Every one of us might have a different belief of what Karachi means to them. To me it’s my home, an addiction, a way of life. It might be the most neglected metropolitan cities of the world; it might not be able to provide me with safe & clean drinking water; the weather might not please me, but I still love this city to its cores.

Few months back I read this article by Tim McGrik “To Have & Have Not” which is about Karachi. It pretty much portrays a very good picture of Karachi. Following excerpts are taken from the article. Please let me know if you agree with the writer or not. Though the article is long, but its worth a read for all Karachiites and Karachi lovers.

” Karachi, a port city of 14 million on the Pakistani coast, where the Pab mountain range and the Sindh Desert gather into a brick-and dust-hued urban sprawl before tumbling into the Arabian Sea, is the battlefield in which an assassin like M.R. thrives. In Karachi you have ethnic feuds: gangs of Indian migrants versus the Pathans, Baluchis and Sindhis; you have extremists from rival Sunni and Shi’ite sects battling each other (lately, radical Sunnis are gunning down Shi’ite doctors and lawyers at random); and, of course, there are the radical Islamic groups that shelter al-Qaeda fugitives and are, according to Karachi police officers, helping them plan their next terrorist strikes. In April, a Yemeni national Waleed Mohammed bin Attash and several Pakistanis were caught during various raids in Karachi with more than 600 kilos of explosives. “This place is under siege,” says Anwer Mooraj, a Pakistani writer.”

” …in certain colleges, teachers demand payoffs from students wanting to pass exams; some cops earn extra money by selling their bullets; and gangs, operating under the auspices of crooked bureaucrats, police and army-ranger elements, siphon off water before it reaches the taps of most Karachi apartment buildings and sell it in the city from tanker trucks…”

“Karachi today,” says Tariq Amin, a fashion stylist and prominent social commentator, “is like Chicago in the days of Al Capone mixed in with the Middle Ages.”

“At partition, most of Karachi’s 440,000 population of Hindus had left and were replaced by 1.2 million Mohajirs, or Indian migrants. They had followed the dream of Pakistan’s founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, to create a nation for Muslims. But the Mohajirs were in for a rude shock. Many of the local Punjabis, Sindhis and Pathans regarded them as unwanted trespassers. They still do, except nowadays the Mohajirs have earned wary respect by carrying out vicious ethnic warfare in Karachi throughout the early 1990s. The Pathans and the Sindhis retaliated but the Mohajirs matched them murder for murder, operating torture cells”

” As sociologist Arif Hassan of the nongovernmental organization Urban Resource Center puts it, “For Karachi’s youth, there are two choices: go to America or join the jihad. … The poor, who tend to be more fundamentalist, live mostly in dust-blown shanties on the outskirts of town. There, they clan together, Pathans with Pathans, Baluchis with Baluchis, seeking to replicate their tribal life from their homelands. In some ghettos the clergymen have banned television, women wear burqas and the only education on offer for youngsters is the mesmeric recitation of the Koran at local madrasahs. ”

” The rich and influential live in the Defence and Clifton suburbs, in the latter along a wide, crescent shore, in faux Grecian- or Californian-style mansions. Every few years their walls grow taller concrete evidence of the rising tide of instability that engulfs Karachi… In a country where more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line, many of the wealthy believe in enhancing their status by importing Filipina maids. The spoiled kids hang out at Karachi’s single mall (was back in 2003), listen to heavy metal, and some of them form gangs with cry-tough names such as 9mm, Kryptonite and Outsiders. Every so often, they’ll rumble over a girl and arrange for their bodyguards to trade a few punches in the KFC parking lot. There are no burqas here: the girls wear tight jeans; their mothers prefer designer salwar kameez of watered silk and diamante Chanel sunglasses.”

” “What do you want?” asks stylist Amin, who looks like a brawny pirate. He has two silver rings in one ear and dark eyebrows arched like two hissing cats. He picks up his cell phone and jokingly plays the part of a low-life genie: “A Russian hooker who looks like Pamela Anderson? Ecstasy? A bottle of Black Label? An AK-47, or a 40-carat diamond? It’s all here just a phone call away.” In his sleek, black outfits and his silver bracelets, Amin is a familiar figure at Karachi’s private parties and rave clubs, which never advertise or display signs and are set back from the street in high-walled compounds beyond the hearing of mullahs or cops looking to shake down a few rich kids. Ecstasy and ketamine are the drugs of choice.”

” Bombs may be detonating, journalists beheaded or neighbors kidnapped, but for the people of Clifton and Defence, this violence seldom penetrates their cocoon.”

