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Why Karachi? Heck! Why *not* Karachi! October 4, 2006

Posted by psykedelik in Socio-Political Crap.

Disclaimer: The following write-up is prone to lots of gross generalizations, but that’s perfectly understandable; the author hails from Karachi. Judging others and making gross generalizations is “in her blood.”

The rabid principles of “whatever-ness” govern every aspect of life in this intensely messed-up city. Apathy, coupled with an almost primal desire to “rant,” makes the people of Karachi, in general, what they are today: idiot savants — thereby resulting in the current sorry state of the city.

We have come to take for granted a gazillion issues that would have appalled the generations of the 60’s and the 70’s. Like the fact that electricity will be dear during summer; or the fact that the city will be flooded during monsoons; or the fact that (most) men will leer at women; or the fact that traffic policemen will want to be bribed by bus drivers (and everyone else too) at every street intersection; or that parts of the city will forever be deprived of running water; or that most of the roads around the city always will be peppered with potholes; or the fact that angry mobs will throw stones at, and burn down fast-food enterprises and petrol pumps.

All this goes on, while rich aunties sit in their over-stuffed, designer living rooms, fan themselves and chirrup, “Oh my gawhd, Zareena/Nazneen/Shandy, the citay’s going to the DOGS! Oh, and what’re you going to wear at the GT tomorrow?” and rich uncles shake their heads and mumble about the government not doing what it should, potbellies jiggling in sync with their nodding heads: *nod-nod-nod-jiggle-jiggle-jiggle*

Not that our other “classes” are any better. The lower strata scratch their collective balls and dig into their collective noses, and consider themselves to be too weak to be able to accomplish anything at all, except scrape together dehaadis from one day to the next – or not!

The middle class, on the other hand, considers itself aloof from the “problems plaguing society today,” as it gears itself for the race to join the Fanning Aunties and the Nodding Potbellied Uncles of the upper strata.

The question that we, the citizens of Karachi, should be asking is not “Why Karachi?”, but given our general lack of interest in doing ANYTHING constructive at all, the question that we should be asking is, “Why NOT Karachi?” We sit back, sigh, maybe rant for a while in the comfort of our living rooms, and then go on with our petty daily lives while our homes are looted, our cellphones are snatched in public, our children are kidnapped and converted into misshapen beggars, our houses and shops are deprived of electricity and water, our government hospitals (and public beaches) stink of open sewer lines, and so on and so forth.

And no, it’s NOT the Government’s fault. It’s not the fault of “whoever-is-responsible”. It’s OUR fault. WE, the people of Karachi, are responsible for the current appalling state of our city. Owing to our indifference, we DESERVE to have this done to us, and to Karachi.

Why, though? Why is it that we don’t care anymore? Why is it that we see a patch of blood on the road and we spit beetle juice over it, cover it up, and walk away? I mean, something has to give! And “give” it does! Dig into the past 30-something years of Karachi’s existence, and the annals of history spew forth one name that can truly be held responsible for what we see today: General Ziaul Haq. We have something or the other to thank each of our dictators for: we have Ayub Khan to thank for the industrial revolution of the 60’s, we have Gen. Yahya Khan to thank for –wait, what IS it that we can thank Yahya Khan for? Oh yes! BANGLADESH! So moving on, we have President Musharraf to thank for the pseudo-modernization of today, AND we have General Ziaul Haq’s wiley “leadership” to thank for the “Mullah Revolution” (read: social and mental regression of Karachi).

In the 19-odd years that have followed General Zia’s death, the city of Karachi has been totally ignored, more than anyone else, by the very citizens of the city. Like an infected, pus-filled pimple that everyone’s been hoping will go away if they can leave it alone long enough! From the pseudo-leadership of the 80’s, “Operation Clean-up” of the 90’s, to the carnage that continues today, Karachi has been rife with racial and sectarian abuse.

