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Is the PTI tsunami over already?


“It’s just a blast, not the end of the world”
This statement, made by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa ex-information minister Shaukat Yousafzai, on a suicide attack killing 16 people shows arrogance, ignorance and lack of experience to run a government in a stressful situation. It isn't surprising, thus, that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lost badly in the biggest ever by-elections in Pakistani history. They lost both the seats vacated by its Chairman Imran Khan with Ghulam Ahmad Bilour emerging as victor of the seat NA-1 in Peshawar and Ubaidullah Khan Shadi Khel (PML-N) of NA-71 in Mianwali. Tragic news indeed for PTI. So, how exactly did they lose? Bad decisions: Locking horns with Maulana Fazlur Rehman Imran Khan locked horns with Maulana Fazlur Rehman in hopes of taking the space of the broken MMA in the general election, betting on support from the Jamaat-e-Islami and undeclared support from the TTP. This was a gross miscalculation on his behalf, as being a right wing party this wasn’t the best strategy. Maulana used demagoguery (emotion) in reaction and won many over with this tactic. This left the space open for a secular party like ANP to use the Maulana’s reaction to win over the seats that the Maulana couldn't! 'Speaking' with the enemy: The Taliban infatuation  Imran Khan stated many times that the harsh stance towards the Taliban is the only reason the people of KPK have been suffering and that his soft method of dialogue can work on these “monsters of death”. This was another miscalculation, which threw all pro-Taliban argument out of the window when they, the Taliban, successfully carried out the DI Khan jail break, inhumanly decapitated Shia prisoners and committed other shameless atrocities. The PTI government specifically asked the media not to use the word “condemnation” in their “we are concerned” press statement on the incident. This did not resonate with people as PTI's method of 'speaking' with the enemy clearly failed. Broken promises: The farce of change in 90 days Voters in KPK in specific and in Pakistan in general, were under the impression that the PTI had a proactive team ready, with their homework in hand, to come up with some radical changes in the system from day one. Imran Khan’s so-called “change in 90 days” jingle, however, became a joke when his team started using bitter old lines like, “it is worse than we expected”. They didn't deliver and the people made note. Power to the Jamaat: Weakness to PTI   To hold power in KPK, Imran Khan had earlier presented Jamaat-e-Islami with the education ministry - a ministry in which Khan also planned to put the biggest chunk of his budget. To be able to teach their ideology to children has always remained a lifelong dream for the Jamaat. Fortunately, the PTI later overturned this decision, but the damage was done. PTI had alienated possible secular voters; what PTI may not have realised is that in its efforts to further please Jamaat-e-Islami, its liberal voters, who had severe reservations about Jamaat-e-Islami’s ideology, were left stunned and dejected. This caused ripples in the vote bank. Sore losers: Blame it all on 'rigging' No serious analyst predicted more than 30 to 40 seats to go to the PTI for the national assembly in the general elections, but Imran Khan kept claiming an imminent white wash of his self-titled tsunami. Apparently, and not surprisingly, this never happened. Now, the Pakistani voter has grown tired of listening to the “R” word (rigging) after every election. Yes, no one is saying that the last general elections were all 'clean and pure' but people find it difficult to believe PTI’s rhetoric about the elections being rigged everywhere except KPK; this sore loser attitude did not sit well with voters. It all boils down to indecisiveness Quite visibly, the PTI leadership is indecisive about whether they should act as a strong, staunch, loud opposition in the national assembly, or as a model provincial government in KPK. If PTI’s election campaigns were to be believed, they had portrayed themselves as visionaries and bearers of a national model for the country. Now, however, to tailor itself to a province that is underdeveloped, conservative and under constant attack from religious miscreants, is proving to be no easy feat. Ostensibly, it’s not an easy road ahead for the PTI at all. ANP and Maulana Fazlur Rehman will make life hard for Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and his coalition government in KPK. At the centre, PTI will be facing experienced rivals like the PPP and PML-N and to make matters worse, the media will be scrutinising every single tongue slip, promise and slogan of ‘change’ as per the election campaign, to see if it matches PTI’s ‘before elections’ stance. Many “career politicians” and “seasonal birds” will steer away from the PTI towards other “juicy” options. This can already be seen in the rise of organisational discipline issues in KPK, making it harder for the leadership to sort things out without compromising the adhesiveness of the party. Having said as much, it is without a doubt that PTI’s inclusion to the Pakistani political sphere was a positive sign for the country. The fact that PTI was able to stir a sleeping country back to consciousness and make them start believing in dying concepts like democracy and parliamentary politics shows the change that has already taken place in our political history. However, it is now time for PTI to recall its leadership to the drawing board, come up with a well agreed strategy and well thought modus operandi; they cannot skate by on rhetoric any longer because the people are looking, and as is proven by the results of the by-election, they don't like what they are seeing.

Why do the Karachiite-type men fall for Punjabi women?


I begin with the disclaimer that this blog is not for three kinds of people: 1. Those who have an issue with the sweeping generalisations I am about to make in the spirit of fun, though parts will be definitely based on truth and years of research-based observation. 2. Ladies who are non-Punjabi and take the title as a jibe against themselves, and say to themselves “what does she mean? Don’t men like non-Punjabi women? She doesn’t know what she’s talking about! I know my husband would never be able to do with a Punjabi woman... they’re so loud!” 3. Punjabi women who, well, have ended up with the “non-Karachiite-type” thaith (pure), purely Punjoo men. Ok so, it just me or do you see it all around you? Out of the inter-provincial, inter-cultural marriages, engagements and other stuff, as a Karachiite I have always seen non-Punjabi men falling for Punjabi women. I, on purpose, used the term “Karachiite-type” men, but to be more specific, we can use the term “Urdu-Speaking” men. So why do Urdu-speaking men keep falling for Punjabi women? Especially considering the fact that many stereo-typical terms are associated with Punjabi women: Loud, tacky, dominating, laraaki (ready to fight), big in size and again, loud. We seem to forget, generally, the beautiful, slender, groomed and talented Punjabi girls who are quite the norm. It seems like the image that comes to our mind when we say “Punjabi girl” is a large-sized female in a colourful laacha, helping irrigate Pakistan’s agricultural lands by jumping in the fields trying to entertain a disinterested man, or eating a huge paratha dripping with ghee and yelling loud enough to make her lungs fall off on GT Road, screaming,

“Mere naal bakwaas na keeta kar naeen te tera bootha tor diyaan gee”. (“Don’t talk rubbish with me or I’ll break your face!”)
And yes, she is pretty, even though she is all of the above. Yet, day after day, the civil, tameezdaar (well-mannered) and wonderfully peace-loving Karachiite (or Urdu-speaking) men fall in love with Punjabi women; and it’s not just them, the other provinces have joined in too, Sindhis, Balochs and Pathans. The question remains “why”? A few probable answers I discovered, after careful observation and asking around, are these: 1. Need a change:
“All my life”, said a friend when he was choosing a girl to marry at the ripe old age of 23, “I have seen my mom, sisters, cousins, aunts – so proper. They don’t laugh too loud. They talk in aap janaab. They wear light blues, pastel pinks and beige, and I am like that too, the subtle aap janaab type. So somehow, the idea of a colourful lady in red appeals to me. Who laughs to her heart’s desire and speaks her mind. You know, the phuljharee-type (firecracker-type).” “Phuljharee-type?” I asked him to confirm I had heard correctly. “Yes yes. the phuljharee, titlee type (the firecracker, butterfly type). For a change you know,” he affirmed.
That’s when I somehow understood it. The firecracker butterfly fun brand actually works for a lot of men. That does not mean other provinces and ethnicities are bereft of phuljharees but maybe it is inbuilt genetic selection that men seem to like the “made in Punjab” variety increasingly. 2. The “khulla dulla ishtyle” (Open-style)
“At least with a Punjabi girl, you don’t spend your life wondering what’s under the cool demeanour,” said another anonymous friend. (And yes, it is best that my informants stay unnamed, lest they face consequences at the hands of the non-Punjoo women in their lives!). “She is who she is. Ghussay mein ho ya khush, kam az kam pata to chal jaata hai. (If she’s angry or happy, at least we can tell.) You know how we men are, yaar. We are bad mind-readers and women expect us to be just that. At least this way, you know that it is what it is, in your face. Jo hay wo hay (It is what it is). At least she’ll say it and not keep it in her heart for the next decade,” he said.
And that’s one general impression about Punjabis that yes, under the umbrella term “Punjabi” come people who are not afraid to be who they are; plus, they are less formal and more casual. Less takallufaat and formalities, and more of Lath Maar (kicking) stuff. 3. They are lookers:
“For guys, it’s all about looks and Punjabi girls are mostly good looking. For me that is the single most important factor. As it is, I like her to be not stick thin,” said another informant.
Need I say more? 4. They have a lot of fire: With the package of the whole loud, khulla dulla ishtyle, comes a genuine spirited fieriness; being passionate, being feisty, humorous, hulla gulla (full of life) and fun.
“I’m telling you, the ‘wujood e zann se hai tasweer e kainaat mein rang’ wala shair (in the picture of the universe all the colours are from the female gender)  was written for Punjoo girls,” said one know-it-all, in his second year of a happy engagement with a Punjabi girl, while he himself has ancestors from Lucknow.
My two cents to my friend were: Make sure you know how to handle the fire, before you get scalded. 5. They are such foodies: And men like food. So in a Punjabi girl, they dream of someone who will be able to share his excitement for puri bhaaji, nihari, gola kabab, kharay masalay ka qeema and biryani. She will also bring into his life the joys of aloo kay parathay, murgh cholay, sarson ka saag and makkai ki roti, and Punjabi pulao. She will understand the cliché that the way to his heart is through his tummy, simply because hey, the way to her heart is also through her tummy. To each his own. Whatever ethnicity works for you, go for it and rather than the ethnicity, whatever “package deal” works for you, go for it.

