these drawbacks, Sinha’s facial expressions make her an attractive character. Her expressions make her look like the ‘girl next door’, thus instantly drawing the viewers towards her. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] Noor’s personal life is a mistake magnet. She experiences misadventures because of her clumsiness while her professional life is stuck in a rut. She has ideas to further expand upon her journalistic career and also possesses that determination, however, her boss (Manish Chaudhary), the complete opposite of her father, does not let her do her job with the freedom she desires. Accompanying the story is a nice collection of songs including a cheerful song ‘Uff Yeh Noor’ by Armaan Malik, ‘Gulabi 2.0’ (which is a party version of the popular ‘Gulabi Aankhen Jo Teri Dekhi’), a romantic number ‘Jise Kehte Pyaar Hai’, and ‘Hai Zaroori’ which has a gloomy touch to it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6iB9mFWWoA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAmsa-RGUlc Also starring in the movie are Kanan Gill as Saad Sehgal, Chaudhary as Shekhar, Shibani Dandekar as Zara Patel, Purab Kohli as Ayan Banerjee, and Sunny Leone makes a cameo appearance. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] Directed by Sippy, the movie has a higher level of believability. A girl with a character and profession akin to Noor, facing similar problems and surroundings, can be living in any part of the world, even in your city. This is shunning any idea of mediocrity from the movie. Noor focuses on problems and issues any 28-year-old girl living in India or the subcontinent would ponder upon including career growth, finding the right life partner and losing weight. When Noor is pondering over her purpose in life, an investigative story falls on her lap thus giving her the much-needed motivation she was seeking to add some thrill to her job. How will this investigative story change her life? Will she get into trouble? Will she ever remain the same happy and spontaneous Noor? You will be glued to your seat while she uncovers the dark truth behind this report. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Screenshot[/caption] Furthermore, the arrival of a photojournalist, Ayananka Banerjee (Purab Kohli), in Noor’s life changes her priorities while she is working on her investigative story. Will Noor also drag Ayananka into trouble? She discovers that a journalist is not merely reporting events but is on a mission to bring out the truth. And she realises that revealing the truth is not that easy. Despite the ups and downs in Noor’s life, the story does not, in depth and in detail, explain the grim implications of what mental and emotional stress Noor endures while uncovering the case. This makes the movie quite shallow akin to the book it is adapted from, and trust me, it’s a book you cannot put down until you finish it. My advice: Watch this movie only if you are a Sinha fan.
For more than decades, Karachi has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Whether it is a terrorist attack or a new wave of bori band lashain (bodies in sacks), Karachi has had its fair share of the spotlight when it comes to the cities of Pakistan. But is this all the great city has to offer? Definitely not. We decided to explore the city of 27.5 million to see what exactly does this city that we have all been living in for the majority of our lives have to offer. However, exploring a huge city such as Karachi is never easy with so many things a person could do in the City of Lights. Hence, with so many choices in hand, we decided to explore the culinary side of Karachi with its never-ending restaurants and roadside offerings. Mind you, with pockets feeling lighter than usual and stomachs empty from all the adventures, we decided to go old school and visit some of the oldest and the most famous places in Karachi and try out the food delicacies they had to offer. The City of Lights is known for its nightlife and its plethora of places to eat. Of course one might think that Lahore beats any other city when it comes to food, however, we here beg to differ. Not only is Karachi swiftly becoming a foodie’s haven, from the chai dhaba concept that seems to have gripped the entire nation, to the oldest and the most prominent food places in the country. Burns Road, Karachi’s version of the Food Street, has been around since forever and is every foodie’s to-go place for some of the best local food the city has to offer. From Waheed’s Kebab to Agha Sajji House and the famous Delhi Rabri and Sweets, there is nothing that Burns Road does not serve. But that is not where Karachi’s food experience ends. Take a trip to Tariq Road for your never-ending shopping spree and manage to lose yourself in its famous street chat and bun kebab stands. For a sweet tooth moment, you can pop down to Bahadurabad for its ice cream, or the samosa shops to add taste to the shopping experience, making it 10 times better. And how can one forget Dhoraji when it comes to food? Where heaven comes in the form of its famous chaat, dahi baray and gola ganda. One thing is for sure, whether it is the sweltering summer heat or the cold winter breeze, Karachi and its love affair with food never ends. Here is a trip through the streets of Burns Road, Tariq Road and other places to see what the City of Lights has to offer its food enthusiasts. