Showing posts with label Archives. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archives. Show all posts

Monday, March 30, 2009

The rise of the Taliban, the fall of Karachi

By Kamal Siddiqi
The writer is editor reporting, The News

Earlier this week, a family friend got off from her car and walked to a chemist’s shop in a busy shopping area of Karachi. She was wearing a normal shalwar- kameez suit that most Karachi women wear in public areas. Nothing out of the ordinary. As she walked to the shop, a man approached her and showed her a pistol.

But instead of robbing her, he gave her a chilling message: “Next time you come in public, cover yourself from head to toe.” This happened in full public view on a busy Karachi street. But no one seemed to notice and the man did not in any way seem in any hurry or worry.

The reference of this incident happening to a family friend has only been done to make people understand that this is not an urban myth but a reality. It is happening in Karachi, the country’s largest and possibly most open city. There are more worrisome incidents than one can recall.

Many businessmen have received calls on their cell phones in which the caller does not identify himself but does confirm the name of the person he has called. After a couple of days comes another call. And then another. The businessman is told to contribute a certain amount to the Tehreek-e-Taliban.

One businessman shrugged this off as a hoax. But soon enough there were men who called at his house and made the same demand, only this time they also mentioned that they not only knew where he lived, but where he worked, which schools his children went to, and other details.

The man ended up paying. No one knows who these people are. Some say they are criminals who are using the name of the Taliban. Who knows?

A family in Clifton last month received a notice which was addressed to the father. In it, he was told to ensure that his daughters — who were described in the letter in very negative terms — should be told to stay home since they were seen to be of loose character. The letter warned the father to take action, otherwise the mosque will have to “do something.” The crime of these girls apparently was that they were seen too frequently moving around and that too in Western clothes.

The writers of this threatening letter even disclosed their identity. The claimed to be from a prominent mosque, situated in the market area of Clifton. The shaken family did as they were told. Many families have received such letters and in most instances they have complied. No action or questions have been asked of the people at this mosque. The police shrugs this off as nothing important.

Last year, this mosque was identified by the MQM when it made an outcry on the rise in Talibanisation in Karachi. But the People’s Party government has been denying the rise of extremist forces in Karachi for the year since it has been in power. Some say that the motives of the MQM are suspect. Their agenda is more political. But then again, who is right and who is wrong?

Stories continue to surface of the growing influence of such elements. Women who travel without their heads covered in public transport have been spat upon. In some instances by other women.

The media has helped confuse the people even more. Programmes aired by our leading channels on religious issues sometimes misguide instead of guide. They play on the sentiments of people only to get better ratings. After all, one of the most prominent religious show hosts ended up becoming a minister.

The tragedy, if one may call it that, is that there is a growing number of people in Karachi who welcome the arrival of the purveyors of quick and cheap justice. And are willing to defend, fund and shelter them. They sympathise with the soldiers of their brand of Islam because the government has let them down. And they are frustrated over the growing incidents of crime and lawlessness and have no hope in the government addressing these issues. Both the military junta and the elected peoples representatives are seen more interested in protecting and enriching themselves than providing good governance to the people. This is the public perception.

Two video clips that have been circulating on the Internet only add to people’s fear and plays on their insecurity. One clip, which is perhaps one of the most watched and forwarded clips in Pakistan this week, shows how a man is mugged while he is taking money out of an ATM in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi.

The clip, which was taken off a security camera of the bank, clearly shows the face of the man, the two men who rob him and the look of frustration and helplessness on the victim’s face once the deed is done. While there is no violence, except where the robber shows the poor man a gun and then hides it, it leaves one disturbed and it is chilling for anyone who has any care for Pakistan. Is this what we have been reduced to, and where do we go from here?

The other clip, which has not been seen by as many people, is violent and much more chilling. This clip was made from a mobile phone by the accomplice of a man who is currently in police custody. This is now known as the “Hajiano case” or the “White Corolla case.” This man robbed people and raped women at will for a year. This clip relates to one incident where a woman is being assaulted.

