The historic elections are finally over. A significant majority of Pakistanis exercised their right to vote for their favoured parties and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has emerged as the leading party in the national assembly followed by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Predictions made by most analysts have been proven wrong in the wake of elections as Imran Khan’s PTI has emerged as a big political force winning a considerable number of seats in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and in the national assembly. At places where it did not win, it emerged as the runner up with a sizeable number of votes. A lot of Pakistanis cast their votes for the first time in their lives and PTI was the clear favourite of the urban middle class educated Pakistanis. As the results started pouring in, however, there was a widespread display of shock and dismay. Psychology tells us that the first stage of grief is usually denial. Here, this manifested in allegations of massive rigging by the youth on social media. This anger and denial was channeled into hatred of the winning party and all sorts of disgusting memes appeared on the internet in the last 72 hours. The following are some pictures that showcase the ‘sore loser’ and utterly disrespectful attitude shown by a majority of PTI fans. 1. This map was widely circulated on social media. It depicts the point of view of PTI supporters and how they perceive Pakistan as a whole. If anything, it essentially represents the original apolitical side of today’s youthful PTI voter whose hyper-idealism remained confined largely to their urban hang-out places and was rudely awakened by the pragmatism that is bread and butter of electoral/constituency politics. 2. This picture reflects the people of Punjab, who according to PTI fans, prefer qeemay walay naan (bread stuffed with minced meat- a popular meal) over ‘truth, justice and wisdom’. Just because someone exercised their right to vote according to their will, does not mean they are greedy and stupid. This is a shameful expression of anti-Punjab bias shown by Insafians. Ironically, PML (N) won more seats from the districts with top 10 literacy rates in the country than any other party. Lest we forget, the reforms in education system done in Punjab in the last five years have been highlighted by the World Bank. 3. This picture spells out the words, “I belong to a dead nation”. It depicts the loss of hope by disgruntled and self-righteous followers. All the hype and media glitz surrounding the election campaign deluded voters into a false sense of infallibility and the loss of hope is a result of a failed ambition, particularly in Punjab. Educated masses should know that persistence and hard work leads to change. Rome wasn't built in a day and this attitude of giving up promulgates a very negative message to the youth of the country. 4. This is a screenshot of a message written by a PTI fan to Mr Nawaz Sharif’s daughter. Here, the author mocks her and her father for providing taxis to unemployed people. Now what is so bad about helping the less fortunate? This is also the case with most other urbanite PTI fans who think giving incentives to the downtrodden masses (i.e. the actual majority) of Pakistan is shameful. Sadly, this shows that this young generation has A LOT to learn about politics. Is this the sort of bullying they want to see in a ‘Naya Pakistan’? 5. A fake column was written and attributed to a leading writer in Urdu Press, which alleged rigging on part of PML (N). It was later clarified by the writer that he never wrote any such column. This has been a trend with tweets too by some famous journalists. They were manipulated on Facebook and later turned out to be completely fabricated! I understand that supporters are upset that their hero Imran Khan did not come to power, but isn't releasing fake tweets and columns taking it a bit far? Talk about desperation for attention! Better was expected of the educated class. I can’t even begin to mention the countless abuses and cuss words hurled at anyone disagreeing with PTI’s narrative on social media. If you exercised your right to vote for PML-N, you are automatically labelled as a nihari loving paindoo. Why? Do Insafians want a "Naya Pakistan" where people are not given the right to differ from the mainstream opinion? Pardon me if I am wrong, but isn't this the purana Pakistan? Furthermore, numerous caricatures of Nawaz Sharif and his family have been tossed around on the internet, crossing the barrier of decency by a mile. The modern, educated and upper middle class supporters of the ‘party of change’ should not be disgruntled with the fact that Imran Khan is not prime minister. The mere fact that a large number of previously apolitical people are willing to claim their stake in the system is reason enough for hope. Attacking people and insulting them is not a change and I strongly condemn this sort of bullying. The kind of change one should aspire to is a gradual change, patient change, and practical change. Idealism often tends to be rudely awakened by the bitter truth and we must cope with it. Only hard work, persistence and shrewd decision making can make democracy the best revenge towards corruption, nepotism, and misrule. So, to all the disheartened PTI supporters, your party did not lose; in fact, it did very well. Buck up and keep vying for change in a way that is tolerant of other peoples' choice. Read more by Abdul here or follow him on Twitter @abdulmajeedabid
My little sister is well into adulthood. Mentally, however, I’d say her behaviour is that of a particularly sober and socially adept five or six year old. This is due to a combination of Down’s syndrome and profound hearing loss (which has obviously been a hindrance to her development). It also means that she cannot speak and relies on a slightly limited sign language vocabulary. As she’s the baby of the house, we all do as much as we can to spoil her. One of my pet activities with her is frequenting coffee shops and restaurants. She loves the whole routine, dressing up, driving there, nodding to the parking attendant and the waiters, picking up a newspaper on the way to her seat (not to read it, of course, it’s all part of the act), carefully pretending to consider the options on the menu and giving nonsensical orders to a somewhat bemused waiter. After eating, the whole routine starts up again, this time in reverse order. Because of her limited communication, while she will make occasional small-talk with me, if someone else is accompanying us, they are treated to make-belief conversations; basically just sounds, coupled with gestures she has seen other people make while talking. By the end of the outing, she is generally satisfied and goes home happy… except for one small thing. This is where I have a minor complaint to register against my fellow human beings, especially the educated one who frequent these establishments. The purpose of the entire activity is that it makes her feel grownup, doing grownup things, surrounded by grownup people and feeling accepted in the fraternity. This last part, unfortunately, is where things tend to fall away a little bit. The fact is, while we are all taught that it is impolite to stare, this rule needs to be revisited and updated when dealing with people such as my sister. Understandably enough, most people get very uncomfortable in her presence. They don’t know how to act, and as a consequence end up trying to ignore her completely. The more polite ones will turn away, the less ones will not bother. As far as she is concerned, neither is acceptable! For any other person, perhaps this behaviour might be acceptable. Most people would not ponder long over such an exchange. Frankly, for a basically anti-social person such as myself, it is even desirable! But special people need special attention. By being treated in this manner, people who are already very self-conscious about being different from others are being sent the message that others find it undesirable to even acknowledge them and that they are unwelcome in society. As educated, civilised and caring members of the society it is our responsibility to adjust our behaviour such that we are not making others, particularly those requiring our attention, uncomfortable. Perhaps the biggest hurdle facing people with special needs is social acceptance. By this, I do not mean the misinformed people who regard such people as some sort of source of shame. While that attitude is an issue in itself, a much more prevalent problem is the lack of existing social etiquette when dealing with people with disabilities (specifically in the case of mental disabilities). Special people already lead increasingly isolated lives, especially as they grow older and the differences between them and their peers become starker. Furthermore, they usually face certain constraints that inhibit their ability to socialise. This often leaves them starved for interaction. One result of which I can see in my sister holding endless pretend conversations with imaginary people. In this context, sending her unwelcoming vibes can be a particularly cruel punishment. I do not want to get bogged down into how difficult the lives of such people are. This post isn’t about that. This is, in fact, a self-help guide for you, dear reader. I know that most of the time people do not mean to be rude or cruel. They don’t even realise what they are doing. For these people, this is to enhance your knowledge – now you know what you are doing. Stop it! On the other hand, there are those poor people who find themselves ill-equipped to deal with a social situation they haven’t been trained for, and shut down. For these people, read on, your problems are about to be solved as well. I should also add that there are also occasionally people who are able to deal with my sister perfectly naturally. These are usually people who are confident and socially interactive. But the numbers in this category have been dwindling for a long time now (perhaps due to an increasingly generally despondent and more selfish culture). But I digress, the real point of this article was to inform the reader about the minimum he or she can do when in the vicinity of a person with special needs. Here it goes – smile! For some, this advice is ridiculously simple. For others (such as yours truly) it is spectacularly awkward. I am not a big smiler. It seems like an unnatural thing to do and requires actual conscious physical effort. But believe me, it absolutely worth it. For first-timers, let me allay your fears. Nothing bad will happen. The entirety of your being may be against it; telling you to just let it pass and not get involved. But I assure you, the entirety of your being is wrong! The world will not stop spinning, there will be no meteor showers or tidal waves; there will be no bad consequences whatsoever. But you will have to overcome your own insecurity! Secondly, what’s waiting for you as a result will more than make up for the physical strain your lips are having to endure. Whenever I visit my sister’s special school I make this effort to smile and nod at any children I come across and, invariably, what I get in return is absolutely magical. It usually the biggest, warmest, most genuine, and most beautiful smile you can imagine. It really is enough to make your day, no matter how much of a curmudgeon you may be. Also, once you get past this initial inhibition and are comfortable, you may progress further. Nod at special people, wave to them on the street. Go crazy, I assure you, you will not be disappointed! These are, of course, optional extras, but the smiling is compulsory. Although one should practice the same courtesy with all children, even if we don’t, most of them will grow up pretty soon to be able to ignore children themselves; special children usually don’t get that luxury. Obviously, not everyone can devote their lives to making other people’s lives better. We cannot all be social workers and paramedics. However, I do strongly believe that such basic common courtesy is the responsibility of all responsible citizens in a society, regardless of whatever else we may be doing. As cliché as it sounds, a smile costs you nothing and makes someone else’s life much better.