Happy-ending massage parlours: When filth comes to Karachi DHA


Massage is taken as a therapy to relieve stress and rejuvenate the mind and body after a day’s hectic routine. In our society a “maalishi” is considered a magician who can instantly relieve you of your knots and spasms. However, since the last five to six years we have witnessed a mushroom growth of salons offering different kinds of massages ranging from neck and shoulder to full body Thai massages. Besides the high end spas, a relatively recent entrant in this market, are “massage parlours” operating in certain commercial areas of DHA and Clifton. Out of curiosity, I did some investigative journalism, went deep into this world, met the concerned people and collected a plethora of facts and figures. Some background interviews with people involved in such a business and clients frequenting these facilities revealed the following facts: How do they advertise? Shady massage parlours advertise through some unconventional channels. They post subliminal ads on certain classified web portals offering therapies and beauty services for men and women in a “relaxing” and “Bangkok” like environment. That’s where the catch is. For people who are familiar with such facilities, the mere use of term “relaxation” rings a bell and the attention has been captured. Such parlours have also started sending bulk text messages with similar subliminal terminologies intended for people who have a taste for these “services”. What exactly happens there? Ads for massage parlours come with a cell number. You call on that number and the person at the other end tells you to reach a certain landmark and call him/her from there. That’s the first sign of the place being a suspicious joint. They don’t operate publicly. Once you reach the venue, you realise you are standing in front of a salon in a rundown building and the shopkeepers in the neighbouring blocks are staring at you with suspicion. You ring the bell or knock on the door and are greeted warmly by a skimpily dressed girl. The very first question you are asked is the “reference” you came with. If you satisfy them, you are then led to a sitting area where you witness a parade of women wearing cleavage exposing clothes and you are asked to pick the one you like. Your pick of the day then leads you to a make shift room, made of hardwood walls after paying a counter fee and you are asked to “change your clothes” which actually means “take them off”. The word 'massage' at such parlours is just a cover up and instead what happens is prostitution behind closed doors. These girls offer you “relaxation” services that start off with a basic full body massage and end “happily” with another set of services which are sexual in nature. How much do they charge? Counter fee at such parlours is usually between Rs2000 to Rs3500 and the girls ask for tips ranging from Rs1000 to Rs4000 depending on the “services” you desire.  Where are these parlours located? They can be found in some streets of Zamzama commercial area, Bukhari Commercial area, Khadda Market, Badar Commercial area, areas close to Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s mazaar, Tauheed Commercial area, a few are on main Nishat Commercial and some residential blocks of DHA and Clifton. Who runs these facilities? Some big mafias are involved in this business. My investigation took me to people I’d never want to mess with. On the condition of anonymity, one person running such a parlour revealed the name of a famous “land grabber” who happens to be holding an important portfolio in the current Sindh Government and is related to a famous widower. Most of the parlours in the DHA area are being patronised and protected by him. How do they stay out of the radar? Darakshan, Gizri and Boat Basin police stations are fully aware of all the massage parlours operating within their jurisdiction. Some conversations revealed that each parlour is supposed to pay bribes ranging from Rs50,000 to Rs200,000 to the Station House Officer (SHO) of the concerned police stations; failing to do so results in a raid and an arrest of the clients busy in their “moments of relaxation”. However, once the owner of the facility pays off the required bribe, the parlour becomes operational the very next day. Who are their clients? Business tycoons, young boys from influential families, men from interior Sindh and up country staying in Karachi for work, police officers and government officials. What can DHA and the Sindh Government do about it? The DHA vigilance department will have to play their role in curbing this practice before it spreads more filth in the neighbourhood. They carry out raids on sheesha bars, confiscate push carts, penalise illegal constructions but have failed to step hard on such immoral activities taking place right under their nose. The Sindh Government will have to constitute a special committee of honest and competent officers who can act without any influence and crack down on all such shady businesses without any prejudice. [poll id="282"]

Bring the Army to Karachi!


Recently issued statements by the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain and the subsequent debate on the floor of the National Assembly have brought forward a plethora of concerns for citizens of Karachi. The ruling party, Pakistan Peoples Party, instead of giving hope and a plan to stabilise the worsening law and order situation in the city, has started pointing towards the 30-year-old violent history of this beautiful port city. Instead of showing resolve to eliminate criminal elements, the information minister for Sindh government, Sharjeel Memon, accused the MQM of hatching a conspiracy alongside the Pakistan Army. Allegations are countered with facts and figures — but here, it seems the government has strong ties with gangs operating in Karachi, which it doesn’t want to expose. The chief justice, while listening to the Karachi unrest case at the Sindh registry of Supreme Court, commented on the complete failure shown by the law enforcement agencies and specifically took the Director General (DG) of Pakistan Rangers Sindh to task who had nothing concrete to say in his defence. The DG shifted the blame to political parties with militant wings, hence showing his inability to maintain law and order in the city, a response which annoyed the top judge. Opposition leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has, however, termed this demand by the MQM a slap on the face of democracy. He says that police and rangers are fully capable of maintaining law and order in the city. The people belonging to the Kutchi community have suffered the most in the recent times. They were not only forced to leave the Lyari area but upon their return they were greeted with bullets and rockets by gangsters operating in the area. The question then arises: is the Sindh Rangers capable enough to thwart unrest in Karachi? The Rangers is often mistaken as a military unit. However, a defence analyst recently clarified on a TV talk show that the Rangers come under civil defence and cannot be considered as an equivalent to the Pakistan Army. In recent times, the powers of Rangers units stationed in Karachi have been curbed to a great extent due to political interference and taking away the authority to make formal arrests and carry out investigations. With their feathers clipped, even the most effective fighting forces become impotent and compromised. Out of frustration, these soldiers then become trigger happy and end up shooting down innocent civilians. Their role in law enforcement is therefore being viewed with suspicion. Why has the police failed to perform? Political postings and out of turn promotions have already demoralised able officers, hence compromising the performance of an organisation which is supposed to be solely responsible for the law and order crisis in Karachi. The police-led Lyari operation of April 2012 is another bad patch in the history of Sindh police where the entire operation had to be called off prematurely due to political intervention and which resulted in the death of some very competent officers. The stand-off and the following withdrawal demoralised the police to a great extent. Similarly, a police encounter at Safari Park in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal area ended up on a sad note with casualties inflicted by the police. Surprisingly, some higher-ups in the police department cleared the names of the men arrested after the encounter as innocent bystanders. It was the CCTV footage leaked by media channels which blew up the whole story and pointed towards vested interests in the case. This again has demoralised the police who, after losing some of its best men, had to witness the guilty ones being protected by their own bosses. So how can the Army deliver in Karachi? The Pakistan Army is a disciplined organisation with great chain of command and almost zero tolerance for traitors and enemies of the state. If the army is given full authority and power to complete a task, it goes in full throttle and establishes state writ no matter what it takes. In the case of Karachi, the army should be given full authority to carry out raids, make arrests, try the criminals in military courts and dispense speedy justice which they are fully capable of doing. Karachi has bled badly in the past and now it seems to be breathing artificially on a ventilator. The Pakistan army is the only hope left and if given a chance, they can surely provide relief to Karachiites.

Leaving for college but trying to fit ‘home’ into a suitcase


Every time I leave home, I have the urge to pack everything within sight. Accessories I will never use, dozens of Pakistan flags I will forget to put up, books I won’t get time to read, stray tokens of days spent at home so that I may relive them at will. However, this odd impulse isn’t nearly as exasperating as the reality that I can’t actually pack the things that matter the most, because they are intangible. My sister’s voice or the spark in her chatter; my mother’s worried frown when she thinks I’m overworked; long, honest conversations with old friends; the innate comfort of my purple bedroom, cosy and familiar. There are also homey tit bits I never knew I held dear until I was forced into the knowledge; the beauty of the azaan, for instance. I can’t claim I always answer the call for prayer promptly. But I know now, that the moment when it echoes through the atmosphere, letting a new time of the day rush in to our consciousness - dawn, afternoon, evening, dusk, darkness – is exquisite. Then there are the colourful rikshas I flag at home, loud and gurgling, waddling cheerfully on bustling Karachi streets to deliver me to my destination. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="571"] Then there are the colourful rikshas I flag at home, loud and gurgling, waddling cheerfully on bustling Karachi streets to deliver me to my destination. Photo: AFP[/caption] There are luxuries like Sunday bazaar, the land where a little bargaining can buy everything dirt cheap. And of course, the food. No suitcase can pack enough chai, milky, steaming, soothing chai with just the right amount of powdered milk, maybe an elaichi or two. Or enough street fare- bun kebabs that are full of unhygienic deliciousness; gola gandas; french fries- Rs20 a box, covered in bright red tomato sauce. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="576"] French fries- Rs 20 a box, covered in bright orange tomato sauce.[/caption] Every time I leave, saying goodbyes, then reiterating them, giving hugs and shaking hands with promises of meeting again soon, I add to this list. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] No suitcase can pack enough chai, milky, steaming, soothing chai with just the right amount of powdered milk, maybe an elaichi or two. Photo: AFP[/caption] I question myself - will there ever be a day when I don’t feel like a piece of my heart has been cut off as I board my plane for the umpteenth time? Yet, there it is. I have chosen a life that tears me apart from everyone and everything I call my own. Or maybe this life has chosen me. Regardless, I must go - away from a myriad of memories, from a city troubled and vibrant, from my friends and family. Of course, through every bout of homesickness is the fear that when I finally return, something might have changed. My family tree, the street I live on, household traditions, or worst of all, my ability to blend back in. But wait. These things I call home have shaped me. I am their product, their offspring. I am more than just a surname or a green passport. I am a vessel, full of everything I grew up among, made of ingredients that when mixed in larger quantities form what I term ‘home’. The trick, I suppose, is to latch on to this fleeting realisation. I can’t be without home- because I am made of it, from it. Sometimes, I make my way back to this insight as my mother reads the Ayat-ul-kursi aloud for me. Other times it is when my sister tells me exactly where I can find my suitcase keys when I get to college. It can be when my baby cousin waves bye-bye blithely at the airport with no idea that he will cease to remember my face in a few weeks. It can even be when I lean out for a glimpse of Karachi through the minute airplane window as we take off- my city, as awake as I am in the middle of a cloudless night, bewildered yet glorious. Just when I decide this is the flight when I’ll be asked to leave the plane for wailing too loud, some peace, some strength sneakily makes its way into my heart. That’s when I know home has taught me well. With my mind full of faces and places I love, I might just conquer a new stretch of time. Fine, I may tick days off the calendar. But only until the next time I am home.

