The Vice Guide to Karachi will not render my love for the city void

Published: June 15, 2012
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Recently, I came across a documentary – the Vice Guide to Karachi – a short film based on the heart of Pakistan. Shot during the recent Lyari operation, this five-part documentary shows one of the many sides to this big city. Describing Karachi as an ultra-violent metropolis of Pakistan, the documentary specifically revolves around the problems that have given the city the title of being the most violent.

In 2011 more than three times as many people were killed in Karachi than the number of people killed in American drone strikes.

This statistic stated early on sets the whole tone for the documentary. It serves to provide an eerily real feel to the target killing stories we so nonchalantly ignore everyday.

“I don’t trust others, I trust myself and my Klashnikov.”

These are words straight out of the mouth of a politician, Nabil Gabol, that aptly insinuate that there is no law and order system in Karachi. What is surprising is that Gabol is travelling in a bullet-proof car, with cars full of guards in front and behind him. Yet, he clutches his Klashnikov close to his chest as though his life – literally- depends on it.

“They cut their nose, they cut their hands and even they cut their throat also.”

These startling fact is casually stated as though it is a mundane part of everyday life. It is even followed by a ‘no problem’ as Gabol points to all the shops that are still open despite the violence in the area.

This, is a true testament to the reliance of the city.

If you think this testimony portrays the city in a negative light, you are in for a treat as the chilling interview with a target-killer is yet to come.

The man who has been in this profession of 18 years and who opted to kill people due to ‘berozgari’ (unemployment) made me shake with fear. Responding to the question ‘How many people have you killed’, he states casually 30 – 35. If you think poeple like these only exist in movies, you are in for a big surprise.

“Pehlay 6 target killers thay, ab 600 hain.”

(At first there were six target-killers, now there are 600.)

These words left me restless for days, especially after the fact that the target-killer openly stated that he has mistakenly killed the wrong person many-a-times.

Having argued with my friend who said the documentary makes a mockery out of a very serious issue, I still think nothing shown in the video is out-of-sync.

Yet, even after watching this documentary, and knowing that I, and all other Karachites face a very threat every single day, I am still convinced that Karachi is the city for me. It is my city.

I have literally begged my friends from other parts of the country to visit me in Karachi but to no avail. They simply refuse to come here because they think it’s a war zone. Despite bragging about the city all the time, I have always failed to convince people that it is not that unsafe after all.

They have seen the images of cars being burnt down and have read about cases of people having holes drilled into their bodies.

My lobbying is mere enthusiasm for them, and this documentary has served as the final nail in the coffin.

We have target killers, we have a fragile security situation and life here is unpredictable. But as I said earlier, violence is just one of the many faces of Karachi. There have been instances where the city was shut down for days, but that didn’t stop the fashionistas from walking the ramp.

I won’t say that the documentary was one-sided or wrongly portrayed Karachi in a bad light because that was the topic of the video. The documentary was not about Karachi’s diversity, its financial contribution to the country or its fashion scene. Why documentaries don’t focus on the better sides of the city is another debate.

It might be absurd to say, but I guess the documentary, which showed the darkest side of Karachi, made me more proud of the fact that I belong to this city. For me, Karachi is all about resilience, about bouncing back to life after days of inane violence.

We might be rightly called cockroaches because we refuse to die.

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Ferya Ilyas

Ferya Ilyas

A sub editor on the Web Desk of The Express Tribune. She tweets @ferya_ilyas (twitter.com/ferya_ilyas)

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