Ironically, the largest sty in the world is located in Pakistan. In fact it is in Karachi, known as Sindh Industrial Trading Estate (SITE) Karachi. It is an industrial estate with over 3,000 industries, shops and warehouses. SITE is managed by a quasi-government organisation called SITE Ltd while the ‘tenants’ are represented by SITE Association of Industry. But why is this estate that contributes approximately 28% to the nation’s treasury dubbed as a mere ‘sty’? The answer lies in the tour of this 4,500-acre estate. I once wrote a satirical letter to editor that USA was looking for Osama bin Laden (OBL) in the wrong place. OBL was probably hiding in SITE all along because it looked like Tora Bora. Unfortunately, today, it is many times worse than that. From the moment one passes through one of the many entry points - be it from Banaras Colony, or from Mauripur Road, or from Nazimabad, or from Metroville or any other entry point - till the time one leaves the estate, one would undoubtedly agree that SITE is a rather ugly sight. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: Reuters"][/caption] The infrastructure in SITE has totally collapsed; roads are full of potholes, drowned in stagnant water, and so bumpy that motorcyclists find it hard to handle their vehicles. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: Online"][/caption] Industrialists who daily traverse on these roads dread bringing their new cars to this filthy place. Commuters travelling on buses usually sit on the roof and perform acrobatic feats in an attempt to save themselves from falling off. The worst nightmare is travelling on side roads or lanes. These are akin to rocky and steep mountains in Balochistan or Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK.) [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: http://www.site.com.pk"][/caption] SITE is blatantly encroached by whosoever pays the piper. Makeshift huts are found at every corner of this place; these shops sell food, betel leaves, oil, or just about everything. Even the drains are encroached. The janitorial staff is seldom seen in the area. The whole estate is filled with unpicked garbage that at times spills over on the roads and lanes. Graffiti, like political slogans, threats from ethno-religious-political elements, remedies for male impotence and for haemorrhoids, and of course for educational institutions, are on nearly every wall. Obelisks, billboards, and even curb stones are not spared by graffiti writers. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: http://www.site.com.pk"][/caption] Things become difficult and frustrating when criminals indulging in street crime take advantage of the dilapidated roads where vehicles have to slow down. They snatch cell phones and wallets conveniently, confidently and shamelessly. The administrators of the estate rarely ever leave their respective offices. However, it is said that the concerned minister would regularly visit SITE Ltd. Why? Who knows, but the sad fact is that SITE has crumbled and is probably beyond repair now. I beg to ask, what happened to the millions in development allocation? Where have the funds gone? The SITE Association of Industry is no more a strong body. It has no voice whereas once it was called the Voice of Industry. The Association leadership and senior members (including me) are concentrating more on Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The industrialists and traders in SITE have accepted that it is better to be quiet and, when needed, pay bribes and get things done. After all, there is no other option left. Hashim B Sayeed, Former Chairman and a Founder of SITE Association of Industry, once very harshly and with disdain and scorn in his voice, had termed SITE as a “pigsty”. How right he was! Follow Majyd on Twitter @MajydAziz
May is a seminal month in Karachi, an intermediary that hints of the pleasures of a South Asian summer. The searing April heat is omnipresent but in late afternoons you can hear the cuckoo’s song that makes it palatable. Since youth, I have heard the melodious sound and to this day it brings back memories of final exams, the never ending wait for summer vacations, gola ganda (ice cones) and all the other things that made summer the most important season for a child. It truly is the sound of Karachi’s summer, a redoubtable counterpart to the robin’s warble that heralds spring or the cries of the south flying birds that welcome winter. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: File"][/caption] Karachi’s summer weather is deliciously fickle, a courtesan whose coquetry and harsh indifference distracts one to distraction but come sundown she opens her charm first with a zephyr of cool sea breeze and then the loving embrace of the night’s quietude. Sultry days give way to ochre, silky dusks which melt into indigo nights and the moon never looks as kindly as it does then. Summers in those bygone days meant mangoes which always tasted better when unripe and stolen from a neighbour’s house. Of course, the green unripe fruit would, through alchemy, transform into the king of fruits to be gobbled at breakfast with piping hot parathas, eaten for lunch with crumbly baisan ki roti and at dinner as dessert with fresh cream. There would be other homemade mango delights such as ice cream, shakes, squash, pickle, and the Amrohvi filfora- a scrumptious concoction of mango pulp, onions, fresh mint, and chillies which is eaten for lunch with buttered bread. There would be mango parties with buckets of iced mangoes and ample utensils and appetite to go around. We would be as bold with our consumption as our tummies would allow. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: AFP"][/caption] Mangoes were a recurring refrain but no less exciting were the summer sports. The dive in the icy pool marked the beginning of vacations and no week would be complete without a pool foray. Nights would be put to good use with cricket. I played out several Imran Khan exploits in my head only to discover a woeful lack of talent. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: Reuters"][/caption] Nonetheless, the dawn halwa puri breakfast would more than make up for any defeats and soon I was making plans for the next match. If it wasn't outdoor sports then it were indoor games. Carom, scrabble, ludo, and chess were fixtures and helped through the lazy afternoons. Monopoly notes would be hoarded in sweaty palms until they fell apart and card sessions would last hours until the inevitable fights over barely concealed cheating or the yelling from elders to quiet down. Summer meant visiting cousins and spending the night at houses of tired but welcoming relatives and even random acquaintances for no reason. It meant having access to summer delights - video games for instance. It was the season for books with Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, and Dickens - firm favourites. Comic books would be bought by the dozen and guarded and exchanged with all the earnestness of a Wall Street transaction. Comics would be best enjoyed in solitude or possibly around grandparents since they never asked silly questions about powers and costumes. Load shedding was ubiquitous but generators were still a luxury and the hum of the machines would be replaced by the cries of kids on the roads playing games of baraf pani and tag while the elders talked in the candle light or under the glow of emergency lights. Toddlers would swing in crude but effective dupatta hammocks and fall asleep in the serenity whilst listening to a grandmother’s lullaby. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: AFP"][/caption] The doggone days would pile up, the heat would increase and just when you thought that Dante’s inferno is coming to life, the heavens would open and down out everything in a deluge of warm summer rain. The lashing monsoon would wash away the physical and mental grime, leaving souls weightless and lead to splashing in puddles, water games and much revelry. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: AFP"][/caption] The event to mark it all would be the annual beach picnic. Uncles would plan like war generals; mothers would cook to feed entire battalions and the trumpet call would be planned for very early morning. Year after year the deadline to depart would be set and missed with equal regularity. The waves would beckon like sirens and the entire day would be spent getting brown and blissfully wet. We would return late in the evening, more seal than human, temporarily sated and utterly happy. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540" caption="Photo: AFP"][/caption] Come August you could hear a dirge - the millions of children lamenting summer’s end. School shopping would start and we would start the academic year finding solace in the knowledge that it may seem like an eternity, but we will eventually be welcoming another Karachi summer! Follow Sibtain on Twitter @sibtain_n
A few hours ago, Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) dissolved the Rabita Committee in Pakistan and London. It seems as if the chief of MQM Altaf Hussain, has finally taken notice of the ongoing problems within the party ranks. The rising popularity of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Karachi and the sour feelings, even among the Urdu speaking populace - which constitutes a major part of the vote bank of MQM - may have triggered this reality check. MQM represents the middle income group and has a track record of sending educated young men and women to the corridors of power and providing them with an opportunity to serve as lawmakers. Their young dynamic mayor, Mustafa Kamal, changed the face of Karachi which took the party's popularity to new heights. However, it was during the last five years when MQM suffered badly as a coalition partner of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Even if they wanted to do something for the people of Sindh, they have been unable to. Similarly, there were no efforts done at the grass root level by the unit and sector level members of the MQM to provide any kind of relief to the people of Karachi. There was a time when Karachi had risen to the concept of 'I own Karachi' introduced by none other than Mustafa Kamal and his team, but the spirit and enthusiasm fizzled out when the turbulent MQM-PPP coalition kept the local bodies system of governance in a limbo and the last five years were spent ‘strengthening democracy’ by keeping this marriage of convenience intact. There was a time when MQM workers were made to go through character and personality development programs called ‘fikri nishist’ where public service was promoted and every single worker was supposed to follow the party’s code of conduct. However, these traits as they say ‘nazariati kaarkun’ (ideological worker traits) lack in the current breed of MQM workers. They seem to be devoid of any such training. Ultimately, this resulted in some serious breach of party discipline. Therefore, the chief intervened and dissolved the Karachi Coordination Committee. I see this as a welcoming step towards re-structuring and re-organising the party on a positive note- keeping in mind the growing expectations of the people of Sindh and Karachi in specific. Additionally, by dissolving the Rabita Committee, Altaf has put a leash on all those workers and office bearers who are involved in extortion, land grabbing and related crimes; MQM is taking a positive step towards repositioning itself in Karachi. Hussain’s concern for public inconvenience caused by the actions of his workers is again being viewed as a paradigm shift in the policy making of the MQM. This is assumed to have a pleasant outcome in the upcoming days. I would love to see MQM's future Karachi Coordination Committee working actively towards resolving Karachi's ever growing problems. To see them synergise their energies towards public welfare and improving their public image would be like a dream come true! MQM workers have great potential and if used wisely, these young men and women can change the fate of Karachi within no time. They are common people just like us and therefore have full exposure to the issues faced by a common man on the streets. All that is required is a realistic approach, political insight, system of checks and accountability by the party leadership and sensitivity towards the demands and expectations of the general public. What’s done is done; it’s time to move forward now; MQM, make us proud! Read more by Arsalan here