Save our doctors at Civil Hospital Karachi!


One morning I decided to make a surprise visit to the Civil Hospital Karachi. The motive of my visit was to get an idea of the current security arrangements, so that violence in hospital could be prevented and controlled. Unfortunately, this visit uncovered a set of serious security breaches. •   There was an absence of security personnel on almost all the entrances and exits of the hospital. •   The main gate leading to the entrance of the Emergency Department was being handled by a few unarmed security guards who were merely opening and closing gates. •   The Police chowki (office) was empty and it appeared that no one was on duty. •   There was no sign of Rangers pickets on either of the entrances. •   The picket that was once parked outside the ENT department was also missing. This serious lack of security brought back memories of an incident that took place a year ago when an armed mob entered the Civil Hospital on August 24, 2012, following the death of a political worker, admitted with gunshot wounds. The charged mob attacked the surgical unit, two doctors and the emergency Occupational Therapy (OT) staff. Several people were threatened, female doctors harassed while their male counterparts were brutally manhandled. The associate professor of surgery in surgical unit two was given an SOS call by the team which was under attack. They were confined to the emergency OT in the wee hours of the morning, while the group of armed men kept hunting for them. On the arrival of the associate professor of surgery in the Emergency OT, he was attacked by the violent mob. The senior surgeon ended up with a fractured nasal bone, a lacerated ear and suffered from head trauma. He was dragged on the floor from the Emergency OT to the surgical ward of unit two to sign a death certificate. An emergency OT senior technician was also assaulted and he suffered from severe head trauma and fractured limbs. He was admitted in the emergency wing of the same hospital. Following these events, the doctors and paramedics had observed a protest and went on a token strike till adequate security was provided. High promises were made by the police officials and the deputy commissioner office (DCO) for arresting the perpetrators of this violence. Security was beefed up in and outside the hospital and an assurance was made to have constant presence of Rangers inside the hospital. However, my visit showed an absolute lack of security – no presence of Rangers and no policemen on duty. Had a mob entered the hospital that day, doctors and paramedics would have been the victims of physical and mental abuse yet again. A similar incident occurred in Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) in December, 2012, when two armed wings of political parties ended up firing indiscriminately inside the emergency unit. In the CCTV footage, the medical teams are seen running for cover. Rangers are seen responding after a few minutes and their non-serious attitude results in the escape of the culprit from right under their noses. The doctors, medical staff, paramedics and general public visiting JPMC suffered once more when a massive bomb ripped outside the emergency unit in 2010, following the bomb blast at a bus taking people to a Chehlum (religious funeral ceremony) procession. Another incident took place in June this year -- a suicide bombing was followed by a hostage situation in Bolan Medical College Quetta. Healthcare professionals continue to be the victims of violence in Pakistan. Angry attendants, armed mobs, and charged political party workers are part of a daily routine for the medical staff that faces these hostile situations while working in the emergency services. Efficient internal and external hospital security should be provided in public hospitals, especially for Civil Hospital Karachi, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical and Dental Center and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. These hospitals are relied on most when the city undergoes any kind of emergency. The least we can do is ensure the safety of our doctors and paramedics so they can do their jobs and save our lives! The writer was part of the surgical team that was attacked by an armed mob belonging to a political party in Aug, 2012 at Civil Hospital Karachi.

Bombs, rape and death: Are we suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?


Mood and anxiety disorders are prevalent all over the world and they exist in different types and forms. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that stems from traumatic or life threatening experiences encountered by an individual. The events experienced may vary, from natural disasters and severe automobile accidents to violent personal assaults, life-threatening situations and wars. The individual initially responds with intense fear, hopelessness and horror and later develops symptoms which are visible when her or she revisits the event through perception or conversation. Patients who suffer from PTSD also have trouble sleeping. These patients have a lot of anxiety, because of which they cannot relax. They get startled by any situation that reminds them of the traumatic experience and they avoid many social situations out of fear or discomfort. In the US, PTSD clinics have been setup in veterans’ hospitals to treat soldiers who are suffering from the disorder. During my last trip to Karachi, I had the opportunity to evaluate a number of patients suffering from this disorder. I noticed that they all had been through life threatening experiences or had witnessed similar situations. One of my old friends told me that he was kidnapped for ransom for several hours. The kidnappers drove him around and then ditched him after taking all his money and his car. Another individual said that he was shot by two people who were trying to snatch his cell phone. Another friend said that he had helped out in rescue missions after the Abbas Town bombing in Karachi earlier this year and he had witnessed horrific scenes. These stories, unfortunately, are quite common and perhaps every household in Karachi has one such member who has been through a traumatic situation. Some of the patients I saw had strong signs of anxiety and mood disorders as they had no clue why they were not able to sleep, had irritability in their moods and had nightmares and flashbacks. With the recent increase in violence in Karachi and other parts of the country, people have been through cases where it has cost them their lives and livelihoods. We see the media keeping count on death tolls daily but we have missed out on the human aspect of these tragedies. People that are going through this, and have lived to see another day, are not the same as they were before. PTSD affects both males and females. Some studies have suggested a higher prevalence in females. Children are also affected by the same disorder; nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance of thoughts, feelings and conversations associated with the event are common traits for PTSD victims. However, unlike adults, children re-experience the event by repetitive play rather than through perception. Other symptoms are related to negative alterations in cognition and mood like numbness, hyper-arousal, forgetfulness, poor concentration and depression. Individuals with this ailment may have an increased risk of impulsive behaviour like suicide or homicidal tendencies. There has been an increase in suicides among US soldiers who returned from war and have been diagnosed with PTSD. Victims of sexual assault are at especially high risk for developing mental health problems and ending their lives. However PTSD, like any other anxiety disorder, is treatable. First and foremost, it is important to initiate assessment and treatment quickly after the traumatic event has taken place, even if the diagnosis of PTSD has not been made yet.  A combination of pharmacologic (medication) and non-pharmacologic (therapy) remedies can be adopted in adults, but in children and adolescents psycho-therapeutic intervention is preferred. Non-pharmacologic methods include group therapy, individual and family therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Medications may be required to control the psychological symptoms. A group of medications known as SSRIs which include medications like Sertraline, Paroxatine, and Fluoxetine are highly effective in PTSD treatment. There are other groups of medications present as well which are equally effective. Finally when a family member is diagnosed with PTSD, the entire family may be affected. Family members may experience shock, fear, anger, and pain because of their concern for the victim. These families should engage in counselling. Stress and anger management, and couples therapy are also possibilities. Families should try to maintain their outside relationships and pleasurable activities for the individual to be at ease with his/her surroundings. PTSD is very common in Pakistan and prompt action is required to employ psychologists and psychiatrists to cater for individuals who have been through a tragedy and are now living in constant fear that the event might happen again. Please contact if you have any questions at mentalhealthdiary786@gmail.com and keep looking for another story from Mental Health Diary.

The people of Karachi: Everyone has a story


When in Pakistan, do as the Pakistanis do. Decoding our culture is difficult due to the diversity Pakistanis are blessed with. You'll always meet people here with a story; they all have a story to tell. And so do I. After having breakfast and reading the Smoker's Corner on Sunday, I went to a butcher shop. Traditional butcher shops are not a place to visit for the fainthearted in Karachi. They have an acquired smell, resulting from carcasses of goats hanging right above the butcher’s counter and an even row of chickens lined across, with feathers plucked and skin removed. The sections are divided into three: mutton, beef and chicken. The butchers wear bloodstained shirts while they work methodically. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] A butcher cuts meat in his shop while posing for the camera. Photo: Reuters[/caption] I'm offered a cup of tea by a gentleman whose hands are covered with dried blood. I don't drink tea so I politely decline the offer. While waiting for our meat to get portioned, I speak to the shop owner's son. He's a few years older than I am. I ask him about the meat purchasing process and he gladly responds. Breeders from all over Sindh bring their cattle to the mandi (wholesale market). This mandi gives breeders the opportunity to showcase their product. The buyers visit this market and make the purchase. He said that the meat provided at his shop was of superior quality; I didn't doubt him as we were one of his regulars. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] A large number of animals seen at cattle market near super highway. PHOTO: FILES[/caption] He spoke to me about his passion for meat. The prerequisite of being a Pakistani is an unhealthy obsession with meat. He fulfilled the criteria and now he's in the business. He told me that people in Karachi love their food which is why they still come to a traditional butcher shop and carefully select the cuts of meat they want. He told me that this is part of our culture. I expressed my concern as I told him that many people nowadays want a streamlined process. They don't want to know where their meat came from or what the quality is like. However, that did not stop him from delivering the best quality of meat possible. He said that there are people out there who will never settle for frozen chicken in a packet. After the butcher's, I went to the sabzi wala (vegetable shop). My sabzi wala has an active sense of humour which never fails to entertain but he had many concerns with how things were in recent times. We spoke about the types of garlic in the market. Usually they keep desi garlic and one other variety that comes from China. I told him about the crisis India's facing due to the shortage of onions. I asked him if we should be afraid too. He laughed and informed me that most of the onions in Pakistan come from Balochistan and the quantity is high this season. He was upset with tomatoes that Pakistan imported from India though. He proudly said the Pakistani tomato is far more superior in taste. He said he hated giving away a product that he wasn't happy with. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Shopkeepers selling vegetables in Empress Market Karachi. PHOTO: FILES[/caption] I went to the barber next. I had to wait as, on a Sunday, barber shops are usually packed. I spoke to my barber about the meaning of life and he responded accordingly. He told me that Quaid-e-Azam rules Pakistan. I asked him to further explain and he said, “The only remains of him are on our currency. Money rules Pakistan.” Before we branched out to politics and conspiracy theories, a seat was free. On Sunday, the barber to seat ratio is high. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] A barber is like a best friend, once you find a good one, you stick to them. PHOTO: AFP[/caption] I explained the type of haircut I wanted and he understood. Consider yourself blessed if your barber understands and delivers. A barber is like a best friend, once you find a good one, you stick to them. My barber was passionate. He made sure that I was pleased with the outcome and he didn't disappoint. You find people loving what they do everywhere; usually in places where we never look. Chaotic as it may seem, Karachi is home. Karachi is a place to learn. Karachi is passionate. Falling in love with this city and its people is unavoidable. And like most love stories, your heart will be broken but that doesn't stop you from loving.

