Karachi is blasphemous, Lahore is not

Published: March 2, 2014
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In Karachi, buses are loaded as never in Lahore and each one bears signs of being burnt or smashed.There is no rapid transit bus system, such as Lahore possesses, no clampdown on late and noisy wedding such as in Lahore and no controls on the menu.

In Karachi, buses are loaded as never in Lahore and each one bears signs of being burnt or smashed. There is no rapid transit bus system, such as Lahore possesses, no clampdown on late and noisy weddings such as in Lahore and no controls on the menu. PHOTO: REUTERS In Karachi, buses are loaded as never in Lahore and each one bears signs of being burnt or smashed.There is no rapid transit bus system, such as Lahore possesses, no clampdown  on late and noisy wedding such as in Lahore and no controls on the menu.

If blasphemy is defined as ‘irreverent behaviour towards anything sacred’, Karachi is blasphemous; a city where something as sacred as human life is irreverently and disdainfully extinguished.

As January limped to a close, three health workers administering anti-polio drops to children were shot dead. Bullet-ridden bodies of three young men were discovered and a police officer was gunned down in a suspected targeted attack.

And yet, it is in Karachi, much more so than in Lahore, that a bastion of sharafat (respectability) is present; it is here that strangers smile at you, people say thank you for services rendered or stand aside and allow you to pass. In this sense, it is hard to decide where the blasphemy lies.

Karachi’s heritage including the Empress Market, Frere Hall, Jinnah’s home and Mohatta Palace has been lovingly preserved. When the Indus Valley School was founded by a group of concerned citizens in 1989, the building was transported to the site brick by brick from a location further away.

Karachi is where enterprise is most valued.

It is home to some of the country’s oldest and best newspapers and magazines; its businessmen are the best in the country. Rarely in Karachi does one encounter the Lahori shopkeeper picking his teeth or worse while a customer fruitlessly searches the shelves.

While Lahoris reel from the food street wars and meet over three-tiered trolleys in ornate drawing rooms, you meet friends in Karachi at a show or over a dossa or cappuccino at one of its innumerable cafes. What’s more, you go there without dolling up, in the same clothes you’ve been wearing since yesterday and without blonde streaks in your hair.

Yes, blasphemy is a many faceted word, and Karachi a multifaceted city.

In Karachi, I saw a little ragged boy no more than six-years-old, weave through cars to a water tanker to fill a can from a tap set into its side. The driver leant out but did not stop the child; the urchin grinned in thanks and darted back before the traffic light turned green.

The whole incident was so illustrative of the symbiotic relationships that thrive in this massive city seemingly so alive but where nothing would survive if such relationships did not exist. All it needs is peace for its enterprise to flourish; a peace that appears to be extinct.

Violence is the old man on this Sindbad’s shoulder, slowly throttling it to death.

It would be a rare Karachiite who has not had his purse or phone snatched, his car taken away at gunpoint or his home broken into by armed men. You live in this city alongside gun battles, strikes and public transport shut-downs. Car owners skirt troubled areas with practiced ease while those who use public transport are forced to take expensive rickshaws instead of buses to work and back. On the worst occasions, neither buses and rickshaws, nor cars can run. Absenteeism in schools and workplaces is high.

In Karachi’s Defence and Clifton, there is no Shahbaz Sharif to focus manically on a few issues. Even these ‘elite’ areas are dirty with large tracts of windblown rubbish dumps; the overwhelming issues of the people of Landhi, Korangi and Lyari are beyond the imagination and remit of this piece.

In Karachi, buses are loaded as never seen in Lahore and each one bears signs of being burnt or smashed at some point. There is no rapid transit bus system such as the one Lahore possesses, no clampdown on late and noisy wedding parties such as in Lahore and no controls on the menu.

Will Karachi ever be able to shake the old man off like Sindbad did?

My hopes are pinned on that boy with the jerry can.

