Karachi, The Soul of Pakistan
Karachi is the power house of Pakistan , but is beset by violence and migrants.
- Karachi the Powerhouse of Pakistan
- Karachi and Islamabad
- Karachi as a business center
- Karachi and its Migrants
- The Karachi Effect
Karachi the Powerhouse of Pakistan
Karachi is Pakistan’s biggest city. Like Sydney and Canberra in Australia, Rio and Brasilia in Brazil and even New York and Washington, Karachi has become second fiddle to Islamabad. Pakistan started off in 1947 with Karachi as the capital. The port city had all the trappings of a great city. But in 1959 the then Pakistan government opted for a new administrative capital close to the North West frontier at Islamabad. Little did they know at that stage that Islamic fundamentalist would become close to their capital city? I have a connection with Karachi as my maternal grandfather spent quality time there. but that was before 1947
Karachi and Islamabad
The reason for the new capital given at that time was to help Karachi become decongested and also to isolate the central government from the baneful effects of big business, because Karachi was and still is the commercial head of entire Pakistan.
Karachi is now a city without much government offices, but that has not taken anything away from it being the foremost city in Pakistan. 200 years ago, however mangrove swamps covered this coastal site north-west of the delta spawned by the river Indus. At the beginning of the 19th century a small township grew up around the fort on a small piece of land overlooking a beautiful natural harbor. The British were quick to seize the opening of the Suez Canal and Karachi’s importance grew. Even before that in 1850 the boom period of Karachi had already commenced. The British bequeathed to the city-wide streets, grandiose municipal buildings and spacious tree-lined military cantonment roads. The British ensured that Karachi port became one of the best in Asia.
Karachi as a business center
Karachi and its merchants also prospered as manufacturing industries expanded and textiles, footwear, metal products, food and beverages along with traditional handicrafts and cottage industries prospered. Today the result is that the stock exchange and the country business headquarters are all at Karachi.
Karachi and its Migrants
A little known fact is that Karachi before 1947 attracted migrants of all communities and Hindus and Sikhs were there n large numbers. Migrants are still flocking to the city but the Hindus and Sikhs have been replaced by Pathans, Sindhis, Punjabi Muslims and also the Mohajirs, the migrants from India. The flood continues and some of it has had disastrous repercussions with sectarian violence becoming a byword. In addition illegal townships like in Mumbai have grown everywhere and the city is choking.
The Mohajirs have their own axe to grind and the Pathans and Afghans are spreading terror. The situation is a real pot boiler and anything can happen there. The city of the fifties when Benazir and Zulfikar Bhutto drove and partied at night is over. There is no night life for the public, but behind walled doors I am told it is still there.
However compared to Islamabad, Karachi is more modern and certainly the women are freer. Karachi is still the provincial capital of Sind and quite few Hindus are still there. In fact one of my earlier bosses Mr. Sunder Advani owned a hotel at Karachi along with his hotel at Goa.
The Karachi Effect
The bazaars of Karachi teem with life. The Quadi-e Azam airport is impressive and one can visit the Bohri bazaar for carpets, the Saddar bazaar, the Empress Market( it was here the 1857 rebels were executed) and the Sarafa bazaar with its rabri ( A sweet dish from milk) at night. You can take an excursion to the lovely beaches between Sandspit and Paradise point, the exclusive French beach and the Baleji beach. There are good hotels to stay in, like the Pearl Continental, Renaissance Towers and the Sheraton towers, but you can’t forget the crocodile farm at Manora head (sands spit). Incidentally the best sea food available in Pakistan is at Karachi.
Karachi is a lovely place. At one time a there was a ferry service between Bombay and Karachi, but that was in a bygone age. Maybe at some stage it will again commence. But at the moment the beautiful city now grapples with extremism and terrorist activity. I for one hope that it is a passing dream and all will be well.