Dear brothers and sisters, While I strongly condemn the brutal killing of Zahra Shahid Hussain, I would like to take this opportunity as an individual to apologise to the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) supporters on behalf on my leader, Imran Khan's statement. I doubt my party will issue an apology statement or agree with me so I will speak for myself. It was incorrect of Imran Khan to point a finger at your supporters without waiting for an inquiry and an investigation to be completed on the senseless killing of Zahra Shahid Hussain. Apart from the chaos felt in Karachi, it achieved what it meant to and that is to divide our people and parties further and deepen our hatred towards each other. As a Karachi resident I accept the MQM as a political force in our city. There are many who feel that by pointing at the MQM, it will eventually bring an end to your party and your supporters. MQM and its supporters are here to stay and I accept that. My party's struggle for change may not have fully come but real change will only be realised when we start changing ourselves, our behaviour and thinking. As a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporter I feel privileged enough that I can publicly disagree with my leader and not feel afraid in doing so. By writing this letter, I hope to change myself and my thinking for a better Pakistan. While I stand with my leader and support him, I hope to see a ‘Naya Pakistan’; a Pakistan where I can also stand with you in line and sing together our country's heart warming national anthem. Pakistan First! Best regards, Imran Ahmed (A PTI supporter) Follow Imran on Twitter @ahmedi678 [poll id="266"]
Karachi gives you so much pain at times, nothing else compares. Sometimes the sun strikes harder on us than usual, almost as if to punish us for our sins from the day before. We lose teenagers in gunfights, lose women to politics, lose children to violence, all as if we were sheep instead of people. This month we honoured the funerals of a female party worker Zahra Shahid Hussain, and a philanthropist Abdul Waheed. These two are one of the many we have lost. We lose blood on the streets, see it on our television screens and read it in our papers. The bloodshed, senseless loss of life and flaky sense of humanity should cage us in our homes, depress us and chase our sanity away. But it doesn’t, not even close. My family received a call from a relative based abroad who advised us to stay at home for the sake of our safety. All my mother said in response was,
“This is Karachi.”It’s a land of lawlessness yet a place of unwavering courage. We soldier on despite the looming fear on the cracked streets of the city. Last week, despite a ban on public protests and threats surrounding protesters, hundreds of citizens gathered to demand their right in the heart of Karachi towards a free and fair election. We saw students tape their mouths in another silent protest to speak against a ban on the basic right of disagreement. Karachi does not hide behind the fury of a keyboard; it now finds solace on the streets. The power of the man on the street is increasing with the passing of every tick-tock on your clock. No longer can a mafia tape the mouths of the people and no longer can any force keep them locked. Though it was said that voter turnout was low at the re-polling, there were people who turned up despite all obstacles of sickness, age, time and safety. I saw people wait patiently to do what they can for their city with one ink stamp. In the onion of understanding, we’re shedding layer upon layer and getting to the core that defines us, our rights. Read more by Manahyl here or follow her on Twitter @mintsnk
This letter is a response to a letter recently published in The Express Tribune. I sincerely applaud your gracious apology to the MQM, especially at time when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters are vehemently caricatured only as abusive and irrational juveniles. One cannot help but be struck by the irony of your worthwhile endeavour. Had you been an MQM supporter, publicly asking Altaf Hussain to apologise for his incendiary vitriol and distasteful accusations against Imran Khan, you would have known the consequences of such an act would be dire, even if you had chosen to withhold your private identity. But thankfully you will not be hearing from PTI because, as you rightly pointed out, you are allowed the space to express your opinion in the party that you support. Perhaps, for the sake of political expediency Imran Khan could have chosen to use different language or shown restraint in issuing an outright statement blaming the MQM for Ms Hussain's murder. As a PTI member I do have the right to question his judgement and to demand a justification for any action taken by the party. However, in this instance I feel that the PTI is justified in making such claims. Given the outright vicious threats and attacks on PTI members and their property, and the general violent atmosphere of hatred and fear that the very well-known "Namaloom Afrad' have cultivated, I believe that there is substantial merit in calling a spade, a spade. Your assertion that this statement has 'divided' people and deepened our hatred towards each other is as preposterous as it is dangerous. I would suggest to you listen to a few of Altaf Hussain's speeches to familiarise yourself with the scope and scale of the hate speech that he spews against Imran Khan and PTI. Such harangues against PTI by the MQM are not new and certainly did not start after the gruesome murder of Zahra Shahid Hussain. Incidentally you must know PTI is not the only entity that has issues with such hate speech by MQM. Furthermore, some of the assumptions that you seem to uphold in your letter seem inherently problematic. You imply that unlike others you 'accept the MQM as a political force' in Karachi and that 'MQM and its supporters are here to stay.’ The fallacy in this argument is the implication that the PTI does not 'accept' or recognise the MQM as a significant political force or that it has misgivings and doubts regarding the influence MQM has in Karachi. Nothing could be further from the truth. As is evident from the PTI political outlook, it clearly does not underestimate the MQM's power and considers MQM to be a strong competition in Karachi that they consistently feel the need to counter. PTI has only demanded a level playing field without threat, coercion and violence. However as is evident from the recent visibly documented cases of pre-election and Election Day bullying, such demands have not been fulfilled. If anything is self-evident in this argument is the fact that it is actually the MQM which do not seem to 'accept' or recognise PTI as a political force in Karachi which it considers to be solely its own home turf. Indeed, like some other political parties in Pakistan the MQM that has become excessively defensive (and for a good reason too) by openly threatening PTI for protesting against its legal right to protest against blatant rigging and indulging in derogatory name-calling against the PTI, describing it as a ' burger' party of the elite who reside in posh localities. Clearly by such flawed logic then as many 'burgers' live in Landhi (69,072 votes) as do in elite environs of NA250 (77,659 votes). Also I am not really sure who you are referring to when you point out 'many who feel that by pointing at the MQM, it will eventually bring an end to your party and your supporters'. Being a PTI member for the last 16 years, also being familiar with the policy and decision-making in the party, I can safely say that PTI does not seek to 'bring an end' to MQM or any other political party in Pakistan for that matter. In fact it would be safe to say that it thrives on healthy competition from political forces, be it in Karachi or in any other area of Pakistan. One must agree that all political parties would gain from fair competition and signs are that MQM seems to have benefited from it already. We all want peace and harmony, and 'change' will not come by turning a blind eye to injustice and intimidation in our neighbourhoods but rather from looking it squarely in the eye by fostering relationship of equality not servitude among rivals. Here is to a peaceful future for all of us together in Karachi. Follow Zeynab on Twitter @zeynabali74
We all expected it. We all knew that with the election of the Punjab government, Karachi would have to pay the price - like it always has. I don’t plan on venting my frustration out on Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), because honestly speaking, they have done a marvelous job, from not only reducing the electricity crisis tremendously if not eradicating it, to removing illegal hooks and providing free electricity to several hospitals and school in the city. KESC actually convinced everyone to follow an energy conservation program by running their air conditioners at 26 degrees and switching off appliances and not keeping them on standby. As I sweated throughout the weekend, not knowing when the power would go out again, a few thoughts floated to my mind. Firstly, I want to convey that the problem does not lie with KESC. As the summer heat rages, protests against KESC - violent protests in which their buildings and people are targeted - are inevitable. Although I don’t blame people for their very valid anger and frustration, all I want is for them to be objective or rather realistic. Karachiites, you must understand where the problem lies; the loadshedding you are facing at the moment is due to the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), not KESC. So, the situation is something like this. KESC has given SSGC Rs42billion and purchased gas worth Rs41 billion. According to the court’s ruling, KESC should be getting 276mm CFD of gas. However, it only receives 120mm CFD of gas - less than half of what it is due. The largest city of Pakistan, sustaining an already crumbling economy, gets less than 50% of what it’s supposed to get! You can easily guess where the rest is going! KESC is filing a contempt of court case against SSGC, but then that’s all they can do. A private organisation cannot fight against the courts, gas companies as well as those in power. The drastic reduction in gas supply has forced KESC to create an artificial system of increased loadshedding. The fight between KESC and SSGC may be long but at the end it’s the people of Karachi who lose, like they have on many other fronts. It has been said that KESC and SSGC officials exchanged hot words over the issue of payment, but the governor intervened.