“Yet no matter how imperiled a Karachiite might feel, calling the cops is seldom an option. Too often, the lawmen are part of the problem. “You have to realize,” says a land developer, “that police stations have no money, not even to change a light bulb or put gas in their cars.” As a result, he says, police stations become “revenue-generating centers” and catching thieves and murderers is a secondary occupation. Police earn money by shaking down prostitution and gambling rings, and they will often demand a bribe even to register a complaint for burglary. A constable’s monthly wage is only $69; a typical middle-class salary in Karachi is $2,000 a year.”

” “Any other city with 14 million people and so many bad governments would have collapsed long ago,” he (Jameel Yusuf) laughs.”

“… They, along with many other die-hard citizens, find that Karachi possesses a dynamism missing in other Pakistani cities. It’s what lures 3,000 newcomers a day to Karachi, even if it means shoveling rotten fish on the wharf for $8 per 12-hour shift and bedding down with the ubiquitous rats on a stretch of pavement.”

“Karachi isn’t safe at night, not even for a killer with connections.”


22 Comments so far

  1. LaydeeBird (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 11:42 am

    TIME magazine has attempted a fair unbiased portrayal of Karachi though this article i think.

    But while the extremeties are all true (poverty vs. decadence, liberalism vs. mullahism) there is negligible mention of the middle class. People like you and me who are salaried, educated, working-class, frequent malls, have car leases, think about home financing loans, pay rent, support their families, try and take vacations every now and then, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, go to parties and hang out with friends, enjoy good music, try and keep some savings, don’t have generators and suffer through power failures, get affected by violence and strikes, eat out…..in general, people who are trying to live a balanced lifestyle. Aren’t there are more such people out there then there are extremists of either variety?

  2. LaydeeBird (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 11:51 am

    corrections for the last sentence:

    Aren’t there more such people out there than there are extremists of either variety?

    oh and btw, i did enjoy Jameel Yusuf’s comment:
    “Any other city with 14 million people and so many bad governments would have collapsed long ago”

    The comment perfectly embodies the undying spirit of the city and the struggle of the few.

  3. striker (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

    the place where they days are hot but evenings are pleasent the place where the people are rude but they would come forward when you need are in trouble the place that has been neglected for long, but still is the most important place for me and will always be is my dear loving karachi
    instead of all the smog and polution,even thoug it has the most horrible basic untility system it still want to come back to it for good,
    we karachittes have our roots deep deep inside this city
    i loveeeee you karachi

  4. mansoor (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 1:15 pm

    anywhere you go, there is no place like home! for me… that is Karachi!!

  5. turab (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 1:16 pm

    poppulation is 20 million !!! for the last 15 years how can it stay at 14 million??

    wake up!!

  6. mansoor (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 1:41 pm

    and illusionFS: welcome to the khi metblog world (and on the other side) You started off rather nicely :) Keep it up!

  7. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 2:01 pm

    Where is my post?Is it “Only good things please” type of post?

  8. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 2:02 pm

    Ah sorry,closed the window after REVIEW.Sorry!

  9. yo yo (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

    The writer has totally missed the humanitarian side. After all it is the home of EDHI.

  10. IllusionFS (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

    LaydeeBird: I too believe that this article lacks information about the middle class.

    Turab: I have never heard an official 20 Million figure for Karachi. It might be 20 million if you include all the (jhuggi-walaas) but 14/15 Millions is the figure that I hear. I just saw on wiki & it said
    – Census (1998) : 9,339,023
    – Estimate (2006) : 11,969,284
    I am sure the above figure isnt right.

    Mansoor: Thanks buddy.

  11. IllusionFS (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 2:45 pm

    Yo Yo: The writer has not at all missed the humanitarian side..

    He writes “A handful of other Karachiites have also refused to give up on their city. Abdul Sattar Edhi, a saintly ex-shopkeeper who goes around after the nightly bout of violence to collect the dead and give them a decent burial, also declines to flee. And that’s a good thing for Karachi: his charity foundation now runs orphanages, mental institutions, clinics and ambulance services. Ardeshir Cowasjee, an irascible millionaire who wears silk pajamas and writes a weekly column for Dawn in which he tracks corruption to the highest places, vows to stay put, as does sociologist and city planner Arif Hassan who campaigns to save the few remaining buildings from Karachi’s regal colonial past. Roland De Souza, whose organization SHERRI fights against illegal land developers whom he says are often in cahoots with city nabobs and some military officers, also insists he will always call Karachi his home.”

  12. Kashif Aziz (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 2:49 pm

    That’s a 3 year old article. Things are much worse now..


  13. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 2:59 pm

    It’s people like Edhi, A. Cowasjee, Roland De Souza, Arif Hassan and many of their ilk who have managed to done so much for this city that I think that without them, the habitants of this mega metropolis would have had lost their sanity long ago.

