Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Best Articles on Karachi's Violence

Urooj Zia, now at the Pakistan Times, has written probably the best available article on the inner mechanics of the violence that has presided over Karachi for the last two years since the post-Musharraf coalition took power. One feels for the PPP, having to keep a fractious coalition together, whilst having a stolid and ominously silent military establishment in the background. The MQM has been extravagantly mercurial, and the recent leaving the coalition, before Salman Taseer`s death, and then spontaneously returning is a tragedy framed by farce.

I had heard the land dealing aspect of the ANP/MQM fight, but Urooj's highlighting of Shahi Syed's former role as a real estate agent truly illuminated the opportunities, connections and conflicts of interest bought to bear on Karachi's deeply abused social fabric.

The second article that needs to be read is Timur Khan's Letter From Karachi, where he frames Karachi's violence within the larger context of constant rural-to-urban migration; a global phenomenon. He starts from close to my old house, a few areas away from the Korangi industrial estate, and the expanding slums beyond. Timur tries to place the assassination of Salman Taseer within the Karachi heavily educated, yet lower middle class frame where people were relatively muted about the assassination of Salman Taseer. He doesn`t come out and say that anyone from Karachi celebrated, but the condemnation was at the level of a murmur in Karachi. Taimur does not mention this, but my assessment could be that Karachi residents are sadly all too familiar with violence. The most significant part of the article is at the end; where Taimur Khan is with a group of young men and women in Orangi. He describes them thus "Each had completed high school; some were pursuing college degrees, and all had put themselves through private English-language courses. Their parents had migrated to Karachi in the 1970s and '80s and had spent their lives working as laborers in the city's nearby factories."

They were frustrated with "the 'unfair game' of lower-middle-class life in Karachi, where only those with political connections are able to work their way to prosperity". Please observe that this cohort is ready to work their way to prosperity. We already know that, but for those who run Karachi, this theme must be emphasized. Here is the sentence at the end of the essay that sums up every Karachi residents life, "They are only interested in social mobility, and they'll support any party that can help". Is the world beyond Orangi listening?


Bolshevik said...

Thank you. :-)

PS: Pakistan Today; not Pakistan Times. Pakistan Today is the new paper set up by Arif Nizami.

TLW said...

Pakistan Today

OK :-) So many new newspapers. Keep it up!