Now, “KESC officials have assured that industrial areas would be exempted from load-shedding. This means power supply will be back to normal.”Government issues aside, the reaction of people on the social media left me stunned. I understand the painful loadshedding in Lahore, especially in this heat, and I can empathise with the people because I’ve gone through it myself. However, I never celebrate or revel in the misery of those suffering in Lahore. Before KESC was privatised, life was hell and even a few years after its privatisation it wasn’t any better. Only since the past two years has the situation come under control - well somewhat under control. If people in other places want to compete their crisis to that of Karachi's, they must remember that Karachi was dark when the entire country shone bright. One of the directors at SSGC along with many civilians now feel that Karachi and Lahore are equal. Seriously, those advocating equality by sharing loadshedding as a measure of comparison forget the tumultous life people of Karachi are living here. Nearly a dozen people are killed everyday for absolutely no reason at all, the growing influence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the ever increasing no-go areas in Karachi, the political and sectarian violence have reached record level. Life is already hell for those living in Karachi. Such problems are only heard of and not experienced by those happy about the loadshedding in Karachi; they do not realise that such living circumstances are much darker than darkness left by power outages. Just because one area is suffering from a particular crisis that doesn’t mean another city should be burdened with a problem it was trying to solve. I was really disappointed by people’s comments. Let alone struggling to compete with other countries, we are now unnecessarily competing within ourselves, and celebrating a loss which will inadvertently affect the entire country? Power and energy crisis should take precedence over all other prevalent issues in the country. Surely, this crisis cannot be solved by diverting gas unfairly, illegally and maliciously from other cities. The government must take required action. That said, KESC has improved tremendously. When we saw the railway go to the dogs, the airlines losing its marbles and security becoming a joke, the only relief we had was power for most of the day, if not throughout. All we can do as citizens is to upgrade our backup systems and not burn our own streets and attack KESC workers, because that’s just going to make our situation worse. Let's pray for a united Pakistan; let's pray for a brighter Pakistan. [poll id="267"] Read more by Maheen here or follow her on Twitter @MaheenIshaikh
Karachi is at siege by an array of criminals such as the Taliban and from splinter groups with political support. Over 2,200 people were victims of homicide in the city last year – the highest number in nearly two decades. Yet relatively only a few of those killings were successfully investigated and prosecuted. Ali Sher Jakhrani, a legal advisor to the police, says that over the last few years, about 23% of murder investigations led to a conviction. A 2011 report by Pakistan’s Human Right Commission put the number as low as 10%. The upsurge of violence in the city has led the Karachi branch of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to scrutinise the city’s police. Chaudry Aslam, who heads the anti-extremism unit of Karachi’s criminal investigation department, blames the low conviction rate on the judiciary’s unwillingness to accept testimony by police officials. Pakistani law does not place any restrictions on police testimony as evidence. In the 2009 case of Barkat Ali, Justice Arshad Khan of the Sindh High Court ruled that evidence offered by police “may be treated as good as evidence of any other independent witness.” But experts say that judges often disregard police testimony because of the reputation of Karachi’s police force for corruption and subservience to political powers. In 2010, Transparency International ranked Pakistan’s police as the most corrupt institution in the country.
“In Britain, the courts rely on police testimonies because they know the police must have completed the due investigation, but in Pakistan, the reputation of the police makes the judges wary of their word,” says Advocate Atif Rasool, an expert on Pakistani criminal law.Another reason for the low conviction rate is the unavailability of witnesses.
“Section 103 of Code of Criminal Procedure directs us to produce witnesses if a crime is committed in a densely populated area,” says Aslam. “When we fail, we are asked by the courts to prosecute the witnesses for not cooperating with the police.”However experts say that many witnesses in criminal cases in Pakistan often refuse to cooperate - because of well-founded fears of reprisals, or concerns at a lengthy court proceeding. 80 per cent of 60 senior Karachi police investigators surveyed by The Express Tribune said that witnesses fear reprisals from militant organisations or want to avoid being drawn into a difficult trial. Shahadat Awan is the lead prosecutor in the province of Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital city. He contends that a witness protection program is urgently needed, but says that witnesses’ reluctance to testify is only one of the reasons for the poor conviction rate. Others, he says, are education and training.
“Most of our officers are barely educated in law but are up against seasoned barristers. How can they ever investigate and prepare a case that would stand ground against experienced lawyers?” he asks.Only three of 60 senior officers surveyed by the The Express Tribune had graduate degrees in law. More than one-third, 21, had only a high school certificate at most. One of the senior investigative officers noted that the 14 month training for junior level investigative officers focuses more on physical exercises than laws and investigative procedures. He further adds that in his 23 years of service, most of the officers had little understanding of what they were doing.
“Like when we classify cases [in cold files] which can’t be resolved due to a lack of evidence, we do it by a now defunct law,” said the officer, who like other officers interviewed, requested not to be named.Farooq Awan is a lead officer based in Karachi’s busy Saddar neighbourhood. He suggests that lifting the requirement to produce witnesses could help increase the conviction rate.