The clip numbs the brain and makes one bay for blood. After seeing this video, people have said that an exemplary punishment should be given to the perpetrator. One hopes this is done, but there are many who have expressed fears that the case will soon be forgotten. The women’s rights organisations which had earlier come out on the streets now seem to have been lulled into silence. Let us hope for justice. There are some who say that this matter would have been settled had the Taliban been in charge.

These are worrisome sentiments. In his speech this week, President Obama has committed more money to Pakistan to crush Al-Qaeda. He said in his speech that the Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies (like the Taliban) are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within. The problem is that many Pakistanis do not see it like that anymore.

To defeat extremist elements, the US and Pakistan have to do more than pump in more military and economic assistance which never reaches the common man. There is a larger battle, for the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan, which needs to be fought. This is not being done.

We do not want any more VOA-TV type propaganda that, in its condescending way creates more enemies then friends. We want a proper dialogue with the US and the West over what its goals are and whether these are our goals as well. Whether we like it or not, the battle for a safer America cannot be won if the people of Pakistan are not convinced. This is the stark reality, no matter how many drone attacks are carried out on the one hand and assistance is given to our government on the other.

It was true of the Musharraf government and is becoming increasingly true of the Zardari government too. The people of Pakistan are not seen as stakeholders in the battle against militants and extremism. It is too often said that while the West talks to our leaders, Al Qaeda and the Taliban talk to the people. Sadly, this is an issue President Obama has not addressed.

Email: kamal.siddiqi@thenews.com.pk

Monday, January 12, 2009

KARACHI Post-Partition

Karachi on the Eve of Partition

On the eve of partition, in spatial terms, Karachi consisted of four distinct areas. One, the old pre-British city and its post-British suburbs which consisted of narrow winding lanes, high densities and wholesale markets. These areas were occupied by the "native" merchant classes and the proletariat that worked for them. The area had a large number of mosques, dharmshalas and Hindu temples. Collectively, this area was known as the "native" city and celebrated Hindu and Muslim festivals with fervour. Two, Saddar Bazaar, which was the Europeanised shopping area, consisting of wide roads on a grid iron plan. This Bazaar also had residential areas dominated by Goans, Parsis and Europeans, who owned much of the businesses in the Bazaar. The Bazaar was dominated by churches, mission schools, community halls and civic buildings owned and operated by trusts belonging to Christians (local and Europeans) and Parsis. To the south-east of Saddar Bazaar were the Civil Lines and military cantonment where the British officers lived and worked and where their clubs were located. Saddar Bazaar and its surrounding areas were known as the European city and here New Year and Easter were celebrated and balls were held. Three, the area between these two "cities" consisted of administrative and civic buildings and educational institutions of higher learning. And four, the area of Lyari and Machi Miani where the working classes lived. A diesel operated tramway linked these areas to each other and to the port.

The population of Karachi at that time was 450,000 of which 61.2 per cent was Sindhi speaking, 6.3 per cent was Urdu-Hindi speaking, 51 per cent was Hindu and 42 per cent was Muslim. By 1951 all this had changed and Karachi’s population had increased to 1.137 million because of the influx of 600,000 refugees from India. In 1951 the Sindhi speaking population was 8.6 per cent, the Urdu speaking population was 50 per cent, the Muslim population was 96 per cent and the Hindu population was 2 per cent1. These changes have had a major effect on the culture, politics and development of Karachi and its relationship to the politics of Sindh and Pakistan. For an understanding of the present situation in the city and the province, an understanding of the repercussions of these demographic changes is essential.

The Physical and Social Repercussions of Migration on Karachi

Karachi was made the capital of Pakistan in 1947. It was separated from Sindh and was known as the Federal Capital Area. Sindhi politicians and intellectuals objected to this separation since it also involved the taking over by the federal authorities of various civic buildings and institutions that previously belonged to the province. This was the first Karachi-Sindh conflict.