Why isn’t my father home yet?


It's getting late; I wonder why Baba hasn’t come home yet. I ask Ami if he's called, she says no. My brother hasn't heard from him all day either. My mother's face doesn’t betray any anxiety, but I see her stealing glances at the clock every five minutes. I pick up the phone, and dial his number. It rings a few times, and then the lady on the phone - that I always took to be Benazir Bhutto when I was a child - says the number I'm trying to reach isn't answering. She asks me to please try later. Many thoughts rush through my head; he's at work, he's probably busy. But, my brain reels; why didn't he just reject the call then? Perhaps he didn't hear the phone - he did spill water near the speakers yesterday. But I'm sure I heard it ring this morning. Or maybe he just forgot to put it off silent after his last meeting? But deep down I know he never puts his phone on silent, not even during meetings. I wait a few seconds, convincing myself that it's been a few minutes, and I try again. This time it doesn't ring at all, his phone's off. No longer convincing myself that everything's all right this time, I immediately enter panic mode. Why is his phone off? It was fully charged when he left the house, yes, I'm sure because I left it to charge myself at night before I slept. I bite my lower lip, and start picking my nails, a childhood habit that crops up whenever I'm feeling particularly anxious. After a while, I try again, and with a heavy lump in my throat I realise it's still off. I look around, play with my phone, and strain my ears to see if I can hear our car pull up. Surely, his battery must have died, he's been out all day, and it’s completely possible. But then why didn’t he answer the call before? I give up all pretence and tell my mother his phone's off, she quickly looks up, but then regains her composure as she tells me that he's probably in an area with bad coverage. But his office is 15 minutes from our house, since when has bad coverage ever been an issue? I run to the TV, take the remote from my brother, ignore his angry retort, and turn to a news channel. No reports of bombs, firing or other dangerous incidents; not in Karachi, anyway. I distractedly notice that the red strip at the bottom is showing something about an attack in Quetta, but I selfishly turn the TV off and look back at the clock. I have more important things to worry about right now as I have no idea where my father is. I get off the couch, and pace back and forth, holding my cell phone in my hand. Dialling and redialling his number, I don't even register what the cold automated voice on the other end is saying. My mouth feels dry. It's really getting late now, why hasn't he come back? What could have happened to him? What's the closest hospital to his office? Why haven't any of his co-workers called us yet? Why isn't anyone answering the doorbell? Wait, why wasn't anyone answering the doorbell? I run to the door, and fumble with the lock for a second before it opens, revealing my father, all 5 feet 10 inches of him. I yell over my shoulder that he's home, and ask where he's been and why his phone's off. He sighs and tells me he got mugged an hour ago. It is a testament to the irony of living a Karachi life that I sigh with relief. In Karachi, where crimes are measured according to the relativity of their danger, a mugging is really not so bad.

Stop complaining ladies, men get harassed on buses too!


‘Mardon ko toh koi tameez hi nahi hoti ke bus mien kis tarah safar karna hai!’  (Men have no manners at all regarding how to travel on a public bus)
This was a phrase that I came across last week when I was waiting at a bus stop. The words came from a middle aged woman, standing a few feet away from me, conversing with her colleague. On hearing this, a rush of anger took over me, but before I could say anything to her, my bus arrived and I had to board. Dear women, I understand that you get treated badly in our patriarchal society and that the men around you might make life a living hell, but believe me when I say this; you are not the sole sufferers - men have it way worse than you do. Not that there is anything wrong in travelling via public transport, but the way men are treated by the driver and the conductor is what makes the ordeal all the more torturous for us. Don’t believe me? Here are a few reasons why men have it worse than women do when travelling on public transport. The annoying conductor Have you ever been pushed, hit or threatened by a bus conductor? Never? Well that is probably because most conductors talk to you in a respectful manner. However, conductors are not as chivalrous with the male species as they are with women. From verbally haranguing male passengers, to physically pushing, abusing and even hitting them at times, nothing stops the conductor from getting his way on a bus. If he wants you to cram together and get away from the entrance, he will make sure that not a single corner in the bus is left empty. Even at stops, the conductor works towards getting as many passengers as he can, even if their number exceeds capacity. He shouts out names of destinations, all the while urging other male passersby to travel on that bus too, sometimes even physically pulling them in whether they want to travel in that particular direction or not! Men, to the conductor, are unintelligible animals that need to be treated like a herd of sheep, whereas women are royalty. All the shouting and pushing makes many of the male passengers angry and frustrated and even worse when, at the same time, the conductor greets the women with respect and gives them their due to time to settle in comfortably before moving on to his next male target. The occasional drug addict Have you ever had to share a seat with a drug addict? Have you ever had to take his greasy head off of your shoulder as he doses away in oblivion? Have you ever had to shower and change your clothes as soon as you reach home because you smell like hashish or charas? I am guessing not. Well yes, men experience all that and more whilst travelling. I am not saying that no woman has ever had to go through similar experiences, but the probability of coming across a male drug addict on a public bus is far greater than that of a female drug addict. This category also includes the pan eaters. While squirting their residue out through their blood red teeth, they don’t really care if some of it falls on you because you are sitting next to the window. At that point, you wish nothing more than to cut the piece of your flesh off where that repulsive thing fell. You never feel clean after that. The exceptionally congested bus Have you ever been slapped by a man because you accidently placed your hand on their shoulder, thinking it was a support rod? I bet you haven’t, and God help the man who ever mistakenly did manage to hit a woman. As they say, ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ And if nothing else, a few tears is all it takes for the entire male population to stand by your side and beat the man up for being ‘disrespectful’, albeit, mistakenly. A man being hit, however, is a totally different story. I am sure many men have experienced this while travelling in a congested bus. Being packed in the back like a herd of sheep, there are many times men have to enter the female section of the bus, pertaining to lack of space. This is done primarily out of necessity. Yet many women, blind to the fact that almost half of Karachi is travelling via that particular vehicle, make an issue and give dirty looks to the men who are in their compartment. Labels such as loffar, beghairat (shameless), jahil (uneducated) and badtameez (disrespectful) are given to these innocent men, without hesitation. I always try to board a less congested bus whenever I can. However, this one time, I was getting really late for university and had no choice but to get on the first bus that came my way. Unfortunately, the bus was filled to its capacity (the conductor had done his job well) and so I had to enter from the women’s compartment. While getting on, I had to take support of the handle which is at the entrance of the gate. In the rush of the bus not stopping and other passengers behind me urging to get on, I grabbed on and finally entered the bus. What I did not realise was that a woman had placed her hand on the handle as well and I had taken hold of her hand while getting on, purely by mistake. With a loud shriek, the woman almost pushed me out of the bus and then began shouting at the top of her voice, as to how I had ‘taken advantage of the crowd’ and abused her. It was perhaps one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Hence, men are in danger from both sides, either of being crushed under the tremendous amount of passengers from the male section or of being in constant fear that they might get off balance and fall on a comfortably seated woman, letting all hell loose. The upper floor People who say Karachi doesn’t have double-decker buses need a reality check. In Karachi, every bus has the capacity of becoming a double story vehicle – that is, of course, if the annoying conductor wants it to happen. With brute force, the conductor takes advantage of the passengers’ need to travel and inconsiderately asks them to climb up on top of the bus, where there is virtually nothing but the upper part of the roof. Hence if someone slips or falls, they are either incompetent to travel on such a world class vehicle, or are too weak and so are ‘unmanly’. Again, no woman is ever asked to go and climb on top of a bus. It is the men who get this treatment, regardless of scorching heat, rain or a bone-biting winter breeze waiting for them upstairs. Getting off the bus When was the last time a conductor pushed you off the bus, while it was moving on full speed, so that he can clear the doorway for other passengers? Probably never. In fact, most definitely never. Well, this is almost a norm for men. Men are treated far worse than women when they are about to board or depart the bus. In case of men, the driver never cares to slow down, let alone stop. Hence it’s a now or never situation. If they get off in time, great. If not, then tough luck. The smartest thing to do in this situation is to wait until a woman gets off the bus. Why? Because no matter how hurried the passengers may be, and no matter what the situation is, the bus ALWAYS stops for women, whether they are getting on or off it. The driver categorically hits the breaks and halts the vehicle, even in the middle of the road, for the women to get down with ease. As if men do not have the need, or the right, to be subjected to such ease and kindness. I have slipped so many times while getting off the bus that I am surprised I am still in one piece! So, in conclusion, dear women, yes men treat you unkindly, but in public buses, men are the victims, not women. A bus symbolises the mental torture, humiliation, frustration, physical pain and in some cases, even injury, which awaits us before we board. So the next time you make a comment about how uncivilised men in buses are, think again.

