Monday, July 11, 2011

Karachi - the City of Chaos (formerly known as the City of Lights)

Ah Karachi... the memories that it brings are endless!

I was reminiscing about the city the other day, and counting the resons for which I loved the city. It was vibrant, never asleep like Islamabad; multi-cultural, unlike Lahore; and I had the best group of friends and family there, always just a short, adventurous bus-ride away.

Sure Karachi has always had its share of problems. But the people were resilient, working their way through all of them. It was part of everyday life.

I remember joking with friends that I couldn't breathe in the States because the air was too clean and did not have enough diesel-engine smoke! I remember everyone from the mohalla stepping out of their homes during the continuous load-shedding. What I don't remember is anyone complaining about it! We were immune to these trivial details and knew how to live.

I remember Tariq Road on chaand raat, Urdu Bazaar for books, the oily beaches at Sea View, the snooker joints, and the cyber cafes.

I remember the rich spending their money at Zamzama, and the not-so-rich doing the same at Zainab Market.

I remember Highway karahi, Student biryani, Silver Spoon, Dhoraji gola gandas, halwa puri, paan-walas, and chai parathas.

The events of the recent past have forced me to rethink about the city that I once thought was among the best. The fact that Karachi was multi-ethnic was it's greatest asset. Everyone thrived in Karachi (or at least did better than wherever they'd come from). People from Peshawar and Quetta, from interior Sindh, to Pind (no offense), from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, were all happy to be here.

Which brings us to the question: what changed? Nothing, if you ask me. Nothing but the groups of faces have changed since partition. We, as Pakistanis, are, and have always been one of the most discriminating, prejudiced and confused people.

We, as Pakistanis, have differences among Muslims and Non-Muslims; within Muslims, as Shi'as and Sunnis; within Sunnis, as Wahabbis and Hanafis; and sometimes, within them, as Syeds and non-Syeds, or as Ahl-e-Hadees and Ahl-e-Sunnat.

We, as Pakistanis, have differences among Punjabis and Pashtuns; among them as those who speak correct Punjabi/Pashto and those who don't; among Karachiites and Sindhis (although Karachiites are technically Sindhis); within Muhajirs as Delhi-walay/Biharis etc.

These differences have been ever-present. What have we done to eliminate them? Nothing! If a milli naghma could have solved all our problems, then 'Main Bhi Pakistan Hoon' would have done it decades ago.

So the violence in Karachi is not as much a case of deteriorating law and order, as one of confused ideologies and identities. And let us start taking blame for our own problems, instead of taking the cowardly route of blaming the goras for their 'divide-and-rule' policy. We choose to be divided. And they choose to rule!

A show of force by the Police, Rangers, or the Army will not solve the root cause of the problem. It might help curb the violence on a temporary basis, but a longer-term, more permanent solution will take years, if not decades, to be implemented. Let us hope that the powers that be, for once, think about the prosperity and future of the City of Chaos, and bring it back to life... Make our city the City of Lights again!


This post was also published by The Word Theatre at

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