The 600,000 refugees who invaded the city occupied all open land and the empty buildings that the fleeing Hindus had left behind. These refugee settlements were multi-class and multi-ethnic. Intellectuals, artists, poets, performers and the working classes all lived together and in walking distance from Saddar Bazaar. Also, walking distance from the Bazaar a university was established in 1952 and the federal secretariat was constructed adjacent to the Bazaar. Embassies were established in the Civil Lines quarters, also walking distance from the Bazaar. The older educational institutions and the Courts of Law were already within walking distance of Saddar. Thus, within four years of the creation of Pakistan, Saddar Bazaar became the centre of the city with a cosmopolitan culture and Karachi became a high density multi-class city. Saddar’s old institutional buildings began to be used for civic functions, entertainment, musical programmes and professional conferences. Bookshops, eating places, bars and billiard rooms and night clubs developed. Politicians, students, diplomats, intellectuals and the working classes all shared this space. Cinemas increased and film festivals were held regularly.
However, the government was anxious to develop a plan for the city of Karachi that was in keeping with its position as the capital of Pakistan. In addition, it was anxious to develop proper accommodation for its civil servants and other employees. To this end, it developed cooperative housing societies around the then city. As a result, the more important and wealthier residents of Saddar and from the refugee settlements moved out. To tackle the problems of the rest of the residents of refugee settlements and new migrants coming from other parts of Pakistan, the government initiated a number of planning processes.


Source : Arif Hasan, Akbar Zaidi , Muhammad Younus, "Understanding Karachi" A publication of URC

KARACHI Pre-Partition

Legend has it that Karack Bunder was an important port on the Arabian Sea in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. It handled the south Indian-Central Asian trade and was situated about 40 kilometres (km) west of Karachi bay on the estuary of the Hub River. The estuary was silted up due to heavy rains in 1728 and the harbour could no longer be used. As a result, the merchants of Karack Bunder, most of whom were Hindus, decided to relocate their activities to what is today known as Karachi.

In 1729, they built a fortified settlement on 35 acres on high ground north of Karachi bay and surrounded it with a mud and timber-reinforced wall of over 16 feet high which had gun-mounted turrets and two gates. The gate facing the sea was called Kharadar, or salt gate, and the gate facing the Lyari River was called Mithadar, or sweet gate. Mithadar and Kharadar are now important neighbourhoods in the old city around where these gates once stood. The settlement was strategically located. There were mangrove marches to the east and south-west, the sea to the west and south-west, and the Lyari River to the north and west. As such, the settlement was very well protected and storming it successfully was only possible from the sea.

Karachi, or Kolachi as the area where it was located was originally called, was a new settlement. However, in its immediate vicinity, there were important and ancient places of Hindu and Muslim pilgrimage. These included the temple of Mahadev, which is mentioned in the Ramayana; the Ram Bagh, where Ram and Sita, heroes of the Ramayana are supposed to have spent a night on the way to their pilgrimage to Hinglaj in Balochistan; the tombs of Abdullah Shah and his brother Yousef Shah, both tenth century sufis (religious person), and the twelfth century tomb and monastery of Manghopir. In addition, buried under the government houses on Bath Island are the remains of the sixteenth century capital of Raja Diborai. The tomb of Morerio, the hero of Shah Abdul Latif’s Sur Ghato is also close to the old city. He is supposed to have lived in the time of Raja Diborai. His descendants are living in the old Karachi goths of Baba Bhit, Rehri and Ibrahim Hydery and are called Moreriopota, of the sons of Morerio. All these important places are now within metropolitan Karachi. However, Karachi’s intelligentsia, academia, public representatives and the citizens at large know very little about these important places which have attracted a large number of pilgrims from the interior of Sindh, Kutch, Rajistan and the western coast of India, from times immemorial to the partition of the Subcontinent.

Between 1729 and 1783, Karachi changed hands several times as the Khan of Kalat and the rulers of Sindh tried to control it due to its strategic location. Finally, in 1783, the city fell to the Talpur Mirs after two prolonged sieges. The Talpurs constructed a fort at Manora point, the entrance to the harbour, and mounted it with cannons, thus making Karachi impregnable. At about this time, the British started taking an interest in Karachi due to the expansion of the Czarist Empire in Central Asia. This led to their opening a factory in Karachi at the end of the eighteenth century. However, due to disagreements with the Mirs of Sindh on trade tariffs, the factory was soon closed down.

