A Lahori’s first visit to Karachi

Published: December 7, 2016
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Lets hope that one of the most important cities of Pakistan will start looking a lot better in the times to come. PHOTO: KIRAN WALI

This summer, I had the chance to pay a short visit to Karachi – a city I’ve never had the opportunity to visit before. Soon after landing and taking a cab to the hotel, we started hearing stories of locals out and about in the city. This aged driver, who drove us to our hotel, told us how, for the last few months, Karachi has been a lot more peaceful because of the Rangers’ operation. He also said,

“This operation should be extended to the entire province to ensure complete implementation of law and order.”

That driver was not the only one who felt that the Ranger’s operation brought peace in the city. Almost every other Karachiite we met had similar views. One of our acquaintances said,

“Before, things used to be so bad that we would not even take out our cell phones, when we were out on the roads, out of fear that they’d be snatched. Now, it’s a lot safer.”

The first thing to greet us was the lovely breeze of Karachi which, for a Lahori, was great respite in the monsoon season; at this time in Lahore, the weather is extremely suffocating. The cool breeze is one thing that I thoroughly enjoyed during my entire stay in Karachi.

The lovely view from my hotel room. The trees prove how breezy it was in the city.

As is usual, I asked friends and acquaintances to recommend places I could explore, considering I was visiting for the first time. There was one place that everyone insisted upon; a restaurant known as Kolachi at Do Darya; although some of them sarcastically suggested that I also visit Nine Zero and Katti Pahari. Of course, they were not being serious in those suggestions.

Beaches are a place that someone living in a land-locked area like Lahore would definitely want to visit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare so we could only visit the Clifton beach on a Sunday evening. It turned out to be an extremely awful experience since it was the weekend and it was incredibly crowded, noisy, and surrounded with trash.

Surprisingly, there were people around that were selling water in disposable bottles of various sizes for washing one’s feet after enjoying the beach. Even we had to buy it since there was no tap water around.

Your visit to a new place remains incomplete if you don’t try its specialty foods. When it comes to experiencing Karachi, biryani is one thing one must not forget to try. So we ended up at a road-side restaurant at Boat Basin and ordered some handi biryani, which is cooked and served in an earthen pot (hence ‘handi’). Thankfully, the taste met expectations; unlike the biryani that’s available in Lahore. Even though Lahore is a foodie’s paradise, biryani (with needs all the right spices and ingredients) is frankly not made properly at its eateries.

As suggested, we did make a visit to Kolachi. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong day to go (the same Sunday that we had visited the beach). Since it was the weekend and dinner time, Kolachi was s0 crowded that we would’ve had to wait for at least an hour to get a table. Hence, we dropped the idea and went to another nearby restaurant which was fine too. In any case, Do Darya, the place itself was quite mesmerising and a great place to spend your evening.

Another specialty of Karachi that I’ve come across is the sohan halwa which I bought from Rehmat e Shirin at Jinnah International Airport just before leaving to take back for family (upon their request). I specifically mentioned ‘Karachi’s sohan halwa’ here because there is a famous Multani dessert that is also called sohan halwa, and they’re two entirely different things. In Karachi, that Multani dessert is called Habshi Halwa.

A friend took me to Dolmen Mall which I was told was the biggest mall of Pakistan, for now anyway, until Lahore’s Emporium Mall becomes fully functional. PAF Museum was another great place to visit; it’s not only a rich museum, it’s also a recreational space.

PAF Museum was another great place to visit; it’s not only a rich museum, it’s also a recreational space.

It was definitely a treat to learn things about the Pakistan Air force and the great men who have served our country till date.

It was definitely a treat to learn things about the Pakistan Air force.

And the great men who have served our country till date.

There are obvious differences between Karachi and Lahore. The former has a more ethnically diverse population made apparent while visiting public places. This is probably because a port city offers a vast number of opportunities to earn a living and thus attracts people from across the country. After the short visit to the city, my fellow companions felt that Karachi is more liberal than Lahore, especially when it comes to female dressing.

When it comes to Karachi’s airport, it is far better than Lahore’s. Thankfully, the impression one has once they’ve stepped out of the Lahore airport changes the initial disappointment (the greenery and cleanliness wins everyone over). There is a considerable variety of small eateries at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, something lacking at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport.

However, Karachi has its cons, and quite big ones at that. Considering that Karachi attracts so many people, it should be developed and equipped with good infrastructure. However, this is not the case. It’s only after visiting Karachi that I realised how well the Punjab government has developed Lahore. It’s no wonder that a frequent traveller to Karachi once said to me,

“Come to Karachi and you’ll start loving the Sharifs (for all the development they have done in Lahore)!”