Shop smart, save money!


It’s time to get smart about austerity. You’ve seen the plunging rupee and headlining inflation figures on the news but more than that you will have felt the pressure on your pocket. Whether you’re a member of the Birkin brigade or a low-paid blue-collar worker, you will be aware that money simply doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. I recently came across my accounts diary from five years ago and the figures were startling. Actual prices may vary somewhat depending on where in the city you are (Defence will be significantly more expensive than Garden for example) but the trend in prices is the same all over the city.


August 2008 (Rs)

August 2012 (Rs)

August 2013 (Rs)

5 yr % change

5 Kilos Flour





Milk 1 Kilo





Nestle Milk 12 ltr





Rafhan Oil Large Can





12 Eggs





Dawn Bread





1 kilo Sugar





Tapal Danedar Tea





5 Kilos rice





1 Tandoori roti





The Institute for Social Justice, an NGO, has similarly published five year retail prices for basic items and their figures tell the same story. Basic foodstuffs like daal, sugar, ghee, flour and rice have doubled or tripled over this period. Fruits and vegetables vary seasonally but the year-on-year trend is the same for these staple foods. Petrol, CNG, electricity and rents have risen likewise.



% change









Tandoori Roti








Daal Moong




Daal Mash








Chicken Broiler (live)








Vegetable Ghee




















Diesel (HS)








The government has only just brought inflation down to single digits but for the last five years rocketing prices have been playing havoc with household budgets from Peshawar to Karachi. There are many whose income has kept pace with these price hikes. Several business sectors are doing very well and posting great results. There seems to be plenty of cash floating around the economy. However, the majority of people have seen their ability to save plummet. Cash is tight by the end of the month and little luxuries have been quietly dropped. So what’s the best way to cope in these uncertain times? There are five simple steps anyone can take to cope better with rising prices.
  1. Shop smart – look for bargains, shop in bulk for extra savings and be prepared to venture farther afield for better prices.
  2. Eliminate waste – buy only what you need to, avoid throwing away food that has spoiled before you get a chance to use it. Use up leftovers in imaginative ways -  think soups, sandwiches and wraps.
  3. Think twice – stop those impulse buys. Go to the shops armed with a shopping list. If you fall in love with a gorgeous pair of shoes, wait a couple of days and take another look through your closet before handing over your hard-earned cash.
  4. Re-think your menus – go veggie a couple of days a week, bulk up on pulses and filling salads - we eat too much meat as it is. Try less expensive restaurants when you eat out – some simpler eateries sometimes offer far superior food to fine dining establishments.
  5. Stop worrying about keeping up with the Jones’. This uncle may have spent hundreds of thousands on his son’s wedding. That friend may have bought a new car. However, there’s no reason for you to even if you can afford it. Ostentatious spending is even more short sighted and unnecessary in inflationary times than it is at the best of times.
Finally, raise your staff’s salaries in line with inflation or maybe even a little more if you can afford it – yes, actually increase your expenditure. If you’re feeling the pinch, chances are members of your staff are doing without some essentials unless you’ve raised their salaries. Give increments every year in line with inflation and then some. For the upper middle class and above it barely means one less jora or eating out less every month. If you’re lower down on the economic ladder, remember no matter how low your own income, the people you employ are earning significantly less than you are. Every rupee on the price of flour and ghee and other basics makes it more difficult for them to feed their families. You may pay well, you may cover medical and educational expenses, you may be a model employer but increments are vital to help maintain quality of life. Your neighbours and relatives may get away with paying less but perhaps this is an area where ethics not market forces should rule your decisions. Be smart, shop smart and save smart!

Meat distribution: How you can give back on Eid


“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” - Mother Teresa.
This quote, illustrates very simply yet eloquently, the core principles upon which a social worker functions. Unlike most organisations, the objective of social organisations is not consideration, that is, receiving something in return for giving something. Instead, their work stems from the belief that the aim in life is not personal contentment and satisfaction; rather, it is about ensuring some level of happiness for those who don’t have the ability to do so themselves. The Social Welfare And Trust (SWAT) society at the Institute of Business Management (IoBM), Karachi, also functions on these beliefs and principles. SWAT provides a platform for students and helps them ‘make a difference’. Although it came into being a mere two years ago, the society has achieved many milestones, from arranging a Sports Day for underprivileged children, to providing free education, uniforms, books and transportation to 44 young students; and distributing free Iftar to the underprivileged throughout the holy month of Ramazan. SWAT has also undertaken a project on the occasion of Eidul Azha called the Meat Distribution Drive. The first phase of this cause, which takes place on the first two days of Eid, involves members of SWAT collecting meat from willing contributors in all parts of Karachi by personally going to their houses. The meat is then delivered to a cold storage facility to keep it fresh. The second phase begins on the third day of Eid, when the volunteers gather at the IoBM campus to pack the meat into packages weighing one kilogram each. The volunteers then take the packed meat to the town of Ibrahim Hyderi in Karachi where it is distributed via a queue collection system. Just last year SWAT was able to collect and distribute more than 2,000 kilograms of meat. Although the above agenda and process of the cause seems simple and straightforward, the reality is quite different. Last year, I personally took part in the meat distribution, and handed out meat to the underprivileged individuals who stood in long lines just to collect that one kilogram of meat. Memories of the experience still send shivers down my spine. People standing in line would make a bowl with both their hands to take the meat, and this simple gesture made me realise the importance of that one kilogram of meat to them. It made me feel frivolous and thankless because I would not think twice about that commodity, while for them it was a much-awaited luxury. The feeling would intensify when a swarm of kids would run towards me just to get a single packet of meat and upon receiving it, their tiny hands would tremble and their eyes would fill with tears of gratitude. It made me feel both, shameful and grateful to the Almighty and strengthened my resolve to keep working for this cause, as John Holmes so aptly said:
‘‘There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
We at SWAT are often asked what is so different about this cause. People want to know why they should aid SWAT, when other organisations carry out social work on an even larger scale. My answer is for them to do a mental exercise: imagine a student belonging to the upper echelons of society. He/she is likely to be used to waking up late, uses nothing less than a Smartphone, and wears the latest fashions. Now imagine that very student along with others quite like him/her, in a scenario where they are bathed in their own sweat and tears, with blood staining their clothes from handling the meat. If that isn't enough, they often end up cutting themselves when breaking the ice to dislodge the frozen meat, just to serve their fellow men and women. I ask you, what do they get from this? Nothing except perhaps a bottle of water during their break. However, they fight on. Do you know why? Simply because as Winston Churchill put it,
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
So my answer is this: support SWAT because if a generation of the young and affluent is doing something that they could have cared less about, only for the benefit of the less fortunate, it says a lot about the future of this country. It is people like them who can make a difference in the years to come.

Unimpressed and unmoved by Bilawal Bhutto’s speech


Bilawal Bhutto's speech at Karachi's Karsaz on the sixth anniversary of the unfortunate Oct 18, 2007 bombings has created quite a stir. As a son who lost a brave mother to rabid radicalisation, one feels that the emotionally-charged display of passion in front of an audience of die-hard jiyalas was all but natural, and perfectly anticipated.  Towing the line of populist politics introduced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Bilawal did a good job with a crowd that seemed to be only following half of what their 26-year-old chairman conveyed. His body language apparently conveyed the remaining half, complete with waving fists and suggestive eye-balling. Bilawal's script-writers did what they were paid to do; sensationalised the return of the Chairman, now officially eligible to contest a seat in the National Assembly. The speech itself somehow reminded me of the 2010 British historical drama film The King's Speech.  And it reminded me of how dynastic politics still rules the roost in Pakistan. Democracy might have found its footing but electoral politics in Pakistan still remains a family enterprise, under the stranglehold of a few, mostly feudal families. As an Oxford educated youngster entering the realm of politics dominated mostly by fake degree holders, I would've expected a shift from realpolitik and a more mature approach towards the teething issues Pakistan faces today rather than the usual lambasting of rival political parties. Referring to PML-N, for example, Bilawal stated that PPP would defeat the ‘lion’ and that “the belly of the lion is filled with the blood of poor people!” It seems as though populist politics in Pakistan  comes with the condition to verbally assault political rivals to establish supremacy. Living up to his Twitter persona of a born-with-a-golden-spoon college grad, Bilawal was determined to settle scores with long-time tsunami-swept rivals. He stated that PPP “will liberate the people from that storm,” and even pledged that his party was not ‘cowardly’ like the PTI. The chairman's  remarks contradicted the party's official friendly opposition stance but we still expect PPP zealots desperately try to justify their Chairman's position, even if it makes zilch sense. This is not new in personality-centered politics of Pakistan where an intellectual like Asad Umar of PTI has had to backtrack on his statements multiple times to appease party leadership. Pakistan's political landscape has largely remained an oligarchy, with industrialists and feudal landlords ushered in with patronage of military rulers. However, now it seems to be slowly transforming and untangling itself from the stranglehold of a narrow power elite, which is heartening to see. Bilawal and others of the clan should realise that their diatribes are now understood and debated upon in a completely different perspective, where rationality rules and sensationalism is out-ruled. PPP's stance on extremism and rejecting terrorism has, beyond doubt,  always been unwavering. However, action and not mere jingoism can restore peace in the country. Zamurd Khan's heroism in Islamabad does not relieve PPP of its inability to draft an effective counter-terrorism policy in its 5 year rule. Banning telephone and internet services every now and then is not a long-term solution, and the 'pappu bachas' Bilawal refers to are not naive either. Bilawal's uppity demeanour and outright ridicule of all rival parties smelled of feudal haughtiness. Sporting Sindhi t-shirts and badmouthing rivals gets you a few re-tweets at the most, and alienates you from the rest of the country. We do not expect a 26-year-old to jump into policy making and constitutional reform, but a knowledge of the country's dynamics and a sense of entitlement for the country is the least we expect. The sense of dynastic entitlement that has been dominating Pakistan's political culture is slowly diminishing and the youth of today no longer believes in political idol worship. This year's election outcome should have made it clear!