In 1838, the British, obsessed with the fear of Czarist expansion to the Arabian Sea, occupied Karachi and it served as the landing port for their troops for the First Afghan War. In 1843, they annexed Sindh and shifted the capital of the province from Hyderabad to Karachi. Subsequently, they made Sindh a district of the Bombay Presidency and Karachi was made the district headquarters. Troops were stationed in Karachi and a services sector to cater to the needs of the army sprung up in what is today Saddar and the Cantonment. A district administration was also developed and it was housed in the Civil Lines area. Thus, the city became divided into the native city, consisting of the old pre-British town and its suburbs, and the European city consisting of the Cantonment, Civil Lines and Saddar Bazaar. The port was improved and steps were taken to develop and market Sindh’s agricultural produce to the Great Britain. To this end, the Indus Steam Flotilla and the Orient Inland Steam Navigation Company were developed to transport cotton and wheat down the Indus and across Karachi bay to Karachi port. As a result of these initiatives, a number of British companies opened their offices and warehouses in Karachi and its population increased from 14,000 in 1838 to 57,000 in 1856. Trade also increased during this period from £122,160 to £855,103.

During this period, a municipal committee, the first in British India, was also established for Karachi and two libraries, the General Library and the Native General Library were set up. The General Library became a part of the Frere Hall Library in 1865 and the Native General Library was absorbed in the Khaliqdinna Hall in 1906. Buildings essential to European social and cultural life were also constructed. The first Church was built in 1843 and is used today as the assembly hall of St. Joseph’s Convent School. Other important churches built during this period are Trinity Church and CMS Church on Lawrence Road. The Collector’s Kutchery (court) and the Kharadar Police Station are some of the few civic buildings belonging to this period that survive.

During this period, an important event occurred in Karachi. In 1857, the native troops rebelled against the British in support of the war for independence that had engulfed India. The rebellion was crushed by the British. Seven freedom fighters were publicly hanged in Artillery Maidan and three others were blown from the mouth of cannons. An eyewitness account states, "Their remains were immediately collected by sweepers and carted away to a pit at some distance. After this those who had been hanged were cut down like so many dead dogs and taken away in the same manner, and thus ended one of the most awful and imposing spectacles for the people of Karachi to be ever held.". One week later, another 14 freedom fighters were hanged in a similar manner and Ramdin Panday, the ring leader of the Karachi revolutionaries was blown from the mouth of a cannon. Karachi has not honoured these freedom fighters and no monuments have been built to them and nor have any roads been named after them.

Between 1856 and 1872, Karachi’s population did not increase although trade figures increased from £ 855,103 to over £ 5 million. The reason for the increase in trade figures is that between 1861 and 1865 there was a big boom in the cotton trade in Sindh as Sindhi cotton replaced American cotton as raw material in the British textile industry. This was because supplies from America had been disrupted due to the American Civil War. It was during this boom period that the Karachi Chamber of Commerce was established and has since then played an important role in the economic development of the city. However, at the end of the American Civil War, trade in Karachi dropped from Rs 66 million to 38 million and the membership of the Chamber of Commerce fell from 15 members in 1865 to 8 in 1872.

The expansion of trade during the American Civil War was aided by the development of the Sindh Railway in 1861, which linked Karachi to the cotton and wheat producing areas. The decision to extend this railway into the Punjab and subsequently link it up with northern India was taken in 1869 and this increased Karachi’s "catchment" area. At the same time the British began the development of perennial irrigation schemes in Punjab and Sindh. These schemes brought large desert areas under cultivation and increased activity at Karachi port. As a result, by 1868, Karachi became the largest exporter of wheat and cotton in India. Karachi also received a boost with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, which made it the nearest port in India to the UK.