“Unlike in drug arrests where courts do accept the testimonies of Anti-Narcotics forces as sole evidence, the police in Karachi don’t enjoy any such credence and so these criminals are released on bail, sometimes in 24 hours.”Awan says that almost100-150 weapons are seized daily in Karachi, yet most of those arrested are released due to the stringent evidence rules. Karachi’s former police chief, Fayyaz Ahmed Laghari, told the high court in February that his department has only 250 investigation officers in a city of 17 million people. According to reports by groups including the Asia Society and Human Rights Watch of Pakistan, the government has failed to carry out reforms and has instead used the police to victimise opponents or avenge personal vendettas. Police insiders say that many officers are conscientious and honest, but are overwhelmed by difficult conditions. Most work 12 hours a day, six days a week, for pay of less wages that barely cover food and housing. Yet, history reveals that Pakistan’s government is capable of reform. The country’s Motorway Police is well equipped and widely known for its integrity and professionalism. It was ranked among the 13 most corruption-free governmental organisation of the world by Transparency International in 2011. Observers see some kind of progress. A recent court order to allow police officials directly approach cellular companies for telephone records, which was previously done via intelligence agencies and took months, was appreciated by many. According to 43 of the 60 officers interviewed by The Express Tribune, another step in the right direction would be to increase the time period to submit investigation report to the courts to one month. It is currently set at 17 days. They say, at any given time, officers are investigating as many as five cases simultaneously, and so they argue that in major cases like homicides and bombings, the window should be extended. Read more by Azhar here or follow him on Twitter @Ali_AzharFateh
I was never really the brightest kid in my class. Going to school meant tolerating the teacher’s taunts as he caught me trying to distract my mates from the last bench. It also meant getting kicked out of class almost each day, and spending the rest of the day roaming around the city with my other close pals. My elder brother was different. His studious nature meant that I was always second best at home. My father spent his entire life as a school teacher, earning just enough to feed and educate us. My mother was a simple housewife who had buried her ambitions of leading a comfortable life as soon as she got married. My father was regarded as one of the nicest men in the neighbourhood -- a reputation that did not do too many favours to our family. Being a nice guy in the locality we lived in meant it was easy to be pushed around, and there was no such thing as freedom of speech or actions. My father always told my brother and I how this life is temporary and how the real reward lies in the skies. And while my brother -- being the well-behaved son that he was -- always nodded in acceptance, my ideas were different. I found it extremely hard to accept this life of submission. To sum it up, I was a rebel with no interest in academics, and no special talent to boast about. My parents saw me as a failure in life ahead, and put all the hope of their well-being on my elder brother. With the pressure of living up to my parents’ expectations relieved, I knew I had the liberty of living as I wanted. When my brother joined a small factory at a meagre salary after getting his engineering degree, he advised me that I should work hard like him so that I could give some direction to my life. And while it was true that I was unaware of the path I was walking on, I also did not want to end up like my brother or my father, living a life of that had no value whatsoever. I wanted a life of power and dominance -- a life in which I was the captain of my ship. I wanted a life in which my pride was not threatened by those who enjoyed authority. While my ideas seemed to be attractive to me, the ground reality remained that I was heading nowhere. With no proper education, I was not even eligible to follow the path of my brother and father. My mother’s secret resentment grew by each passing day, as she saw me wasting the most productive years of my life, roaming around the streets, spending time with people who were regarded as a menace for the whole neighbourhood. Little did my mother know that these were the people who were the torch-bearers of the path I had sought all my life. While my brother worked tirelessly in gruelling conditions to earn a trivial wage, I stamped my authority on anyone I saw, thanks to the influence of my seniors. With them, I felt the power I had longed for since childhood. All I had to do was point a gun at a pedestrian, and then enjoy his face turn pale, as he would give me all the valuables that he carried. A few fires in the air would send entire markets into a state of terror, with shops closing down instantly. The media attention I got was also part of the package. As my identity was never revealed when my actions were reported, I felt like a superhero who would fly across the city with a mask on his face. This power was addictive. I brought home an expensive cell phone for my father one day, which cost twice my brother’s salary. No longer was I the loser at home. There was no one who could dare to take advantage of me. This power, this authority, this infinite strength, had been granted to me by my honourable leaders, to whom I had become indebted for life. As a return of their favours upon me, I was ready to put my life on the line whenever they instructed me to. My identity has become a secret for the rest of my life. But then who said secrets are a bad thing? NOTE: All events mentioned in this story are fictional. Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. Read more by Ali here or follow him on Twitter @dralirafiq
I find it difficult to come up with a truthful answer to the question “How is life in Pakistan these days?” A simple “It’s complicated” does not even begin to describe the complexities of everyday life in this country. Pakistan is a difficult country; difficult like dealing with a child who has started screaming and crying in a crowded market, a child that cannot be pacified by meeting its unreasonable demands. Sheer patience is required to face the unending drama we create and encounter in this country every day. However, patience is not a virtue known to prosper in the oppressive Pakistani summer. Thus, the ease with which things deteriorate into something wholly unmanageable is simply astounding. Is life miserable in Pakistan? There are millions who live below the poverty line, suffer from malnutrition, lack access to clean drinking water and health facilities. There is an almost apartheid-like state of income distribution and gender inequality that exists in our society. Perhaps, the only thing that comes close to uniting its citizens is their shared misery over the daily power cuts. Is life unsafe here? Over the past two weeks, students, officials, foreign tourists and locals have been attacked and killed across the country. In Karachi, luckily a judge escaped an attack on his life but 377 others were murdered over a 42-day period. Hope is a dangerous thing, dear reader, and I don’t believe in it. I’d rather empathise with the marginalised communities around us than believe in some fictitious, imaginary future or an ultimate reward. Why would we do that, if there is no hope? Because our triumph is in the struggle to improve the human situation in the here and now while being fully conscious of the limitations of our fate. And yet, I am scared of the callous indifference lurking beneath the surface of my personality, an indifference that I cannot say is my own fault or a product of things I have been exposed to in my society, the Pakistani society. Perhaps, it is both. I once read a book on ethics, which suggested that when faced with an ethical decision making situation, a good question to ask yourself is how would your moral heroes — Socrates, Camus, your mother — act in such a situation? It would not be unwise to apply the same technique to our social problems. Two great men of our times, Nelson Mandela and Abdul Sattar Edhi, are unwell. However, in sickness and in health, they continue to remain great role models for our generation, their lives and their struggles are great places for us to start learning about empathy and humanity. Read more by Waqas here, or follow him on Twitter @_vics_
Enter Ibrahim Hyderi. From the foul and putrid smell that contaminates the air to the alleys upon alleys of shanty mud erections, this 4,000 year old basti (town) will leave you despondent. It has been deserted by the government, abandoned of literacy and polluted with all forms of abuse: child, drug and health. Its inhabitants lead a very dismal existence indeed. This crumbling and dilapidated town is home to a staggering 50,000 Pakistanis. As the rocking waves settle against the sweltering sun, a string of fishermen’s boats line the docks. The effortless beauty is deceiving for while Mother Nature may majestically rock against the shores she has all but deserted those who call this basti their home. Uneducated women live out their lives with meagre employments and too many children until they succumb to the overwhelming demands made of them. Their fate: either another statistic for maternal mortality or barely surviving to see their children stuck in the same cycle of poverty that has destroyed them. To live here is to either die or be buried alive by the forsaken nature of their existence. The strong stench of fish feed coming from the adjacent factories envelopes the air that surrounds them. Children prowl the streets chewing on ghutka, waiting until they become eligible for child labour. If you look carefully, you will find barely lit sweatshops hosting children who sit weaving carpets in the sweltering heat. These nimble hands are home to bright minds yet unjustly deprived of their right to be within the more colourful walls of a classroom. The classrooms here are another disheartening circumstance. For the scanty number of children who attend school, there is an absence of teachers, resources and proper sanitation. It is unsurprising that this poor quality of academic learning does not allow its pupils to break free from the shackles of stagnancy that have imprisoned this basti for centuries. How can one be expected to achieve progress without awareness? How can this basti be expected to move forward from its unfulfilling fishing livelihood and the same ghutka paans if its inhabitants are blithely unaware of their basic rights as human beings? Fathers do not know that it is an injustice for them to force their sons into labour instead of sending them to school as they themselves were never educated at school. Mothers have never known a life beyond rearing children and caring for their houses day after day after day. And the children? A community health worker sadly recounts the story of a child who felt faintish at school because it was not her turn to eat in the morning. This is their reality. One cannot help but wonder: what is the impetus that arms humans with desire and hope? Education. A phenomenon that has not found a home in this age-old basti. Here, amidst the tiny paan shops, the weaving children and the disgusting stench of fish feed, education is unwelcome. Governments have come and gone, martial coups have ruled and dictated and yet everybody ignored Ibrahim Hyderi. No initiative has ever been taken to decrease the staggeringly high percentage of child labour and no money has been invested to develop the uninspiring government school that lurks in a dirty corner. As you leave, you will not miss the MQM banners or the ANP signs and the driver will not forget to inform you that you are making your way through ‘Benazir Chowk’. And as if a bad joke was turning sour, on the outskirts of this basti is a wall with a prominent ‘PTI’ painted over it. So much for jazba (fervour). Where is the ‘roti, kapra, makaan’ (food, clothing, shelter) for the girls who are dying of anaemia after delivering children they are too young to carry? Where is the ‘tsunami’ and the promise of inqilaab (revolution) for the young boys who fish instead of playing cricket on their streets? Where are the haq-parast (worshippers of truth) when the people of this basti are so deprived of their basic rights that they are unaware of their right to possess them? Jeffrey Archer once wrote:
“We all suffer in our different ways from being prisoners of birth.”One can only wonder- what did the people of Ibrahim Hyderi do to suffer this existence? And then comes the sinking reality. This basti is so oppressed by life and its leaders that it is hopelessly unaware of a world without these sufferings. Photos: Reuters.