Karachi has big buildings but most of them look very old and ill-maintained. Same goes for the bridges, which aren’t just old; they’re filthy as they’re laden with garbage. Trash on bridges is a sight I have never come across in Lahore.

Trash on bridges is a sight I have never come across in Lahore.

But it’s not just bridges; holistically speaking, Karachi is a filthy city because garbage is dumped almost everywhere.

Karachi is a filthy city because garbage is dumped almost everywhere.

Besides this, there is excessive air pollution as well which adds to the terribly unhealthy environment.

Another thing I noticed in Karachi was that everything is ‘so far away’. Being a large city, it is a very common phrase heard in Karachi. Getting late seems to be a common problem owing to the ‘distance and traffic’, since it is a big city that is home to a huge population.

Since Karachi is the economic hub of the country, it deserves its fair share of development and maintenance. Unfortunately the political parties that have been ruling it for years only seem concerned about controlling the city rather than working towards making it better. Comparatively, Punjab has developed its main city quite well and one can clearly feel the difference in a single visit.

Introduction of campaigns like ‘Clean it’ and ‘Fix it’ makes us hopeful of growing awareness among Karachiites to fix the city within their own capacities. Moreover, with the new Chief Minister in place, lets hope that one of the most important cities of Pakistan will start looking a lot better in the times to come.

May Karachi achieve the peace and prosperity that it rightly deserves!

All photos: Kiran Wali

Kiran Wali

Kiran Wali

A business graduate working in the corporate sector. She tweets @KiranW_ (twitter.com/KiranW_)

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

  • Patwari

    Great article. You can also say it’s an eye opener for
    people who live in Kar. Because they live in a sprawling
    trash bin. Trash is everywhere. The people have to
    wade through it on a daily basis….to get anywhere.
    Reason being the ‘alleged’ PM, Nawaz sends most of the
    Federal money to his younger brother in Punjab. His
    little brother is the Chief Minister there. This mini brother
    builds sub standard roads, flyovers, bus stops, drains,
    Green and Purple Lines. [Nobody knows what these
    lines are or where they go] Some historical places
    and heritage sites were destroyed during the construction
    Since 120 million Punjabis live there, it is a vote bank
    to win the rigged elections again and again and again…..
    you get the point?
    Rest of the country and go to Hades in a basket, as far as
    these brothers are concerned.
    Including Kar.Recommend

  • Grace

    Lahore and cities in Punjab are cleaner and more green because people take pride in their homes there. Karachi is starting to return to normal since the Rangers have cleaned things up but people also have to do their part to improve their cities like people in Punjab. The main thing when you drive around cities in Punjab is that things are greener and cleaner and more organized.Recommend

  • Zarrar Akhtar

    Thanks Kiran for thhis article about my beloved city.Recommend

  • tahir ahmed

    Well written article. We all feel the same and just live on hope that one day things will improve. I dont blame the ppl in power but us who vote for them to put us in this situation. Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Karachi does 70% of entire Pakistan’s business. Enough said.Recommend

  • Hassan

    True. Karachi was never a trash bin ever, but they made it become one, btw After CPEC and Karachi being part of it has changed alot, now there r 2000 trash carrier is boarded on chinese port now lets see when they arrived how well do Chinese firms do.Recommend

  • It does not. According to some estimates, 70% of the tax revenue (likely just sales tax) is collected from Karachi. But this is because Karachi is where most sales tax payers are headquartered. They do their business all over the country (so the revenue comes from everywhere) but pay tax to the FBR in Karachi.Recommend

  • Rohan

    From one jihad town to another ,what’s the differenceRecommend

  • Sane

    Stop Indian troll. This is not your subject. You look at hungry and naked people in Indian cities. What you talk about Jihad, your PM Modi is a renowned terrorist and killer of thousand of Muslims.Recommend

  • Anonymous Rebel

    Indians and their obsession with Pakistan :)Recommend

  • Humza

    Does anyone really think that Karachi has become unsafe or dirty the last few years under Nawaz Sharif? I don’t think so. It is due to years of voting for the wrong type of people that Karachi has become the way it has. If anything, the current government has improved the security situation there. Also people in Karachi are taking note of the improvements in Punjab ans demand the same from their own provincial leaders.Blaming another province for the inaction of your own provincial government never amounts to anything but shows a mindset that is quick to complain but slow to work. Hopefully the increased investment from the improving economy will benefit Karachi as much as any other city. Karachi deserves to regain its glory. For too long, people have been saying don’t go to Karachi because of safety and just stay in Lahore but that now has changed because of improved security.Recommend