By the time we realized that we had to take care of the city ourselves, it was too late. The Mullahs, the MQM, and other sectarian me-too’s had taken Karachi by the scruff of the neck, dragged it through excreta, thoroughly looted, pillaged, plundered and raped it — and left it for dead. All this was done, while the citizens of Karachi stood by and watched – maybe ranted about it for a while, but did nothing constructive to better the situation. The key word here is “constructive,” because we do take out rallies, shout slogans, wave flags, and generally rant and wave our arms indignantly, but what exactly has that brought us? Every rally and strike paralyses life in the city, affects small business, and in general, just pushes us back into medieval times, one step at a time.

Judging by the recent situation in the city – the effect of the monsoons, the “rallies”, etc. – it is high time that the people of Karachi shake themselves out of their current inanimateness, or as a friend very aptly puts it “We’re going to have to remove Karachi from the list of ‘cities’ pretty soon. We don’t get running water, electricity is dear, the roads are messed up, the people don’t care – we live in a village!”


The Ehteram-e-Ramadan Ordinance, 1981 – Implementation vs. Practice September 29, 2006

Posted by Bolshevik in Socio-Political Crap.

The Ehteram-e-Ramadan (reverence of Fasting) Ordinance, issued in 1981, provided that complete sanctity be observed during Ramadan—eating, drinking and smoking were banned in public places during fasting hours, and cinema houses were to remain closed for three hours after the Maghrib (sunset) prayers. According to Section 3 of the Ordinance, a person liable to fast under Islamic principles was not to be found eating, drinking or smoking in “a public place.” Section 2 of the Ordinance defined “public places” as follows: hotels, restaurants, rooms, tents, streets, bridges, or any other places accessible to the general public.

We conducted a survey to gauge general awareness about this law, and the ensuing police proceedings.

“I was caught smoking outside by a police-wala during Ramadan two years ago,” Faheem Haqqani, an alumnus of the University of Karachi, said. “He (the policeman) asked for a cigarette in return for not booking me. I gave him one, and we all lived happily ever after.”

Similar sentiments were shared by others interviewed, and no one that we know has ever been booked for eating, drinking or smoking in public places during Ramadan.

“Share whatever you’re eating or drinking with them (the policemen), and they’ll let you go,” said Sharmeen, a copyrighter at a local advertising agency.

It’s a good thing, though, that our law enforcement agencies are generally lax about the matter. Official punishments include prison sentences that may range from anything between seven days to a month, along with fines that may vary according to the whim of the magistrate trying the case.

Despite this leniency, however, police stations officially report booking a number of cases wherein people have been caught eating, drinking or smoking in public places during fasting hours every year.

“We booked around five people last Ramadan under this act,” a hawaldaar at a local police station admitted after much cajoling. “But no one has been brought in yet this year.” When asked about the reason why no one had been booked yet, he replied, “People have probably become better Muslims now.” Right!

Under Article 31 of the constitution of the Republic of Pakistan 1973, it is the responsibility of the state to take steps for the observance of Islamic moral standards in the country. Interpretations of this Article resulted in the so-called “Islamization” of the country during General Ziaul Haq’s regime.

By 1986 the Shariah Court had found portions of 55 federal laws (out of 512 examined) and 212 provincial laws (out of 999 examined) to be contrary to the Shari’ah. These were mostly family and fiscal laws, but also included a whole range of constitutional, criminal and civil laws. In 1979 a number of Hudood Ordinances were put into effect. This was followed by legislation concerning the Islamic punishment of whipping, the payment by Muslims of Zakah (compulsory alms) and ‘Ushr (tithes), and the enforcement of the Ramadan fast.

 Our survey, however, raised questions about the importance of the Ehteram-e-Ramadan Ordinance of 1981: How strictly is it enforced? Is it actually accomplishing the initial goal of “maintaining the sanctity of Ramadan,” or has this law too, like so many others, become a victim of the “thaana culture” and degenerated into a means of earning-on-the-side for corrupt elements?