It is from such roots that many of Karachi’s entrepreneurs have sprung up and many of its volunteers and workers, such as those who run the Edhi ambulances, go where no man would care to go. Maybe that child’s native ingenuity and of those like him can weave a path around Karachi’s troubles in a way that more privileged scions cannot do, before the lights turn red forever on this tortured but still pulsing port city.

Karachi encapsulates the entire gamut of problems that separately beset the country; overwhelming problems relating to ethnic and religious diversity, poverty and above all, an absence of governance.

The result is its dire absence of security.

In Lahore, one is able to catch a glimpse of what can be achieved in however small a way when someone, anyone, cares, for however selfish a reason.

That is the difference that makes all the difference.

It is also what makes Lahore the better place to live, despite all Karachi’s attractions, interests and dynamism.

Rabia.Ahmed

Rabia Ahmed

The author is a freelance writer and translator.

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

  • Kay Jay

    The people of this city are real and genuine… Hahaha!
    Fake pretense is the Second name of the city.Recommend

  • PK

    Lahore Lahore ay!Recommend

  • Uzman

    But to be honest – Ppl from karachi are extremely self-centered and materialistic!!

    Lahories might be all show-off and stuff but no where like karachites!

    Lagta hai karachi k paani kuch hai!Recommend

  • Ammar

    God Bless our Beloved City and its Residents

    Sincerely, a Pakistani :)Recommend

  • tungi

    o common!down with comparisons!ppl prefer to live in places they grew up in and learn to love it!ask an afghani in london where he would like to live in, and he wud say afghanistan no matter how unsafe it isRecommend

  • Unknown

    There are other cities in Pakistan as well. Why no one talks about them? Karachi and Lahore are overloaded. It is better to develop small cities and make them provincial capitals. Lets promote the idea that Larkana should be made capital of Sindh and Multan the capital of Punjab, Just like Albani (a smaller city) is a capital of New York state although New York city is a much larger city than Albani.Recommend

  • Aqa

    Couldn’t agree more. The authors subtly described Lahores shallowness and Karachi’s genuinity ! Recommend

  • Muhammad Ahmed Tariq

    this is exactly where we have gone wrong, koi karachi wala koi lahori.
    where is the unity? we are Pakistanis! WAKE UP!Recommend

  • Muhammad Ahmed Tariq

    this is exactly where we have gone wrong, koi karachi wala koi lahori.
    where is the unity? we are Pakistanis! WAKE UP!Recommend

  • Nosheen Khalid

    Doesn’t look like Rabia Ahmed has ever been to Lahore! I’ve lived in both cities and grown up abroad so I can safely say, with out been so biased, that Lahore is a far better place to live anytime! Its disgusting to see an article like this; She should be out helping out and exchanging smiles! The shallowness and materialism I’ve seen in Karachi doesn’t exist in any other city in Pakistan. I suggest you print neutral articles by writers who can see the charm of every city. Dolled up? Hardly, the girls are just more beautiful than those in Karachi! Extremely disappointed with The Express Tribune for printed such a biased piece!Recommend

  • Bazinga

    Please stop doing Indian trolls and stalkers a favour would ya.

    A key difference between Lahore and Karachi is that in Shabaz Sharif’s eyes, Punjab begins and ends in Lahore. It’s simple as ABC. Name a city as developed as Lahore in Punjab?
    While Karachi is truly multifaceted, it is the bone of contention for terrorists who are trying to devour it like a belligerent hound. But let’s face it, it’s Karachi, the once hub of prosperity which has the will to rise again and no matter what, it will remain our principal backbone. And in this time of the hour, it is paramount that such comparisons are not made as Lahore too is our country’s heart that just resuscitates our dampened spirits and usually, is really full of liveliness..