  14. Fakhr (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 5:31 pm

    very nice post! realy i love to see more post like these

  15. king_faisal (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

    just because gora writes something does not make it right. here is what i wrote on another webite in response to this crap article:

    given the nature of police in south asia, i would guess that murder rate in karachi is probably twice that of what is reported in the time article. the number is not higher than that because urdu eveningers in karachi compete with each other to plast pictures of mutilated bodies on their front pages. so it is hard to believe that these newspapers would be under reporting stories that are their raison d’etre. also cplc does a pretty decent job of compiling crime statistics and it would be hard to imagine that they would be fooled to such a large extant.

    so assuming that last year their were about a thousand murders in karachi a city of 15 m, lets see how this compares with other mega cities. lets be adventurous and compare this with a mega city in the u.s. lets for the sake of arguments pick out l.a. here is what bob herbert wrote in ny times about life in l.a.

    “The gunmen of Los Angeles, many of them gang members from South and East L.A., have turned their city into the murder capital of America. Los Angeles, which has a population of 3.7 million, led the nation in homicides last year, with 653. New York, with a population of eight million, had just 584 murders.

    On one weekend in the middle of last month, 10 people were shot to death in Los Angeles and 15 others were wounded by gunfire.

    The mayhem is concentrated in certain sections of the city, and the result for local residents is heartache, paralyzing fear and a radically constricted lifestyle”.


    now of course i am not comparing life in l.a. with life in karachi but interesting to note that the probability of being murdered is much higher in l.a. than in karachi and that ny has the same murder rate as karachi. also says something about journalistic standards at time that the editors can allow the author to get away with insinuating that karachites are prone to commit murder in greater number than citizens of other mega cities especially in comparison to those who reside in u.s of a.

    time author makes his biases pretty clear in a couple of other places. first he accuses the average citizens of being ‘islamic’. i would argue that islamic citizens of karachi behave pretty decently in the face of crap they have to put with from the hukkam. for comparison, imagine how citizens of l.a. would behave if they were to live in city that offers the same level of services as karachi. interesting also author’s skipping of the role americans played in damaging karachi. what was the crime rate in karachi before afghan war and what would happen to l.a. if drug gangs in l.a. were given billions of dollars to over throw the government in mexico?

    also to be fair to karachi, a more apt comparison would be to compare it with life in cities in other third world countries. here is miami herald on crime in rio:

    “Between May and December last year, the state of Rio de Janeiro posted 4,534 homicides, many drug-related, most in the city of Rio and its slums. That’s about 10 times the murder rate in Chicago, a city roughly the same size.”

    and rio is the only city with such problems. i can cut and paste stuff like this on cities ranging from mexico city to bangkok. so the time article is not worth the paper it is written on and my advice would be to ignore it. however given the propensity educated pakis have for taking these things at face value because it is written in time, it is important that proper response be given to articles such as these. and i am not the only one who thinks this. ayaz amir in yesterdays dawn brilliantly tackles the same subject. and last but not least, full marks to the author of this piece for tackling this in a timely manner.

  16. SWA (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 10:57 pm

    Its a three year old article, things are getting much “BETTER” now!

  17. Mariam (unregistered) on July 5th, 2006 @ 3:57 am

    Guys n Gals there is another mapping tool on the market WikiMapia. All you do is roll your mouse over the Wikimapia, and Search place. Select your city and explore!

  18. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on July 5th, 2006 @ 10:01 am

    this wikimapia is a kickass idea based on google map.I dont find any info about any city of pakistan.someon should make an entry in it.

  19. IllusionFS (unregistered) on July 5th, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

    King_Faisal: I am sorry for the delay in approving your comment. I was not trying to compare Karachi with LA/London/NY/Miami/Paris etc.. All metro cities have their own problems. It was just that I was in full agreement with what the author had to say. And no, we did not say we hate Karachi or we chose karachi over ny/la .. its just that we are aware of all the wrong/evil going on in the city.

    Anyways, for posting your comments everyone.

  20. Extiinct (unregistered) on July 5th, 2006 @ 3:19 pm

    “Karachi isn’t safe at night, not even for a killer with connections.”

    — the above sentence is hilarious! And good post Illusion! Old or not a good article is always a joy to come across =)

    Welcome aboard!

  21. Dee (unregistered) on July 5th, 2006 @ 7:20 pm

    King Faisal, I do agree with your analysis as it was not a fair assessment.Author used statistics without any explantion or sound comparsion(as you have done by comparing it with L.A and other cities).

  22. Mansoor 'Manny' Siddiqui (unregistered) on July 5th, 2006 @ 9:13 pm

    King Faisal,

    You seem to have good solid information. Are you already a member of AOPP (http://www.aopp.org/)? if not, we really need people like you who can come up with the facts and write back to the editors of the Western media.


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