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Karachi’s Burns Road extends for miles, where a delectable food place can be found at every step.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Agha Sajji House is one of the prominent places on Burns Road. It’s famous for serving deliciously finger-licking chargha, marinated in lemon zest sauce, for more than 20 years.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The season of scorching heat and summer breeze makes Punjab Lassi house the perfect place for all the lassi lovers. It’s known for its outstanding glass of fresh sweet lassi, which brings with it the flavors of Punjab.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Food Centre creates magic with their spices making the flawless Biryani. Every spoon full is a treat for the taste buds.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Dehli Dahi Baray is famous for serving a plate of joyful Dahi Baray and Meethi Chatni, since 1954. It’s the perfect blend of soft and crisp, just how a perfect chaat is supposed to be.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400"] ‘The crowd never stops asking for our BBQ and Kebab fry, those are our speciality’. Waheed’s Kebab House has been serving some of the most delicious BBQ and kebabs since 1961, setting up the benchmark for the rest.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Waheed Kebab Houses' stupendous kebab fry prepared in butter and beef mince will surely leave your mouth watering.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Fresco Sweets has been selling its delights since decades, with branches in Saddar, PECHS and Burns Road. This sweet shop is famous for its mouth-watering jalebis in K-town.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Zameer Ansari’s small yet palatable parathas are famous throughout the city. The fact that they’re only available after sundown makes this place the ultimate hangout spot for chae sessions, at night.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Taste of nostalgia: Tasty chat The flavorsome tasty chat is reminiscent for every 90’s kids. The chaat is a delicious combination of sweet and sour with crushed papri’s and a dose of spices. The mix of flavors takes one down memory lane.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Nothing beats the traditional Bun kebab, loaded with fresh lettuce, crispy fries and cheese; Nirala Bun Kebab delivers a desi experience that’s worth a try.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] One cannot forget Malik’s Nihari when it comes to Karachi’s food. They have mastered the art of Nihari, garnished with lemon and chilies that will make you lick your plate clean.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Dhoraji is famous for its gola ganda street, vibrant, colorful and always humming with the sound of late night hangouts.[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The gola gandas radiate with vibrancy mirroring the atmosphere. They deliver a punch of enjoyable taste, with the addition of pineapples, strawberries and even jellies.[/caption] Additional research by Amna Ahmad Zamani and Haram Ali All photos: Ali Anas
YouTube is the most prominent source of consuming entertainment. In this post-cable era, YouTube is the chief provider of quality content on a regular basis. I find myself lost in its inter-web for hours. Occasionally I find a channel that really hits the right spot and I find myself binging all its videos in a marathon that can last for days. Namely: The Nerdwriter, How It Should Have Ended, and Casey Neistat are a few channels that I could sit back and watch for hours. They’re talented people with great ideas and excellent execution. If I had to make a top 10 best YouTubers list, I hardly think any Pakistani channel would make it on there. Cue my moment of truth! A few weeks ago I came home and saw that my brother and best friend (who also is our roommate) were obsessing over a YouTube video.
“Dude, yeh check kar!” (Check this out).My brother said to me and shoved his phone into my face. A Pakistani guy with a short beard and moustache spoke to me about the music he had created.
“What is this?” I said and I gave his phone back to him. “Pakistani artists cannot make quality YouTube videos,” I gave my verdict and walked out.A week later I was using my brother’s iPad for some light browsing when I accidentally clicked on a video. The video opened up with that same Pakistani guy dancing horrifically underneath the title of his video. Soft R n B played in the background and the scenes shifted. I grunted slowly and minimised the video and began looking for another video to watch. Then he began speaking.