Why I chose Karachi University


Karachi University (KU) is to Karachi what Karachi is to Pakistan. I was the first member of my family to attend KU for a Bachelors degree and even after completing four years at the institution, I still get concerned queries from people wanting to know how I survived. It seems strange to me that KU appears like such a distant and uncharted territory to those who have never studied there; it is as if people from KU are aliens! Hence, I thought that I would shed some light on this mini universe for those who have never been here and who have no idea what they missed out on by choosing other universities over KU. Getting a ‘lift’ Yes, asking random people to drop you off at a certain distance is exactly what I mean by ‘lift’. Before coming to KU, I had only heard about taking a ‘lift’ in Bollywood movies. I would never ask for one on the streets of Karachi because it is just not safe. However, you see in KU, the size of the humongous campus can make it difficult to travel on foot, especially during the summer time. Therefore, asking for a lift is very common in the university premises. In fact, it is a routine phenomenon in KU. Yet, it took me a while to learn the correct technique of hitching a ride on campus. When I was a new student here, I would just wave at every other car that came my way, but then I realised that the trick was to just stand and wait, until a kind soul would halt his/her car and offer you a ride. It is almost like having our personal chariots on campus to take us from the gate to the department and vice versa. The diversity Burqa-clad girls and bearded boys are just one segment of students on campus. The campus is home to people belonging to a range of strata, coming from different walks of life and various neighbourhoods of Karachi including the posh areas. Moreover, studying at KU invariably gives you the chance to interact with foreign students – Turkish, Iranian, Kenyan and even Nigerian. This, in itself, speaks volumes about how amazing this institute is. Simply put, KU is diversity personified – from financial background to age and ethnicity; you can find all kinds of people under the same roof. Let me ask you how many universities you know that offer admissions to visually-impaired students? You guessed it right – hardly any. However, KU does, and it was in KU that I first met my visually-impaired friend. The political activism KU is infamous for the political activities which take place on campus. From clashes to rallies, the student wings of different political parties can raise havoc in the university. However, this has a positive side as well – it represents the true spirit of Karachi. If you are not aware of the political dynamics which surround this city and how to manoeuvre these divides carefully, then you cannot be a true Karachiite. KU recognises that and helps the youth come out of the bubble and face the reality of their city. Being a pampered middle-class person myself, I only came to understand the real politics around me after I got admission in KU. The street culture Eating at dhaabas and sitting on the floor; donkey cart rides and cheering for your department’s cricket team at the top of your lungs – KU is the place to be if you thrive in adopting the street culture of this city. Prem Gali (Lover’s Lane), fondly referred to as PG, is KU’s own little food street, famous for its small potato samosas and other culinary delights. We have Sufi’s Dhabba which offers scrumptious, local Pakistani food. Food, interestingly enough, is not the only speciality offered at Sufi’s. True to its name, it provides the perfect setting for all our spiritual musings and gives one the platform to connect with nature, amidst which this restaurant operates. The facilities I won’t exaggerate and say that KU provides the best quality education available. However, for the fee that it charges, KU gives more than expected. From digital libraries with all the latest and up-to-date research journals, to the main library which houses books ranging over a hundred years, KU has it all. The teachers KU’s main asset is its teachers. The qualification of these teachers, enhanced by their understanding of the subjects they teach beyond the binds of academic books, is what makes most classes addictive. I won’t say that all teachers have the same ‘magic’, but many do and this is what makes this institute far better than others. Moreover, the relationship we have with our teachers is ideal for university culture; it is causal and invigorating, not intimidating and foreboding. Teachers at KU teach more than just academics; they teach us about the real world, about our role in society and about how we should strive for goals which could potentially bring betterment to all of us. In essence, KU teachers educate students about life and all its shades. Hence, my friends, if you are uncertain about whether to go to KU or not, I hope I have answered your questions! Whatever it is, enjoy university life and work as hard as you can. Pakistan needs bright minds.

A Pakistani in Amsterdam: Sexual harassment has no geographical location


As I climbed the stairs to my apartment, I could feel my legs giving up and my heart throbbing in my throat. I did not know if my friends realised what damage I had just incurred as we exited the bar nearby our apartments. The experience rendered me silent in shock, which is why I only walked away, hoping to reach home safe and sound, instead of smashing the faces of those two men who stereotyped, harassed, heckled, and belittled me in broad daylight. After dinner, two of my American friends and I left the bar for home. At the doorstep, two guys (one in his late 20s and the other in his late 30s) stopped us and added,

“Hey girls, the weather forecast is bad, so be safe.”
It had been pouring all day and it was obvious that the weather was awful, but we took their warning as a kind gesture and thanked them before we began walking out again. That is when they attempted, once again, to initiate a conversation with us. This time, they asked my friends where they were from. Although something about the people’s behaviour seemed off, it is not unusual to strike conversations with strangers in Amsterdam; hence my friends casually answered the guys. They were delighted to know my friends were American students studying abroad in Europe for a semester, and now they directed their attention to me. I do not wear a hijab, but yesterday I happened to have my head covered with a pashmina shawl to avoid getting soaked in the ruthless rain. One of them assumed I was Muslim and said “salaam”, which is an Islamic greeting. I smiled and answered their greeting. Their next question was where I was from; to which I replied, Pakistan. I think my answer further sparked their interest in me. Surprisingly and rather rudely (because my friends couldn’t understand Urdu – native language of Pakistan), the men switched from English to Urdu and noted they were from India. I politely nodded, but did not say anything. While the older man asked my two friends (in English) where in the US they were from, the younger man asked me (in Urdu) if I, too, studied in the US. I said I study in Massachusetts and I, too, am here for only a semester, just like my other friends. The younger man mocked me because I drew a comparison between my American friends and myself. He stepped closer to me and derisively laughed, saying (in Urdu),
“Hah, you don’t study in Massachusetts or even here. You are seeking asylum because you have run away from your home you were locked inside by your parents.”
His words pierced through my ears and hit me like stones before I went numb. My friends of course did not understand a word of what he had said. My voice failed me in that moment, I stepped back and uttered a feeble
This time, the older man stepped forward and tried to present me with his business card. He added (in Urdu), while disgustingly smiling and scrutinising me from top to bottom,
“We have hotels worldwide. Recently, we opened a hotel here in Amsterdam as well. You should definitely come over. We need people like you.”
I flushed as blood gushed through my veins. I had done nothing wrong yet I felt filthy, embarrassed and dizzy. Puffing at his half-smoked cigarette, the younger man spoke again,
“Come with us or take us to your room. That’s what you do, don’t you?”
My legs quivered and eyes welled as I hastily turned away from them. My friends followed in confusion. The younger man forged ahead and grabbed at my wrist to stop me from leaving. I hurriedly pulled my wrist back and started walking toward the bicycle stand really fast. I could hear them in the back laughing as one of them yelled (in Urdu),
“Come back! We are just kidding.”
By now, my friends had realised something was awfully wrong and I was not just killing homesickness by conversing in my native language to people I met from my part of the world. One of my friends put me on her bicycle’s carrier and we drove away. During the small five minute ride back to the apartments, I could only feebly attempt to deconstruct what had just happened and why it had happened to me. I also kept looking over my shoulder to make sure none of those men were following us or monitoring our route back. After being home, I told my friends what had happened and they were greatly shocked and sympathetic. Still when I tried to sleep last night, I could only get flashbacks – not just of this one time, but of all other times I have been in similar situations where I was gawked at, grabbed at, cat-called at or worse, masturbated at in public. Not just in Amsterdam or my hometown Karachi, but several other places regardless of their geographical, cultural, religious or other confines. Sometimes I retaliated, like that one time in Karachi this summer when I literally threw a stone at a man who licked his lips while gawking at me from across the street, while I waited outside my internship office to leave for home. However, countless times such experiences left me frozen and stuck in moments and disallowed me to think or normally function for days. Before I travelled abroad in 2008, I always thought that it is only the conservative societies like Pakistan that are plagued with harassment targeted at women. However, it was only after having travelled across the United States for high school and college, and here in Europe that I realise that sexual harassment extends beyond geographical and cultural boundaries. Recently I read a heartbreaking account of Michaela Cross about being perpetually targeted as a sex object in India because of her white skin, blue eyes and red locks (a brown man’s dream). I concluded that Cross’s dilemma was not drastically different from mine. While she was categorised as “promiscuous” for being a white woman in India, I was targeted and harassed by those two men for being Muslim and Pakistani hence vulnerable, oppressed and good for nothing but their sexual pleasures in the most liberal city of Europe. The truth is, women are stereotyped and harassed independent of their religion, culture, skin colour and sexuality. Women are harassed for being women, and the sooner we realise that and raise our voice every time we become victim of harassment, the sooner women will hopefully cease to be second-class world citizens.

Lahore is the best city in Pakistan!