  • Rohan

    we are still better than you by milesRecommend

  • Patwari

    But…but…well..see…you being a citizen of Punjab,
    does not realize that money is needed too. To haul the
    trash and dispose it. The citizens can bring their daily quota
    of trash and deposit it at a location,…but it STAYS there!!!
    It’s not removed to a landfill or otherwise disposed off. Because
    there is no money, for the local government, to do so. Why?
    Because the Federal Money, just about 90% of it, is shunted to
    Punjab.
    The remaining left over money… stays in the Ditch….you follow?
    Now, then,…do you understand this simple conundrum? Nope.
    Do understand Kar is the Economic and Financial hub of the Land
    of the Pure. Yet it has no money. Because it’s share of infra structure
    money, simply goes to Punjab!!!Recommend

  • Ahmar khan

    A very accurate and balanced article about Karachi.Recommend

  • Tanzeel Ahmad

    Interesting blog but there are many things that need to be considered before making opinion about Karachi. First things first whenever you travel in Cab esp from Airport you need to guess ethnicity of the driver. Non Karachite he will praise LeAs as if they have turned the city into heaven.

    If you request the same driver to stay aside and talk on your mobile phone on the main road for 5 minutes he would never do this dare. So law and order is not improved and street crime is all time high here.

    Secondly political parties who actually don’t belong to Karachi want to control the city despite being in power, they are doing nothing to improve instrastructure etc

    Karachites and locak polital parties never get share in Govt and administration at all. You can see how Karachi Nazim begging for rights to develop the city. Karachi has administrative issues that can only be fixed if local govt is strengthened and elected reps given chance to administer this city.Recommend

  • hindu

    so….then what ….venom does not mean reality u ….but the reality is the avg indian is better off …gdp per capita…n 10 times the size of ur paki economy…Recommend

  • Sane

    your gdp per capita could not cover naked bodies of your population and give food to their empty stomachs. ……. Still average Indian is better off…….ha…ha….ha….Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    All port cities do booming business because of their contact with the sea.
    Even if branches are located in entire Pakistan the headquarter is in Karachi.
    Karachi could have been reat but because of policies of MQM , it has become a hub of violence.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Just Stop.
    MQM has been in power in karachi for as long as i can remember.
    For a highly educated party it does not know how to pick up trash.
    Has MQM ever brought this matter in assembly.
    Not that i can remember.
    Instead Bhai has proudly played the muhajir card many many times.
    So instead of playing the muhajir card if he could have played the budget card he would have been more believed.
    So what are you talking about?
    If garbage is not picked in Punjab Shahbaz Sharif loses votes .
    Recommend

  • sterry

    It just goes to show you that the whole myth of being some kind of party for the educated is nothing but a farce. By supporting MQM, the people of Karachi only damaged their own city and brought about the insecurity there. Who wants to roam the streets of Karachi where there are thugs and gangs everywhere. When I saw brainwashed people sitting in crowds listening to Altaf Bhai screaming incoherently from London and cursing Pakistan, I knew that there is really something wrong in Karachi. Thank God, he was exposed for the anti Pakistan RAW agent that he is. But like all good agents, he wants to stay around and keep harming Pakistan instead of just going back to India where he cried about the tragedy of Muhajirs.Recommend

  • Patwari

    This comment was edited by hindu paid moderators.
    It does not make any sense, after the censorship.Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    Does the money travel to Punjab on the wings of an eagle?What a ridiculous argument.Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    Indians should thank God that people of your type left their country.Recommend

  • hore choopo

    no one has ever claimed that karachi’s income goes to punjab.Recommend

  • ovais

    I like your honesty . my city has suffered alot thanks to PPP to bad we have no other national party in sindh . Blame the PM for that vaccum so the only option we have is to believe in imran or MQMRecommend

  • abc

    Says more about the rest of Pakistan than it does about KarachiRecommend

  • abc

    Much safer to be Shia or Ahmadiyaa or human in India.Recommend

  • abc

    You can’t even hold a cricket match. ha ha! The technology for cricket is too much for you.Recommend

  • Baffled

    Lahore has been developed at the cost of Karachi .The establishment belongs to Punjab and the Govt of Sindh belongs to interior Sindh .The former ensured the flight of capital to Punjab the latter to its boss bank account .Recommend

  • Baffled

    “Dont go to Karachi ” ?? Are you kidding .Each year 2-3 million people is migrating to Karachi from Punjab .Recommend

  • sterry

    So when the people of Karachi vote for parties who do nothing for Karachi, you want to blame Punjab and the “establishment” ! How about holding your own elected officials to account and asking them to do more? Musharraf was from Karachi and he did nothing in a decade but Shahbaz Sharif has been working for Punjab’s cities for a while. No one believes the outright lie of money from Karachi being spent on Lahore or any other city. You will hear stories of Shahbaz Sharif going out and personally inspecting projects in Punjab’s cities including Lahore – do you expect him to inspect work in Karachi too or do you forget he was elected provincially? Just vote for the right people and see Karachi improve like Lahore and other Punjab cities.Recommend