“I live in Karachi,” he said. “And out of all the cities in Pakistan, Karachi has the most amount of movement.”The video cut to an aerial shot of the city overlooking a busy traffic interaction and flyovers. A time lapse of the buildings and cars followed and the music became hauntingly present. I maximised the video again and put on my headphones. I watched all nine minutes and 15 seconds of it. And then I restarted it and watched it again. I was shook. A Pakistani YouTuber?! Could the myth be a reality? I shuffled through the channel’s videos and watched a few more. I smiled, I laughed and I was moved. Mooroo is the best YouTuber in Pakistan. That was my verdict after I binge watched his channel. His vlogs make the city I grew up in look like the metropolis it deserves to be. It not only highlights the vibe of the city, but it makes you feel like you’re there. As an expat, that feeling alone is worth my view. His skits are funny. His comedy is genuine. His monologues are heartfelt and honest. His art is himself. His vlogs are tiny little movies. His visuals are stunning and his ideas are never endingly brilliant. He is original in a world of copycats and plagiaristic celebrities. I went on and Patari-ed Mooroo’s music. What I found was an array of musical gems hidden under his name. His album Pehli was a treat to listen to. The ambiance, the sonic and the lyrics all moulded perfectly together into a 45 minute album that has been playing on repeat for me. Good original Pakistani music? Am I living in the early 2000s again? It’s been pouring nonstop for four days here in Toronto, and jamming out to his music in the car while the raindrops spattered the hood gave me pure ecstasy. It isn’t easy for me get excited about music anymore. Most of the desi songs that come through to me are backhanded Bollywood songs that all sound the same. Listening to original music of such competence apart from Coke Studio was a treat. Mooroo has taken a formula that the elites of YouTube use, and spun it on its head. It’s not widely different from the works of Casey Neistat and his music is just as independent as Boyce Avenue’s. But it has the Taimoor Salahuddin stamp on it. The Pakistan-iyat. His skit game surpasses most of the popular artists such as Sham Idrees and Zaid Ali and yet he gets merely half the recognition as them. Cool is mass marketed, quality has to be found. He puts in the forefront the culture we all grew up in as Pakistanis. It doesn’t matter which part of Pakistan you grew up in, you feel what he’s saying. You laugh with his jokes. It isn’t more evident than in his famous skit Saas aur Bahu. Mooroo is an art-house. He deserves the praise and he deserves the virility. Artists like him sprout up very rarely in Pakistan, and when we see that they have, it is our job as consumers to capitalise. In an almost non-existent art culture, Mooroo is setting trends and broadening horizons. Follow him and not only be entertained, but feel entertained. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5Zkif8vUQQ For the quality of the song and the ideas in the video. Very reminiscent of Coldplay’s ‘Strawberry Swing’. All praises! https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=sBNgbkrI3So For its honesty and humour. Nothing is edited, it’s pure and informal. https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=o4TtYRTEas0 For its cinematography and wide angle shots of Karachi. Amazing creativity! https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=9HKwYs1IXKg For its consistent quality like its part one. https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=BLl6RfIhpXY For showing the correct perspective of a young travelling Pakistani. For following it up with a great video and for using the creativity and experience he has and encapsulating it in a trip that every young person longs to have.
The following is an old joke about the police in Karachi. The police chiefs of London, Tokyo and Karachi were discussing how they tackle crime in their cities. The London police chief said,
“When a robbery occurs in my city, we solve the crime within 24 hours.” The Tokyo police chief said, “We catch the thieves within 12 hours.” The Karachi police chief responded with, “We cannot arrest anyone, as it’s our policemen who commit most of the crimes in Karachi.”In 1984, I visited a police station in Karachi to see someone who had been arrested. As we were talking, the phone rang and the SHO picked it up.
“Yes, sir, we’ll do as you say, don’t worry, I’ll personally look after the boy. Sir.”Then he said to me,
“That was a prominent politician, his friend’s son has been arrested for robbery and he wants me to make sure the boy is given VVIP treatment until he’s released on bail. And he orders me to do this even before the arrested man has been brought to my police station!”Those who have had the misfortune of interacting with Karachi’s police officers say it is a harrowing experience. The policemen working in Karachi are not interested in preventing crimes; they are on the hunt for fast cash – a few million rupees by the end of the month would do nicely. Which is why, instead of stopping and searching the vehicles of criminals, they harass innocent motorists (particularly women, or those men who are accompanied by their wives and children). So, rather than go to the police to report cases of theft and cell phone robberies, people prefer to remain quiet, because almost always the police are involved in criminal activities. The irony is that those police officers who are trained and capable of tackling criminals are used to protect the politicians who rule over the city like feudal lords. You can see at least a dozen mobile police vans guarding their palatial houses in the posh localities of Karachi, and holding up traffic when they or their sons are drive on the city’s roads at high speeds. Obviously, scores of policemen in Sindh are activists of the political party which is misgoverning Sindh, a party whose leaders don’t care that the city is going to the dogs. What they don’t realise is that unless they improve law and order in the province, they may be voted out next year. Therefore, it is necessary to have a police chief who is honest, efficient and determined to reform the police force. Such a man (A D Khwaja) was given to the province by the federal government, and he set about the task efficiently, beginning with appointing only those who were qualified and capable. Naturally, this was not liked by those in power, who want that only their favourites should be given jobs in government departments (which is why quite a few police officers in Karachi are former dacoits). So, without wasting time, the chief minister told IGP Khwaja to go home, and appointed someone else in his place, someone who would undoubtedly do what he is told, such as protecting the province’s criminals instead of arresting them. The Sindh High Court has restrained the provincial government from removing Khwaja, but since no one likes to work in a place where he is not wanted, Mr Khwaja has asked the court to be relieved. I know there is no sense asking the head honcho of the province why he is bent upon not having an honest police chief, but I would like to ask Mr Bilawal Zardari the following,
“Don’t you want Sindh to be a well-governed place where there is no crime and the people are happy? If you do, and if you believe that it’s the duty of the government to maintain law and order, why don’t you raise your voice against the removal of Mr Khwaja?”