A lot of important civic buildings and churches were built during this period. They include St. Andrew’s Church in Saddar, St. Paul’s Church in Keamari and another St. Paul’s in Manora. In addition, City Courts and Frere Hall were constructed during this period and a number of mission and English language schools, including Grammar School, St. Joseph’s School and St. Patrick’s School were built. The Karachi Zoo was also established during this period on the site of the old British factory and a lot of domestic architecture of this period still survives.

Between 1872 and 1901, the population of Karachi more than doubled. The reasons for this were the completion of the railways which linked Karachi to the Punjab, northern India and Sindh and their wheat and cotton production started flowing through Karachi. Oil extraction was also undertaken in Sui, near the railway line 450 kms from Karachi. This was also exported from Karachi port. In this period water supply and drainage systems were developed for the city and the population of the old town decreased as water pipe lines were laid outside of it. In 1881 the population of Karachi was 73,056 of which 68,332 lived in the old town. By 1911 the population of the old town had decreased to less than 48,000. The Karachi Port Trust (KPT) was also created for the city during this period.

In 1885, the tramway was introduced in Karachi. It was owned by the East India Tramway Company and functioned on steam power. However, it was replaced by horse-drawn carriages in 1892 since Karachites objected to the noise made by the steam locomotives and claimed that animals which were then used for transport purposes, were scared of the locomotive sound. Empress Market was built in 1889, the D.J. Science College in 1887 and the Sindh Madrassah in 1885. Thus, Karachi acquired its most important landmark and its first institutions of higher learning during this period.

Between 1901 and 1911, Karachi’s population increased by 37 per cent. The reason for this was that a number of irrigation schemes were completed in the Punjab and Sindh thus increasing exportable agricultural produce. 260,000 acres of irrigated land producing more than 10,000 tons of wheat and cotton each were added by the Jamrao Canal Project in southern Sindh alone and over 6.8 million acres of irrigated land were added in the Punjab as a result of three major projects. To meet the resulting demand placed on Karachi by wheat and cotton exports, Karachi port was further developed, labour imported from the interior of the province, and merchants migrated from all over India to profit by the expansion of trade. By 1904, Karachi’s trade had expanded to over Rs 300 million.

During this period, Karachi expanded, and innumerable commercial, civic and educational buildings were added to it including Khaliqdinna Hall and the Victoria Museum. The Hall was built in 1906 and is famous because the trial of Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Maulana Shoukat Ali was held here during the Khalafat Movement.

Between 1911 and 1947, the expansion of irrigation systems in the Punjab and Sindh continued, adding to trade in Karachi. In addition, railways were expanded to link Karachi with Rajhstan, thus adding to its hinterland. During the First World War (1914-18) Karachi became a military base as it was the first port of call for ships coming through the Suez Canal and was the gateway to the Russian Empire north of Afghanistan. In 1924, the first airport in British India was constructed in Karachi and at about the same time Karachi also developed a reputation for having a healthy climate most suitable for patients of asthma and TB. This added to its population. In 1935, Sindh was separated from Bombay and became a separate province. Karachi was made its capital. Law courts, revenue departments, line departments and social sector departments were established in Karachi thus increasing its population and importance. Sindh’s landed aristocracy started building homes in the city and merchants who previously had their head offices in Bombay shifted to Karachi so as to be near the new seat of power.

During the Second World War, Karachi became the military base and port for supplies to the Russian front. Troops were stationed and trained here, military intelligence services functioned from here and telegraph and telecommunication systems were developed as a result. After the War Karachi became the centre for supplies to the allied troops in South and South-East Asia. This again increased its importance and between 1911 and 1941 its population increased by 133.4 per cent. It is estimated that 90 per cent of Karachi’s growth between 1921 and 1941 was the result of migration.
During this period, a number of beautiful buildings were added to the city, all of which testify to its growing importance and to the consolidation of its merchant classes. These buildings include the Karachi Port Trust (1915), Bank of India (1923), the Chamber of Commerce (1923), Hindu Gymkhana (1925), the High Court (1929), the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) Building (1931) and the Old Sindh Assembly (1940) where the Pakistan Resolution was passed.


Source : Arif Hasan, Akbar Zaidi , Muhammad Younus, "Understanding Karachi" A publication of URC