    To Indian trolls..Buzz off!Recommend

  • Hayaa khurshid

    I like the article, but seriously? lahore is a better place to live? The narrow minded mentality of even those who qualify as the ‘elites’? As someone that alternates between karachi and lahore every six months, I can truly say that despite of the bombs, Karachi doesn’t care about issues which are so trivial that can leave Lahoris scandalized for years. I have love for both cities. Lahoris are welcoming, warming, and they genuinely have values that most karachiites have surpassed in favor of advancement. However, the final statement is too definitive. I think both cities are the best cities to live in, if you are a native. However, put a Karachite in Lahore and see them sweat. Put a Lahori in Karachi and see them panic. Its like oranges and apples. You just can’t compare.Recommend

  • Humza

    I am afraid you don’t know the dangers and difficulties the Afghani in London had to endure to make it to London or anywhere in the West. Most Afghanis you see in the West are refugees who had to hide and smuggle themselves illegally in order to claim asylum for fear of death in their homeland – not like Pakistanis who travel overseas on visas with job skills. So no, I disagree that any Afghani refugee wants to go back because he ran away in the first place. But I agree with the comments that say we should stop unnecessary comparisons between cities in Pakistan – both Lahore and Karachi are beautiful in their own way. When Karachi becomes as safe as cities in Punjab, more people will see the charm of that city.Recommend

  • RAms

    I am a lahori. But first and foremost I am a Pakistani. All of our cities are beautiful and unique and have something different to offer to people. While I appreciate your article I can’t support articles of this context because it just raises more arguments and ethnic divides amongst our people. I just think these types of discussions are better suited for a different time when our countrymen are not killing one another over petty differences and ethnic pride, religious superiority, etc. etc.
    I know that you probably didn’t write this article in that context, but I just felt like a conversation on unity is more important.Recommend

  • Thumbs up for “genuinity”. Ha!Recommend

  • Zahra

    Dear Tribune, stop putting up stupid blogs like this. I know they will spark a lot of conversation and Website Hits, but do you know what a damage you are doing by cultivating such divides?

    For the author: Yours is just another pointless blog. Judging people by their city? And if you’re living in one city, how can you even talk about those in other cities?

    Also, what do you even mean when you say, “In Lahore, one is able to catch a glimpse of what can be achieved in however small a way when someone, anyone, cares, for however selfish a reason.”…. That’s just poor writing skills when it’s not a smooth read.Recommend

  • Tanzeel Ahmad

    Lahore should be compared to Faisalabad, not Karachi. There is no comparison of
    K A R A C H I with Lahore.Recommend

  • Dee

    Karachiites , Lahoris , Islooites !?? Do we REALLY need to write articles to discriminate between the cities and their cultures? Can’t we all simply live as Pakistanis ? -_-Recommend

  • KalimKhan

    What was the article about seriously? to create a war between karachites and lahoris? if so you have been failed to do so. Recommend

  • Oats

    I don’t know what cities you are talking about but many of Punjab’s cities have improved- not only Lahore. Lahore is the biggest city and provincial capital as well as cultural capital so no one in Punjab is upset about Lahore’s development. I have family in Sialkot and Rawalpindi and I have seen how both of these cities are doing well too. Shahbaz Sharif has done a good job in uplifting Punjab’s cities in general. The same can be accomplished for the cities of Sind if the leadership there can be as committed to improving things on the ground. I will be happy to see all cities in Pakistan improve because I love all of the cities of the country.Recommend

  • Bazinga

    Well the cities in South Punjab mostly, they’re a mess as compared to Lahore. True it’s the provincial capital but that does not make it prestigious. To be a leader who claims to be the “Khadim” of his province, one mustn’t hasten back and just focus on his command post, he should also oblige other cities and districts that rely on corrupt and nuisance of MNAs and MPAs. (From Multan)
    Well Sindh is different culturally in that it has the feudal system employed in the more inner parts of the province and which has accounted for its diminishing form of development as bonded and child labour are practiced there frequently.

    Recommend

  • Dr. Rizwan

    Every city of Pakistan is preciousRecommend

  • sterry

    You forget that most Afghans in Western countries live on state social assistance or state khayrat. Most Afghans I see in Canada do not work but just rely on the government. Why would they want to give up free money and not work to go back to Afghanistan where there is nothing?Recommend

  • Arxl Sher

    Aunty! Not a good time to invoke hate among cities. We could really use some unity promoting writing now a days…. Recommend