A Bangladeshi perspective on Karachi

Published: September 15, 2012

I reached Karachi with a heavy heart, but, boy, was I in for a surprise! PHOTO: REUTERS

I had been in Karachi for six days a couple of months ago. Looking at Pakistan from the outside, we usually perceive this country through what the media portrays it to be – a gory place full of violence.

Thus, I already had a picture in my mind about Pakistan – but the image I had and the image I discovered there, were remarkably different.

I am a 29-years-old Bangladeshi banker, working in one of the leading Pakistani banks in Dhaka, Bangladesh. When my department head told me that I would have to go to Karachi for training purposes, I was glad because it offered the benefit of foreign training.

However, at the back of my mind remained the grim picture of Pakistan that I had been accustomed to hearing about; this perplexed me and I wasn’t sure about whether I should take this opportunity or not. I was worried about taking the risk, for Karachi is a dangerous city. My family was enormously unhappy to hear about my affirmative decision and my 16-year-old niece went a step further to suggest I arrange a bullet proof jacket first, and then visit Karachi!

I reached Karachi with a heavy heart, but, boy, was I in for a surprise!

Was this the same country we commonly associate to terrorism?

The same country we blamed for the killing of Sarfaraz Shah, for Bin Laden’s notorious operation in Abbottabad; for suicide bombing attacks on innocent people; or match fixing in cricket?

Now my answer is no, absolutely not.

From morning to night, I do not think I can point to a particular moment I had not enjoyed in this city. I have had the opportunity to visit many cities and according to my experience, if a tourist can recognise a city for its own identity, for example culture, traditions, values, he/she starts enjoying a different perspective with the experience imbedding its own uniqueness.

In comparison to other cities, customarily and culturally, Karachi is different. It has a wealth of resources and has the advantage of being Pakistan’s economic hub. The men and women dress proudly, donning shalwar kameez and a Sindhi topis, showing off their heritage.

What struck me as truly beautiful were the fancy buses decorated with truck art. This feature in itself should be enough to attract tourists  - given that the law and order situation permits such promotion.

The variety of food here is tremendous and it definitely has to be the best food in the world; at least from this food lover’s point of view. The people of Karachi and Lahore should apply to the United Nations to nominate themselves as the “World Capital of Delicious Food”.

The night life in Pakistan also has its own distinctive allure. It’s not about bars or dancing, it’s about traditional food, late night chats and just a bunch of people enjoying each other’s company in a hospitable environment.

In 2009, I was in America as a member of a group study exchange team organised by the Rotary Foundation. The idea behind this exchange programme was for people from different countries to interact and swap stories about their culture, traditions and lifestyle in their respective countries. It is at that point that I learnt the importance of the preservation of heritage and how positive marketing values, help with endorsing a better view of a own country.

So why should Karachi not be known for its own customs and folklore? Why should it not be allowed to boast its most admirable aspects?

PHOTO: Rizwan Ali/Nadeem Khawar/AFP/REUTERS

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Khondker Emdadul Haq

Khondker Emdadul Haq

A banker at Standard Chartered Bank, working as a Relationship Manager in Employee Banking, Consumer Banking Division, Bangladesh. He also works for Independent Television as Senior News Presenter (Part time).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Umair

    First positive thing I heard from a foreigner about Karachi. Otherwise our media is creating very horrible image which is contradictory from reality. After publishing numerous anti- Pakistan articles finally tribune published one Pro-Pakistani article. If a Bangladeshi can see positive things in Pakistan they why can’t our media. I want Bangladeshi correspondents in media & sensible articles on tribune. In addition I want an active moderator in place of current careless, useless & brainless moderator; who does know the differentiation between FOE & insult material.Recommend

  • MonsieurCritique

    If you think Karachi is all that great of a city then you have obviously not seen enough of it. Recommend

  • tj

    Thankyou for writing this!there is soooooooooo much more to Pakistan than the negativities shown in the media.Recommend

  • anand singh

    This is what is needed.

    People must travel across borders and gauge for themselves outside the tinted glasses of the media and Politicians.

    We’ll be surprised with what we find. Recommend

  • Tatheer

    @MonsieurCritique: Jealous you ANTI-PAKISTAN…. there are more then what is just written in this article.
    We have scientist, we have values, we respect to elders, we have love for foreigners we care them, some of ANTI-Pakistan forces working in our territory to destroy our values, our religion and cultures what they don’t have. For the same we are trying to identify those powers and unfortunately some of are known and are super power thus we are facing a tough time. And we believe in one GOD – ALLAH who give us courage to fight against terrorism imposed by the GIANT nation of this world. One day there will be our day …….. we love peace….. we respect religions…. we cares people…….. & we are MUSLIMs & Pakistani.

    sorry for anything which hurts you bye bye.Recommend

  • aheelam

    The author isn’t the first person who is saying that.i have NOT heard of a SINGLE foreign tourist who after visiting Pakistan says something ugly about it!Recommend

  • ethicalman

    nice picture the author painted..but ofcourse the picture is incomplete..Recommend

  • Aleesha Kainat

    Three cheers for the author ! At least someone had the guts to show off what real Pakistan is,let alone blaming it for every act of wrongdoing !
    I hope more and more people get to see what you saw in our Beloved country Pakistan! Recommend

  • Anum

    Karachi is a great city no doubt, the people here have resilience of steel. But the way this city has been left to the mercy of target killers, bhatta mafia, dacoits etc is deplorable, and the people in government are not likely to do anything about because they themselves are involved in such activities.
    Its upto us to get rid of these politicians who are the ones promoting ethnic violence and hatred, and make this city like the Quaid had dreamt of!Recommend