Every city or town in Pakistan is famous for one thing or the other. However, for us Lahoris, all arguments cease to matter before our simple motto – Lahore Lahore ae (Lahore is Lahore). Here are a few reasons as to why I’d choose Lahore over any other city in Pakistan. Data ki nagri Pakistan is very fortunate that many great sufi saints lived in this part of the world and all our major cities have different shrines. But not many cities have a title like Data ki nagri. The shrine of Hazrat Data Ganj Bakhsh Ali Hajveri brings many to Lahore and keeps many connected to the city, spiritually. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Data Darbar in Lahore.[/caption] The food In Lahore, what do you when you’re happy? You go out and eat. What do you when the weather is nice? You go out and eat. What do you do when you want to hang out with friends? You go out and eat. What do you do when you’re bored? You go out and eat. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Photo: Reuters[/caption] I know that Gujranwala has its tikkay and kasuri falooda, and that Karachi’s Burns Road’s nihari is famous too, along with Peshawar’s Namak Mandi and so on and so forth, but when you have it all (and so much of it) in Lahore, you wouldn’t find the same foodie happiness anywhere else. Love food? Come to Lahore! The people We all know that Lahoris are called zinda dilaan (lively) but how can you define this zinda dili? Ask a visitor and he’ll reduce it to hospitality. However, I have a different point of view on it. Here is an example. Once, while waiting at the traffic signal at Lakshmi Chowk, I asked my brother, who was on the driving seat, if he’d like to have some laddoos. He gave me a strange look because I didn’t have any with me. I asked him to wait a minute and then began looking at the fellows having laddoos in the car beside ours. The moment he saw me looking at those laddoos with wishful eyes, he immediately offered them to me saying:

Paa ji lawwo” (Hey brother, have some)
To me, this is zinda dili, with a twinge of humour. You can crack a joke with an absolute stranger, be it a shopkeeper, a rickshaw driver, a policeman or any passerby and enjoy the company of a hearty laugh! They will never disappoint you. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] People enjoying a dhol performance in Lahore. Photo: AFP[/caption] The hustle and bustle of Karachi doesn’t let people have this luxury. When I tried the same thing over there, I got a strange ‘what’s the deal with you man!’ look. There are no no-go areas, unlike in Karachi or some parts of KPK, I’ve been warned by people to avoid using my phone in public in Karachi even during the day! But here, I can walk on the street in the middle of the night, to an ATM, whilst texting and nobody would care. The parks Lahore is green. I love that about Lahore. There are so many parks. You’ll always find them crowded no matter what time you go there. You’ll find families out for picnics, kids playing, uncles walking and the view of everyone peacefully going about their business compliments the scenic green beauty even more. The green around Lahore and the mountains in the north of the city provide us with unending luxuries and modes of entertainment. As we go south of Lahore, the cities become drier and drier until we reach the beaches of Karachi, the only form of entertainment there. The heritage Yes, Lahore has its fair share of historical places but that is not what I mean when I say heritage. The heritage of Lahore includes its way of life, its people, its poets, its artists and its streets. You can feel the aura of that rich heritage even when you sip a cup of hot chai at the Pak Tea House. Islamabad isn’t old enough to have that aura and Karachi has become too modernised to lug its own heritage along. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pak Tea House in Lahore. Photo: Files[/caption] The climate They say that 10 out of 12 months in Karachi are hot, while the other two are extremely hot. There might be some exaggeration there but it’s mostly humid in Karachi. Islamabad gets quite cold and its springs have too much pollen for my liking. But if you want to experience the thrill of every season, Lahore would never let you down! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] A rare glimpse of Lahore covered in snow and ice. Photo: Files[/caption] In spring, Lahore’s beauty blooms along with its spring flowers; the site is stunning. In the summers, there are days we easily cross the 50 degrees Celsius mark and you can actually feel your skin cooking. This doesn’t last very though because by the time we start taking out our summer wear and enjoy trips to swimming pools, it’s time for the next season to arrive. During the monsoons, we like to load up on a lot of mangoes and jamuns while we watch the city be washed clean by the heavens. Before we can notice the colourful rainbows peeking forth from the clouds, it’s time for autumn to take over. We are really never bored, here in Lahore. Autumn has its own charm, the old architectural delights, decorated with fallen autumn leaves is an artist’s paradise. When famous poet, Nasir Kazmi, was asked by a friend as to where he was going in that afternoon, he replied that he was going to Lawrence Gardens to see the autumn leaves. The winters here have something truly magical about them! Aside for being my favourite season, they are also some of the most fun seasons we have. Bonfires and barbeques come to life and the winds carry the sound of music throughout the city. The markets Lahore’s people are beautiful and that makes its markets a pleasant shopping experience. Have you ever been to Anarkali, Bano Bazar, Rung Mahal or Liberty Market? If yes, then you know what I mean. There is Hafeez Centre as well – the solution to every computer and mobile related problem, under one roof. A friend of mine believes that Hafeez Centre is reason enough for him to never leave Lahore. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] A scene at a market place in Lahore. Photo: Files[/caption] I’ve spent my fair share of time (and not so much of money) at Landa Bazar too. I won’t mention the cool new fancy malls because Karachi has them too, and probably better. I will, however, leave you with this beautiful verse by Nasir Kazmi that can sum up why Lahore is Lahore; Shehr e Lahore teri ronaqien dayem aabaad Teri galiyon ki hawa kheinch k layee mujh ko (O City of Lahore, may your incessant fervour last forever The winds of your streets pulled me back to you) If you haven’t been to Lahore, then you are missing out. If you have been to Lahore and didn’t like it, let me know when you are coming next and I’ll make sure you have a good time. If you have been to Lahore and loved it, come back! There is always more, and that is why, Lahore is Lahore.

The night we were robbed: Give us your gold or we’ll take your daughter


The night was dark and gloomy, much like my life has been since the incident. Ever since it happened, I feel like I'm drowning every second, gasping for air as I feel my body becoming heavier. I seem to exist as a mere hollow body bereft of its soul. It was 4:00 am when the door of my room opened and someone switched on the light and pulled the blanket off me. Through bleary eyes, I saw my father standing by my bed. It was only when he gently told me to get up quietly and not make a sound that I rubbed my eyes and saw the other figures standing around him. There were five men, wearing shalwar kameez with their faces wrapped in cloth. Still in a haze, I thought,

“No, this can’t be happening; not today, not to my family.”
I slowly got up from the bed and they walked me to my siblings’ room, where both my siblings, along with my mother sat together on the bed. I rushed over to them, scared as I've never been in my life. In a deep voice one of the faceless men, threatened my mother,
“You give us the gold or we’ll take this daughter of yours.”
I felt as if someone had drained the very life out of me. I could feel numbness setting in my extremities; I wanted to comfort my mother but my voice was not in my control any more. The man, sensing my fear, brought his face close to mine and said,
“You tell your mother to give us everything or you know what we are capable of.”
They sat my father down on the floor. He looked as if he had aged 10 years in that one night and I just couldn't bear to look at his drained, helpless face. My heart broke watching him suffer quietly. Huddled together, we could hear them rummaging through our valuables, breaking things, stealing whatever they could get their hands on. A man entered the room then, his dark, beady eyes the only thing visible on his masked face. There seemed to be an aura of authority around him and I realised then that he was the leader of the gang. He walked towards my mother with a deliberate gait, bent down and said in a sinister tone,
“We have been patient so far. Give us the gold now and no one will get hurt.”
Even though her eyes belied her fear, my mother replied to him calmly,
“‘We have given you all that we have.”
Her sentence was cut off by a hard slap on her face by the dark-eyed man, who then said in a louder voice,
“The woman won’t give in, take away the daughter.”
Although I could hear what they were saying, I just couldn't register it, until one of the men took my arm and started dragging me towards the door. I pleaded and cried for them to let me go; and the room suddenly erupted in noise. My siblings were crying in fear, while my parents begged the men to have mercy. It was at that point that a voice inside me said that they wouldn't leave without me. I knew that I wouldn't survive the ordeal and I turned around to my mother and said in a hushed voice,
“You kill me but don’t let them take me, do you hear me Ammi? Just don’t let them take me, please.”
My mother helplessly replied,
“Nothing’s going to happen Areej. Allah (SWT) is with us, don’t ever lose faith.”
I then turned towards my siblings who were literally trembling in fear and said,
“Darlings, I know that I don’t tell you often enough how much I love you; if anything happens to me, I just want you to know that I love you both very much.”
Two of the other men then came up behind me and told me to keep my mouth shut and not to make another sound. Just when I thought that the nightmare would never end, the gang leader returned to the room. The mere sight of him was enough to make my blood run cold with fear. He said,
“Don’t make a sound, don’t call any one; and if you inform the police, there will be consequences.”
He then motioned to the others and they all left the room. After 10-15 minutes, we realised that we could hear nothing but silence. There were no voices to be heard, no sound of rushed footsteps; all we could hear were the birds chirping on the windowsill. It was then that I slowly mustered up the courage to get up and open the door of the room to look outside. An empty hallway awaited me – they were gone, they had actually left. I sank to my knees thanking God for sparing me from a terrible fate and for keeping my family safe. My family had begun to walk out of the room slowly and we all hugged each other in relief. I sat down quietly in a corner and waited for the happiness to spread in every inch of me but it never did.  It was then that I realised that it never would; that I would never feel safe again, not even in my own home. I looked around me to see that they had ripped everything apart and left behind only remains of our home. I wouldn't wish such a day even for my enemy; a day when you are made to feel insecure in your own home. May God save everyone from such a day. All details are from a real life incident, which occurred on March 16, 2013. [poll id="301"]

Lalas are fighting each other…but who is giving them weapons?