Ship-breaking, the process in which defunct ships are broken up to obtain reusable steel and other materials, is a major industry in Pakistan. Reviving from a slump that almost forced it to shut down, the industry is once again seeing its fortunes perk up. Pakistan’s sole ship-breaking yard is situated at Gadani, about 50 kilometres northwest of Karachi. Once the largest ship-breaking yard in the world, it now ranks number three after the Alang Ship Breaking Yard in India and the Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard in Bangladesh. Stretched along a 10-km long beachfront, it consists of 132 ship-breaking plots. Currently, the Gadani yard has an annual capacity of breaking up to 125 ships of all sizes, including oil tankers. Over one million tonnes of steel are scavenged per year. Much of this material is sold within the country. Another feather in its cap is its efficiency; a ship that is broken within 30 to 45 days at Gadani takes more than six months to be broken at the Alang and Chittagong yards. According to the Pakistan Ship-Breaking Association, more than 12,000 people are employed in the yard at present. While it is an encouraging figure in the face of the current dismal unemployment situation in Pakistan, many questions have been raised regarding its working conditions. It was recently revealed that even basic precautions like helmets and gloves are not provided to the workers. Their lives are in constant danger as stripping down ships is mainly done with very little mechanical assistance. A sudden snap of cables can mercilessly kill or injure many workers at a time. Moreover, prolonged inhalation of toxic fumes can cause diseases, some of which can be fatal. No proper medical facilities are available on the site itself and most of the emergency cases have to be rushed 50 km to reach the nearest hospital. Being a developing country, Pakistan is considered an ideal haven for dismantling ships. The industry pays as little as $4 per day to workers in the absence of stringent implementation of environmental, safety and human rights laws. While it is agreed that Pakistan’s economy needs this industry to survive, ensuring a safe environment for workers is imperative in order for the industry to advance. Read more by Aamna here
Yesterday, Murad, a taxi driver, was shot dead in front of his four-year-old son by Ghulam Rasul, a Rangers soldier. Witness accounts suggest Murad was asked to stop his vehicle and as he reversed towards the Rangers, he was greeted with four bullets in the chest. Ghulam Rasul has been apprehended and four other Rangers have been suspended due to their involvement in the incident as of the publication of this post. Before we delve into debates about the army, morality, or the legality of this incident, let us take a moment to acknowledge the many human lives that will be affected by this one incident alone. It’s not about losing Murad but also about the many others impacted directly. Murad’s four-year-old son who witnessed this trauma; Murad’s other dependents; Ghulam Rasul and his family who will be reminded of his actions for the rest of their lives. We cannot value a human life as an economic utility function - if the HRCP reported 1,726 official deaths in Karachi within the first six months of this year, it does not make additional deaths any less significant. It is an indisputable fact that the Rangers duty is to protect its citizens, yet clearly this was not the case here. Similarly, Ghulam Haider’s unfortunate death at the hands of another Rangers soldier roughly a month and a half ago still runs fresh in the minds of the public. It is important to note that while these incidents cannot be classified as a trend on their own, they can be used to debunk the myth of ‘shoot on sight’ that seems to persist regarding the Rangers authority. If ‘shoot in case of refusal to stop’ was an order, we would have seen more of these incidents. Are we to believe only two drivers in the past 45 days refused to stop when asked to by authorities? Another argument that contradicts this popular theory would be the locations and the professions of those killed- can we imagine a similar incident happening in the more ‘prestigious’ parts of city to seemingly ‘white-collared’ persons? If not, this incident can also be termed discriminatory in nature. It is retrospect which allows us to analyse these incidents and the facts and strongly form an opinion one way or the other. However, Ghulam Rasul did not have that luxury. He had moments, after a vehicle he flagged to stop, reversed towards him- this is not a justification of his actions but a presentation of facts. In the uncountable times that Ghulam Rasul will go over this incident in his head, he will no doubt explore the many other alternative courses of actions he could have pursued. We can propose he should have opted for the tyres and we can discuss why he shot blindly with a child present in the vehicle. Regardless, it is not unfair of us to expect a cooler head- Ghulam Rasul is a Rangers personnel. He was not picked from the streets and handed a gun; he went through intense physical and mental training to earn the uniform and his behaviour is rightly disappointing. Yet, Rangers are no strangers to being attacked themselves- perhaps Ghulam Rasul acted instinctively and in self-defence. Did he need a defence when he was armed and surrounded by other Rangers? It’s subjective. We have seen solitary suicide bombers attack Rangers before through the medium of vehicles (North Nazimabad attack on Rangers) and if we argue that Ghulam Rasul should have waited, we are lending credence to lack of action we bemoan when suicide bombers are able to carry out their activities. Such incidents can also easily be caused by a rogue mind. In that case, rather than simply inspecting the action, we need to analyse the aftermath of such actions rigorously - who was Ghulam Rasul taken in custody by? Was it his colleagues? Was it the police? Will he be shielded by his institution or hung out to dry? Will the state provide for Murad’s young son to go through an ample recovery process? Will the Rangers do the same? Will we vilify the incident as Rangers being abusive or will we try it fairly? Are the Rangers being abusive indeed? Are there internal checks to prevent potential abuses of power? Do we even train our Rangers for special civilian protection tailored specifically for cities like Karachi and Quetta? Just like we chastise a few bad seeds for giving Pakistan a bad name globally, we cannot be hypocritical and blame the entire institution of Rangers for the actions of a few elements. It is easy to forget the many violent outcomes averted because of the proactive actions of the Rangers because they never make the popular media. Rangers do their job discreetly- had Murad indeed been a terrorist then this incident would have been glossed over and forgotten soon. We should not treat this as a case against the Rangers- Ghulam Rasul should be tried on the basis of the incident alone. Most importantly, however, his role as a Ranger cannot be undermined but extra care should be taken that it does not protect him either. Read more by Nabeel here.