  • GhostRider

    @Author
    Do you know Karachi is home to thousands of Bengalis and Burmese. Bengalis have big wholesale businesses in Karachi. I hope you got the chance to visit traditional pan shops. Over 90% of pan shops are Bengali owned in Karachi and they live here without fear.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely expressed and nothing wrong in your views.
    Looking at a big city from the outside and living in it are two totally different things and should not be confused.Recommend

  • Atif Yousufzai

    Karachi is one of those cities whose population and people are more than few countries, people living outside Karachi and inside Pakistan never seem to digest this amazing life of Karachi.Recommend

  • Gupt Rogue

    So mr author, which city is better. Karachi or dhaka? I want a comparison analysis?Recommend

  • naive

    Karachi is a great city. The people living in the city are to be blamed for the ills of the city and the city by itself is one of the best in the world.Recommend

  • http://Karachi Zaheer

    Thank you Haq for this piece. I appretiate it. As suggested by some commentator here, please write about the commuting system in Dhaka and its food and compare it with Karachi’s food.

    It will be a good read. Thank you and continue writing, especially write something about Bangladeshi economy, banks etc..Recommend

  • http://mozumbus.blogspot.com/2012/04/pakistan-second-love-of-latvian.html Muzzammil

    Thanks Emdad for your frank opinion. In the recant past, I got the chance to meet and host quite a few foreign travelers. All of them had one thing in common, the surprise about the difference between the media perception and their own first hand experience. Among other things, this phenomenon suggests a lot about media’s capacity of blowing things out of proportion and painting an incomplete (agenda oriented) picture. Recommend

  • Saadiya

    Yes , we may have problems . But which country hasn’t

    For all those with negitive comments

    One does not burns ones home because , our neighbour has a better home

    What have you done to improve the situation ?Recommend

  • Saadiya

    Yes , we may have problems . But which country hasn’t

    For all those with negitive comments

    One does not burns ones home because , our neighbour has a better home

    What have you done to improve the situation ?Recommend

  • papoo piplia

    Karachi is the greatest city in the world.Recommend

  • bangladeshi

    he is talking great about pakistan because compare to pakistan, bangladesh is absolutely rubbish country thats why he finds everything good in pakistan. he came from the worst place of the world.Recommend

  • Vikas

    Yeah Dude..your ancestors would also have enjoyed …in 1971…Recommend

  • Nandita

    I hope to visit Karachi soon. I can’t wait My sister visited a few years ago and met some really nice people, specially boys. I would love to do the same.Recommend

  • Saleha

    Loved every word of your article and I felt so sad that our country is such a great tourist attraction and can actually make money on just tourism only if the conditions were suitable. We can only pray for peace and stability.Recommend

  • Vigilant

    @Vikas:
    Some-one is burning :)Recommend

  • Ammarttitude

    Thats what we’re about – proud to be a Pakistani..Recommend

  • Yamna Hassan

    I actually wanna stand up and clap for this one! I’m glad such a positive article crossed my eyes for a change :)
    Long live Karachi! Recommend

  • THE

    Thank you for being positive and giving the true side of the story. We love Pakistan and Karachi is the back bone of Pakistan. Recommend

  • Amer

    @Author: You are always welcome in Pakistan. Actually, while reading your blog, I was thinking this was once your country as well and Karachi has never been a strange place for the people of Bangladesh. We have more then a million people of Bangali decent living here. I don’t call them Bangladeshi since they are Pakistanis and I do respect that Bangladesh is a seperate country now. I wish I have a chance to visit Bangladesh some day and meet some nice people like yourself, I have met numerous Bangladeshi nationals living in the UAE and have had some interesting conversations. Just over the weekend, I was having tea with a Bangladeshi machanic and he was saying that Pakistan has negative things coming out everyday. I told him, if you go to Karachi or any other place in Pakistan, life mostly is just as usual, I do know the reality, I do wish it was better but there are alot of positives to be happy about as well. Recommend

  • http://usa roger

    lol karachi one of the least livable city…a guy from coming from even worse city will obviously like karachi……….except the food there( which i found spicy but good) ….everything sucks in karachi….Recommend

  • Socko`

    @Tatheer:
    so what about a pakistani who lives in karachi and is not a MUSLIM… ?Recommend

  • Maria

    I am sure as a Bangladeshi you have soon learned how the people in Pakistan, especially in Karachi like to overdramatize and make small things spectacular. It comes from a media that will scare the public and people in order to sell newspapers. In the US and Europe the government and media try to reassure the public and calm things down but in Pakistan the government and media like to cry out loud and dramatize things more – even if it’s a small thing. Look at how the US has moved on despite several high profile killings of people and rampant gun violence. More people die in a major US city than any city in Pakistan except Karachi where the numbers are the same.Recommend

  • nitish

    @Socko`: Karachi is hell place for them….Recommend

  • A

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed your experience in our country.Recommend

  • Zahra Haroon

    Loved it!!! So happy to hear such remarks.Recommend

  • Dr. Priyanka

    I too want to visit karachi & meet boys. As fed up of watching faces in india.Recommend

  • wizzies

    All good! Just one little question …

    Where the hell did you see men and women wearing “Sindhi Topis” in Karachi . ??

    Great article though,…Thumbs Up!Recommend

  • Adeel Ahmed

    Karachi is the one of the biggest city of Pakistan as well as world’s seventh largest city.i am its citizen and i know how charming life is in Karachi.As student of history it is my view point that because of bad circumstances in Karachi in last 3 or 2 decades,the whole economy of city was destroyed and Dubai became the Asian tiger. Recommend

  • Mohaiminul Islam

    Karachi and Dhaka’s population is almost same. Chittagong’s population is one-fifth of Karachi. Otherwise, I would have compared Karachi to Chittagong.Recommend

  • Virkaul

    Chittagong is a small town. Don’t compare it with metros like Karachi or Dhaka.Recommend