Chachu, I heard three deafening explosions and I have been hearing gunshots for three days now! Dad is not even letting me go to school because of the terrible situation outside,” said my 12-year-old nephew, while calling me from his house in Chakiwara, a part of the gangster stronghold in Lyari. “This time Lalas are fighting with each other,” he continued.
Lala, though a Balochi word meaning older brother, is ironically now used to refer to gangsters in Lyari. Once again, Lyari finds itself in the midst of a gang war, at the mercy of a handful of thugs who roam the streets, shooting sophisticated ammunition at each other, and that too with complete impunity. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] A protester throws a tear gas shell back towards security forces as they arrive for an operation in Lyari. Photo: Reuters[/caption] Many people have been killed so far in the fresh round of violence, including innocent civilians. Apart from the killings, life in Lyari has come to a complete halt. Children are agitated at not being able to go to school and play with friends. Women beg their husbands, sons and brothers not to go to work. Men are at a loss since their income has come to a standstill. I recently returned to Lyari, for a couple of months after a year-long absence, and what struck me immediately was the complete lawlessness prevalent in the entire locality. I saw men, wandering around Lyari, brandishing weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, many of which seemed just a little too sophisticated for local gangsters to be equipped with. Not only have police operations against these criminals been a total failure; in fact, the gangs routinely outgun the police. Now, however, these gangsters are fighting among themselves. After the bomb blast that killed 11 people, mostly kids, at a football tournament at the end of Ramazan in 2013, differences between gangs have risen to the fore. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] People gather after bomb blast during football match at Bazinjo Road in Sango Lane, Lyari. Photo: S. Imran Ali/PPI Images[/caption] Ever since the murder of Zafar Baloch, people in the locality have been even more fearful, expecting an escalation in violence with every passing moment. In spite of taking ‘control’ of the area, police and rangers have not arrested many gangsters as yet, and their claim that violence is taking place in only a few areas of Lyari is far from the truth. While pretty much all of Lyari burns, our law enforcement agencies are simply making false public statements exaggerating the work that they have been doing in the area. It is very easy to blame gangster and perhaps, even easier to blame the violence on ignorance and illiteracy. However, the question remains: who is arming these gangs with such sophisticated weapons while the police hide in their police stations, leaving Lyari to descend into utter chaos and anarchy? [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] Pakistan Ranger personnel standing with weapons captured from Lyari: Photo: Muhammad Azeem[/caption] It seems like the law enforcers have deliberately chosen to turn a blind eye to the violence, hoping that the gangsters will do their work for them. I think that their approach is that once one group eliminates another, they can deal with what’s left. In the meanwhile, the people of Lyari, held hostage by gangsters for decades, continue to be politically victimised and neglected. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] Arrested criminals and captured weapons lying in the custody of Pakistan Rangers after operation in Lyari. Photo: Rashid Ajmeri[/caption]   The worst part of it all is that no one seems to care. No one so much as attempts to bring peace, no one empathises and absolutely no one considers the human suffering of the people of Lyari. These people lack basic facilities like water and an uninterrupted supply of electricity. But, right now all they really want, in fact, all they really need, is peace. However, that is something that the government seems unable and more so unwilling, to provide. So, until the people, the government and the law-enforcing agencies do not start caring and working towards peace, Lyari will continue to burn along with its people. A disgruntled Lyari is an unstable Karachi and we know what that means for Pakistan. We don’t just need to wake up, we need take action.

Diwali 2013: This is how we do it in Karachi!


This Diwali, Karachi showed the world how to celebrate.  Here are some of the gorgeous people and moments photographers Khaula and Rahat came across. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] She lit that five times till she was sure I got the shot!
Photo: Khaula Jamil[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] ‘I ring this bell indicating the invocation of divinity, So that virtuous and noble forces enter (my home and heart); and the demonic and evil forces from within and without, depart.’
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] A man silently seeks a moment of peace away from the maddening crowd.
Photo: Khaula Jamil[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="630"] Dil dil se woh mila de har chehra woh khila de, raat laaye aaj khushiyon ki, Meray tumharey sabkey liye happy diwali.
(Make hearts meet, make faces bloom in joy, the night brings happiness, for me, for you, for all of us, Happy Diwali)
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] Meticulously making her rangoli while her friend looked on in wonder, absolutely fascinated by the art of her decor.
Photo: Khaula Jamil[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="630"] Light a candle, on this night and let your inner light shine ever so bright.
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] She grabbed her friends sparking phuljari when she saw the camera approach.
Photo: Khaula Jamil[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="576"] Trending brightly from one decade to the next.
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] Maa Laxmi will come to your house and shower her blessings upon you. So remember to keep your doors open and decorate them with lots of lights and flowers.
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="512"] Lighting up a world of their own inside the Swaminarayan Mandir Saddar Karachi.
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] It takes a moment to smile before going back to twirling the phuljari again.
Photo: Khaula Jami[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] A view of the breathtaking three-dimensional artwork on a ceiling of a tomb at the Swaminarayan Mandir Karachi.
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"] Lost in his moment of peace.
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="512"] Today, I will make a row of lights and within those rows will you find my name.
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption] [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="512"] Welcoming the New Year with a young heart full of love and joy.
Photo: Rahat Rafiq[/caption]   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="540"] Standing quietly outside her house, she was the first to welcome us.
Photo: Khaula Jamil[/caption] We hope you had as great a Diwali as we did. See you all next year! Khaula Jamil: An independent freelance documentary photographer and photojournalist best known for her project ‘Humans of Karachi’. You can view her Facebook page here Rahat Rafiq: A graduate of Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. He works in a multi-national company in Karachi but continues to pursue his passion for photography. You can view his Facebook page here.

Concerts in Karachi: Bring back fun to this city!


I was at a Strings concert a few days ago. It was one of those fancy sit down affairs, with hideous white sofas and people taking selfies of each other to upload on social media. Bilal Maqsood began singing “mera bichra yaar” and the LCD screens behind him played a very old video from the 1990s. It was then that it hit me. Suddenly I wasn’t nodding and smiling politely to the music, but in a half built amphitheatre, I was screaming as the crème de la crème of the urban rock phenomena in Pakistan belted out their numbers. https://twitter.com/tribuneblogs/status/403134229497659392 The memory of the past is still so fresh. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Strings give a series of riveting performances in seven cities. Photo: Publicity[/caption] Yes, there was such a time in this city when concerts had a wild passion in them. One wonders why such an aesthetically vibrant era was over so soon. Just think about it; it’s not like the 90’s were a time of peace in this city; there was always ethnic strife and small proxy wars going on in Karachi’s ghettos back then as well. So then what was keeping it all at bay? Was it because back then, Pakistan’s developing music industry had realised its potential and was on its way up? Perhaps they had more opportunities to gain sponsors, which are harder to find now? Or maybe people appreciated music more back then than they do now? I think none of these are true. With the music scene in Pakistan at a more mature stage and sponsorships being available, not just locally but in our neighbouring country as well, it cannot be a money issue. Also, it cannot be an issue of talent suddenly dissipating from our society because one listen of any episode of Coke Studio will tell you that we have ample talent. Obviously the phenomenal success of Coke Studio and some 20 odd FM channels tells us that Pakistanis love music in every shape and form, and I am not just speaking of the more endowed strata of society. The most musically attuned Pakistanis will be found in our masses, who break into song and dance whenever possible, even while performing tasks in urban or rural settings! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] Ahmad Ali Butt revs up the crowd at a local concert. Photo: File[/caption] I distinctly remember, during my school days, when we would see the simple but colourful posters of concerts happening in venues like the Arts Council. We would save up money to be able to witness musicians like the Vital Signs or Aamir Zaki play and they made us believe in a Pakistan devoid of the negativity surrounding it even in that day and age. These were no-frill venues with people sitting on stone steps most of the time; tickets were cheap and everyone, regardless of class or background, could go and enjoy the music. Yes, fights broke out then too, but they never managed to impact the mad rush at the gates. Pakistani spirit was high and everyone wanted in on the fun. The air in Karachi was festive despite the political turmoil. This was our break from everything sad and gloomy. It was a way for us to break free of the darkness engulfing the city, without having to leave the country. We knew that the next day, the rat-race would begin once again, but we also understood the importance of such events to the sanity of our citizens. We would gather at the request of anything, from ‘kidney centre organised walk for a cause’ to a simple carnival or flower show. We took whatever we could get and in return we provided our very own musicians the encouragement they needed to work harder and strive for better. But where did those glory days go? [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] A crowd cheer during a concert in Karachi. Photo: AFP[/caption] Why are our children being made to live in a bubble? Why are they stopped from meeting their friends or attending any sort of theatre or performances even now? The first thing that comes to mind is the cost and secondly, our own mentality acting as the biggest barrier between our kids and simple entertainment. Event organisers need to understand that it isn’t just ‘top performances’ that will attract crowds. People will come for anything good if the ticket prices are reasonable. Once these events soar, top artists and performers will reduce their prices as well. If nothing else, it will be for the sheer energy that one can draw from a spirited crowd. When it comes to our mentality, we need to stop thinking of the worst consequence in every possible scenario. Yes, we live in a volatile environment but that doesn’t mean that every time there is a play or concert, we should avoid going for the fear of being ‘targeted’. Can you give up your job just because you are scared you will not make it back alive? No, you can’t. In the same way that a job is a necessity, so are breaks. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="600"] A concert featuring Noori and Karavan, along with some underground bands was held in Karachi. Photo: Publicity[/caption] Plus,  for those who still fear the worst, there are many small scale performances that take place too, for example, T2F (The Second Floor) puts up acts and musical performances every week! The point, I am trying to make, is that we are becoming increasingly limited as a society on entertainment options and we have no one to blame but ourselves. We either eat out, and any doctor will tell you how many of us are suffering due to that pastime, or we crib and complain. We have to be able to let go and have a little fun. It’s alright, nay healthy even, for a teenager to wait and count the days until they can see their favourite band play live. That is the whole point of growing up in a city like Karachi where all the cultures of this nation are fused together in a melting pot. We need let go of all the negativity, hate and constant judging, and just realise that it’s completely fine to have fun. I would genuinely like to see my kids growing up and enjoying the full spectrum of life this city can provide; the same city that I enjoyed my childhood years in. How do you want your child’s future to be? Seeing and experiencing the world through first hand or living off of whatever second hand portrayal they can get from those who lived here in the past?