It is said that prostitution is the oldest profession. While prostitution is itself a problem, ignorance of such taboos is a bigger problem. Since a few years, Khayaban-e-Shujaat in DHA, Phase 5, Karachi has gained a notorious reputation of being the hub of prostitution. The section of the Khayaban specific to this booming business extends between A-street and Khayaban-e-Tanzeem. Another operating area is at the intersection for the main Zamzama Boulevard. The female sex workers, their pimps, a multitude of auto rickshaws and an ever increasing clientele are a daily affair on this road. From dawn to dusk, the business is in full swing. The clients are mostly domestic help, chauffeurs, cooks, guards, gardeners and especially relatives of VVIP security personnel who visit Karachi from rural areas. Most of them are employed by the residents of DHA. Vehicles can often be seen parked in deserted nooks and corners along roads going to and fro from this area, serving as a quick replacement for room and bed. In this regard, many complaints have been made to authorities while some objections have been received by security guards or owners of the property where such activities are carried out. Unoccupied bungalows in the street also provide shelter for these activities. The police turn their backs towards these shenanigans, either because they are ignorant enough not to recognise the prostitution ring, or they are party to this business. My guess is the latter. In any case, they are a waste of resources, as they have failed to respond to the complaints registered by residents. This is also true for the DHA vigilance team, who clear out areas only for these spots to be re-occupied by female sexual workers once the patrolling vehicles move on. Attempts to curb this thronging business have failed miserably.. While prostitution is common in many commercial areas of DHA, this is a unique 'open air' market, where customers can window-shop, stop, stare and haggle over rates before riding on with their escorts. From a healthcare perspective, there is under-reporting of sexually transmitted diseases in Pakistani female sexual workers, because the topic in itself is a no-go area. However, according to a study done in 2009, titled ‘Care seeking for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) symptoms in Pakistan’, over half of the female sexual workers, male sexual workers, transsexuals, intravenous drug abusers and truck drivers who had experienced symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases received treatment for their symptoms. The study also states that approximately one third of them did not report their symptoms to a healthcare unit. Most care is received from private clinics rather than public ones. Genital-related symptoms were the most commonly reported. Female sexual workers could be the source of STIs like syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2) and Hemophilus Ducreyi. A local study 'Sexually Transmitted Infections in Pakistan' at an STI clinic in Faisalabad concluded the highest number of cases reporting treatment for Syphilis. Also transmitted sexually are diseases like Hepatitis B and HIV; unprotected sexual intercourse leads to the spread of these diseases. As mentioned earlier, prostitution is the oldest profession; no matter how hard we try to curb it, it will pop up someway or the other. Thus, ideally speaking, female sexual workers should be offered health checkups, HIV testing and serology and regularly encouraged to undergo pap smears for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV Serotypes 16 & 18), related to cervical cancer. Moreover, awareness campaigns for female sexual workers on transmission of STIs should be carried out by organisations. Provisions of condoms and other contraceptive methods should be discussed with them so that they protect themselves as well as their partners. The health department's intervention is required to register female sexual workers who are HIV positive and offer them treatment through proper channels. The residents of DHA should also play a part by keeping a check on the activity of their domestic help and chauffeurs, who may be carrying STIs, at risk of infecting their spouses once they visit their hometowns. Also, food handlers, baby sitters and maids should be given adequate information on hygiene and the risks of STIs. Although prostitution has its accompanying stigma, if it is ignored further it can have devastating consequences on our health and social well-being. _________________________________________________________ [poll id="276"]
The Af-Pak situation is a much detested thorn in the side of American foreign policy, and understandably so. It is volatile and exceedingly complex. Foreign policy discourse is saturated with different viewpoints on how America can harness political and military potential. The ongoing debate is both crucial and relevant with the upcoming withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in 2014. What disturbs me, however, is one critical issue absent from grander schemes on how to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan - that of refugees. There remains little analysis of how top-level decisions affect those that flee over borders by the millions to find some semblance of stability in which to ground their lives. These people remain displaced from their homes as well as from current foreign policy rhetoric, despite being major stakeholders in Af-Pak outcomes. The situation is at worst heart wrenching and at best downright absurd. I would like to start off by giving credit where it is due. Despite its conflicted and controversial role in Afghanistan, Pakistan has played host to millions of Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan three decades ago. The image of the dispossessed Afghan takes multiple forms in the eyes of Pakistanis. To name a few: the dirty-faced garbage picker with mismatched shoes, the crusty-eyed child selling facial tissues from car to car and the pre-pubescent girl who shaves her head to look like a boy so she can beg safely on hostile streets. Although blended in with the usual elements of poverty and destitution, these images serve as daily reminders of a devastating war being fought next door. But let’s move beyond the images and delve in to some hard facts and analysis. Currently Pakistan harbours upwards of 1.6 million displaced Afghans, who build their homes, earn their livelihoods and educate their children on Pakistani soil. Despite growing discontent among local populations about sharing limited resources with an increasingly settled refugee population, Pakistan has decided to continue playing host, recently extending the repatriation deadline for refugees. Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) continues to encourage voluntary repatriation, offering grants of $150 to refugees crossing the border back to Afghanistan. The repatriation policy potentially exemplifies the classic conundrum of international aid efforts being divorced from grassroots' reality. Speaking to a social worker who uses vocational schemes to provide economic uplift to Karachi’s Afghan refugees, I was able to gauge the actual effectiveness of international humanitarian initiatives. Upon asking her if the refugees she serves are even aware of UNHCR’s offer of $150 for voluntary repatriation, I received the simple response that they in fact are not. The conversation was enlightening in terms of understanding the actual day-to-day difficulties faced by the refugees in our midst. She explained how Karachi’s refugee population is scattered in bastis (settlements) around the city. Karachi is a tough and un-pitying city even for locals, but let’s go ahead and add to the mix a language barrier, war trauma, and inability to find proper housing or develop sustainable livelihoods. Even urban-dwelling refugees encounter a desperate situation, having fled for their lives from a war torn country and facing destitution in another. They yearn for home, but Pakistan offers the opportunity of enrolling their children in school. They also do not have the finances to return, and upon doing so face the risk of becoming one of Afghanistan’s roughly 235, 833 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). In short, Afghan refugees are stuck between a rock and a hard place. From this we can gauge that refugees don’t need or want the incentive of UNHCR’s charity hand out. What they truly covet is schools and safety for their children, sustainable livelihoods, access to medical and legal services and a chance to feel secure in their homeland. Without this, there is no convincing them to cross back into Afghanistan. So we need to come to terms with a concrete fact: the Afghan refugees are in Pakistan for the long haul and will most likely soon increase in number. With the upcoming elections in Afghanistan and exit of US troops by 2014, instability and a consequent fresh flow of refugees to Pakistan is highly likely. Pakistani resources will shortly be under added pressure to provide these fleeing, disempowered people with sanctuary. We need to start talking solutions. In the refugee situation we witness a rare occasion for Pakistan and America to work hand in hand to accomplish something that concretely improves human lives as well as contributes to the best interests of both countries. Yet, humanitarian solutions continue to be put on the back burner in top-level foreign policy debates in the midst of government double- dealing and hurt feelings. This is a deathly ingredient in the Af-Pak midst. A starving, grieving population is more likely to be caught up in the throes of extremist philosophy than one that is nurtured and healing. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon asserts,
“The long-term challenges of balancing the economic dimensions of the security transition within the broader Kabul process must be linked to the delivery of real and tangible improvements in the lives of ordinary Afghan citizens.”Pakistan and America need to put misunderstandings aside and start working together, because the Afghan people deserve the promise of opportunity and a chance to rebuild their broken lives. Follow Raasti on Twitter @raastisaid
This Saturday seemed like any other ordinary day to me and I continued my day as usual; the sky was not very clear, but I never anticipated the havoc that was to soon come my way. The weather forecast stated that some areas in Karachi were in for heavy rainfall. Since I am a Pakistani, however, I conveniently chose to dismiss what I heard on the news and decided to manage my day just as any other; I drove out with my mother for her routine dialysis. After almost four hours, I was welcomed by all that I was warned about early in the day; lightening, thunder, rain and water - everywhere! On my way back from Saddar and onto the main Clifton road, I was extremely stressed with the massive traffic jam and the rising flood of dirty stagnant water. At this point, I wondered to myself whether this was the same road I had crossed a couple of hours ago. Decorated shopping malls were strewn in garbage gushing forth with the water and polished cars were seen floating about idly in the water. All I wanted in that almost suicidal slow pace that the traffic was moving at was a boat ride home. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Residents stand near a partially submerged vehicle as they evacuate a flooded area in Karachi on August 4, 2013. PHOTO: AFP[/caption] While I was consoling my mother who was beginning to get anxious seeing the chaos that surrounded us on the road, in the near distance I could hear a siren blaring continuously. There was an ambulance stuck in jam and it appeared that the only one bothered by the deafening sound of its siren and horn was me. No one else seemed to be care to make way for it. Being an emergency doctor, I seemed to hear the siren louder than anyone else, perhaps because I hear it every day and understand the alarming nature of such a call. My mind wandered to the patient inside the ambulance and how critical the situation may have been for him. After raking my mind continuously as to how I could help him, I found no way and ended up saying a prayer for whoever the person was. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="450"] View of a flooded street in Peshawar. PHOTO: @haroonbadshah94[/caption] As a health manager, I had also equipped my emergency room with supplies to combat viral fever, protozoan’s, nematodes, blood flukes, malaria and stomach flu. These were all the effects of water logging and stagnation which we were to inadvertently face after the downpour. I smiled to myself sarcastically when I thought of the number of Dettol and Safeguards hand washing advertisements that are so popular; no matter how much training we conduct in the community for health safety and hygiene, if the sanitation and drainage systems are not adequate, no outcomes will be seen. What I narrated to you right now is not the story of a dingy, dirty, unequipped slum in the city; I was not in Ibrahim Goth or Machar Colony. I was in the well developed ‘posh’ area of Defence Phase IV. