A Bangladeshi perspective on Karachi

Published: September 15, 2012
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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.