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="625"] Men push their bicycles through flood waters on the outskirts of Karachi August 4, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS[/caption] I was bitter as I stared at the muddy slush around me. What bothered me to no end was the fact that ever since I can remember, I have seen my parents footing their taxes religiously and on time for the ‘able’ authorities to manage. This tax includes, water tax, property tax, drainage tax, electricity tax and so on. As tax-paying residents of the country, I want to know where our money has been going if the local government can't even handle one day of rain. The monsoons have always been a cause of chaos, disease and many other problems for Pakistan. Yet, this season comes every single year and every single year we go through the same mess. The situation of Saadi Town and people in the surrounding areas affected by the torrential rains desperately awaiting some form of help or aid shows the intensity of our pathetic situation. The rains impacted the city so critically that even today, on Monday, the aftermath is still being seen. The severe flooding in Korangi not only rendered many people homeless, but will also cost the city a tremendous amount in infrastructure rebuilding. Main roads were blocked causing chaotic traffic jams and this time around, only God knows how many ambulances must have gotten stuck and how many people must have died as a result of this hardship. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="444"] Ghareebabad Underpass 4-8-2013 after heavy rainfall. PHOTO: Muhammad Hassaan[/caption] It is a moment of shame that all the authorities, ministries and politicians should reflect upon. These people make myopic policies that may have been made with good intentions, but are just not strong enough to face emergency situations like floods. The WatSan (Water Sanitation) sector of Pakistan needs to become proactive and make sanitation its top priority. This is necessary not only to improve the quality of life of the people of the city but to ensure that there will be no outbreaks of water related diseases. We need to learn how to prepare beforehand or else we will always be part of the ‘modern slum’ in the world. Look at what just a day of rain has down to the metropolis of Karachi. Shame on the authorities in charge. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Floods hit PHA Housing in Block 10 Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Karachi. PHOTO: Asad Anjum[/caption]
I can still remember the days of my childhood in the mid 90s when I would sit in front of my father on the oil tank of his Yamaha motorcycle, en route to my uncle’s place. I can still hear myself squeal in excitement and wave my hand at the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) trains that would pass through Gharibabad level crossing. Closing of the gates, the all too familiar whistling sound and then the speedy appearance of a giant machine pulling large railway carts; it was from this fascinating experience that I started developing my love for train journeys. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and now the story is very different. Our transport system is in dire straits; vehicles queue for hours on end during rush-hour; the CNG supply is shut down frequently, creating havoc with the transportation system in the country and buses are full to the brim most of the time. Given that the ratio of available seat capacity on public transport to the population in Karachi is 1:40 as compared to 1:12 in Mumbai and 1:8 in Hong Kong, the existing public transport system of the city is not only inadequate, but has become a liability and burden on the commuters. Sub-standard service is provided to us and we are suffering. The train service that had fallen prey to the manipulative and scheming ploys of the transport mafia in the year 1999, is dearly missed by Karachiites. Good news came when the Sindh government, once again, pledged to revive the KCR. This project - if it has to see the light of the day - has to face enormous challenges. The first and the most important of these comes in face of the resettlement of those who reside on or aside the KCR track. The existing infrastructure of the KCR can be divided into two components; the main railway track that connects Karachi to other areas of the country and the circular loop that leaves the main railway line from Karachi City Railway station and meets it again at Drigh road. It is the latter one that needs serious resettlement and rehabilitation. Read below some suggestions I feel would ensure a snag free execution of this project: Learning from one of the major setbacks seen in case of the Lyari Expressway project execution where one of its limbs is still incomplete and unoperational due to the government's failure in resettling (with due compensation) and satisfying the residents of the katchi abadis (unplanned settlements), work on the rehabilitation and repair of the KCR infrastructure must not start until those whose homes and businesses come in the right of way are not properly resettled. According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report on the KCR, from those living on or near the KCR’s right of way, 55.6% of the persons surveyed agreed on relocation upon compensation and 66% responded in favour of the KCR. Having said that, the sample size was small and a mere 329 people were surveyed, this implies that there is a need to carry out a comprehensive survey and get the community involved on a broader scale. The concerned authorities should speed up this process and public hearings must be called on to help dwellers overcome their reservations. The relocation process should be prioritised on the basis of total household income, employment status, occupancy status of the house, family health condition, effect of relocation on livelihood and other related factors. In addition to this, while appointing people for KCR related jobs, utmost preference should be given to affected persons. Similarly, those shopkeepers, who will have to abandon their businesses because of relocation, must be given shops on the KCR railway stations. The existing infrastructure of the above mentioned train service has 22 (out of 26) level crossings which have to be removed by installing railway culverts or underpasses to ensure an obstacle free flow of road traffic. After the completion of the relocation phase, work on these crossings should commence. Any work done after the start of the KCR operations would result in interruption, delay or indefinite closure of the railway service. Furthermore, instead of taking loans from foreign agencies, the government should consider other options for generating money for the KCR. One such way is of inviting investments and sponsorships from various national and international market leaders by dedicating the names of the railway stations to them. This exercise has been successfully implemented by the Dubai Metro, where, by the year 2011, approximately AED2 billion were raised just by branding 10 stations. The government can also look into the option of inviting private transport companies to operate and manage the train service; this would result in a reduction of expenditure on buying rails and engines as they will be owned by the companies operating them. Lastly, it should be kept in mind that the KCR alone cannot resolve Karachi’s transport problems. Other projects like the Bus Rapid Transit must also be initiated in line with the KCR. To travel from one place to another in ease, comfort and safety is a basic right of the citizens. It is time that the authorities concerned were serious enough to launch and properly execute projects like the KCR.
The upcoming local government elections could provide an opportunity to address issues of governance in Karachi provided the local governance system is strengthened to compensate for the division of the province into a rural and an urban part. A discussion on these issues is normally framed in terms of the political parties involved. Unless some structural issues are addressed, a change in political parties would only be a change at the margin. One of the problems with Sindh is that it is the only province in Pakistan where a distinction has been made between urban and rural areas. An unintended consequence of this is that no matter how the urban votes are cast, the management of urban Sindh will always lie with the representatives of the rural areas, since the rural seats in the provincial assembly are more than those for the urban areas. Those who have the responsibility of addressing local issues for the urban areas have no interest in doing so, since their vote bank comes from the rural areas. The people of urban Sindh have genuine needs that relate to delivery of services for the health and education sectors, water, sanitation and garbage collection, energy and traffic management, like any other large metropolitan area. They also have issues related to the law and order situation which are more urban Sindh-specific. The biggest problems are target killers, protection rackets, land grabbers, drug gangs and the influx of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and affiliated sectarian groups in the area of the metropolis. The real solution is that the local governance system is modified so that the political representatives of the people are made responsible for all areas that affect the lives of the people living there and the necessary resources are allocated to them. They will have a direct interest in doing so. If they do not, they will be thrown out in the next elections. This will be possible only if we devolve the responsibility and resources to a third tier of the government and implement a strong local governance system. We see that when responsibility was actually devolved to this level, as was done during General Musharraf’s time to mayor Naimatullah Khan of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) ( 2001- 2005), or to Mustafa Kamal of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) (2005- 2010), urban Sindh and Karachi witnessed tremendous progress. On the other hand, we see that without this further delegation of resources and responsibility downwards, the previous tenures of the mayors from the same political parties – Abdul Sattar Afghani (JI and MMA 1978 -1987) and Farooq Sattar (MQM 1988 to July 1992) – were not as effective. The upcoming local government elections can provide the necessary opening provided that: (a) The remit of the local governments in urban Sindh are strengthened to include all areas related to service delivery and law and order that affect the lives of the citizens. The enhanced scope of local government responsibilities in Sindh is necessary to accommodate the aberration of the rural-urban divide that exists in Sindh; (b) Elected representatives, not bureaucrats are made responsible for these areas; (c) Resources allocated within the provincial budget for these areas are divided in proportion of the populations of rural and urban Sindh so that this distribution is even handed; and finally, (d) Measures are incorporated into the system of disbursement of funds so that amounts allocated for the third tier would be automatically released by the provincial government from account number one to account number four meant for the third tier, without any hold back from the provincial level. The management of the districts should be with the political parties who win the local elections for that district. This will also address the issue of further district specific interests, be they political or ethnic. Please note that these solutions are party neutral. If we restructure the local governments in Sindh along these lines, we can expect progress irrespective of who controls these areas. In the past, attempts to devolve responsibility and finances to the local government have been resisted by the party in power at the provincial level. Unfortunately, the Sindh provincial assembly voted again yesterday in favour of a bill that limits the scope of the local government and vests the responsibility with the bureaucrats instead of the political appointees. This is counter to all democratic principles and international practice regarding local government. If we continue to play these games then the problems of Karachi will go largely unaddressed once again, irrespective of who wins the local government elections. We should realise that by putting in place a bad system we are just ensuring that even when our favourite party wins the local governance elections, they will be unable to make any significant change.