  • Wirsha Shahid Uddin

    Karachi leads the country..Recommend

  • Patwari

    Exactly!! They should have Provincial Border Control.
    People from other provinces need to be turned back
    at the border. Karachi is not an ATM machine for thugs,
    extremists, terrorists, Afghans, gangs, banned outfits
    speculators and other riff raff that floats in to Karachi.
    No one from any province, SPECIALLY from Punjab.
    should be allowed to come to Sindh [meaning Karachi]
    Punjab is the home of every banned extremist outfit.
    Karachi’s population of 25 million has simply put an extreme
    burden on EVERY facility. Overtaxed it. And they keep coming.
    Live and be happy in YOUR province. Don’t come to Karachi.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Sure. Shahbaz goes around on his bicycle, making sure all
    traffic lights are working. Every year, after the rainy season
    he stands in knee deep water, chin in hand, looking troubled,
    for the TV cameras. Again and again, year after year. Nobody
    knows where the money to fix the drains goes. All the orphans
    and widows are fed and kept warm by Uncle Shahbaz. He also
    managed to have 14 men and women killed during the Model
    Town Massacre. Faisalabad has no working incubators for
    newborns.in ANY hospital!! About 34 babies die each year,
    who would be alive if the incubators were working. Nobody
    knows where the money to fix them, goes. Millions of school
    age children have never seen the inside of a school.
    Could be all the money siphoned off from Kar is sitting in Panama!1
    Somehow he managed to come up with $34 millions dollars to
    pay a fine in England. This pertains to a real estate holding
    company doing a scam and got caught. Now $34 million is not
    chump change.[On a Chief Minister’s salary.!!!]
    Yes, Uncle Shahbaz is doing a lot for the Punjabi peons, basically
    amounting to window dressing. Nothing else.Recommend

  • True Karachiwala

    I tried to ignore it, forget it. But I could not. It is disgusting to read that some sarcastically suggested to a lahori to visit “Kati Pahari”. Madam, there dozens of Karachiites were slaughtered after verifying their ethnic back ground through CNICs. It’s tragedies like this that now “nine zero” is to be suggested to a visitor for a visit. Speaks volumes of the mentality prevalent in “Pakistan ka dil” city where you are coming from.Recommend

  • True Karachiwala

    Sterrry, I believe you are an educated person as you are master over English, an obvious sign here in Pakistan. After reading your comments, I can safely say your understanding of political and administrative system is almost zero. Karachi is facing extreme population pressure. every year Karachi’s population is increased by the size of Quetta’s. Resources are allocated by center on population basis. That’s why Punjab is reluctant to create Seraiki province which will result in lesser population of Central Punjab, and thus fewer resources in the hands of Lahore. That’s why Karachi’s population is officially stated to be 12 million, whereas it is in any case not less than 30 million. Imagine if it is admitted at central level what will be the scenario ? National assembly seats, provincial assembly seats, senate seats have to be increased, CM of Sindh will be from urban area and every other thing will be changed. Therefore it’s in the interest of both PML N and PP to not hold census, if it has to be then understate Karachi’s population. Center gives Sindh’s share to its provincial government which in turn gives nothing to Karachi, instead are looted by waderas. Thus you see what Karachi gets to even maintain the city what to say of new developments. Read newspapers and you will come to know that even salaries of municipal employees are in arrears for two or three months. Karachi has always been opposition city. PP being in province and PML N in Centre is happy to leave Karachi unattended because doing so wont hurt their interests. As Central and provincial governments dumb and deaf towards Karachi, now left Local Government to address issues. YOU MUST KNOW THAT THERE IS NO LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN PAKISTAN, INCLUDING KARACHI. So, who going to solve now, no one. Karachi has been voting for MQM for the last 30 years, why it has not solved the problems ? The answer has been given above. As for crime, just gather the data of crimes PS wise and you ( at least every Karachiites can easily do) will see who is who of the criminals (Kati pahari, Liyari, Sohrab Goth are in Karachi but…I am not saying these are only areas what I want to say every one has his share in current situation). Karachi has criminal from every part of the country, after all it’s mini Pakistan. Does Lahore or Punjab has as many Afghans as Karachi has, and that too since Afghan war ? no. Try to have half of Afghans in Lahore and Punjab then after one year share your experience with us. I can’t sum up here but hope you will start thinking objectively.Recommend

  • sterry

    A long winded reply that ignores the obvious. Musharraf ruled as an absolute dictator for a decade and couldn’t fix Karachi even though it was his home constituency. Not only did he control the centre but he had control provincially and over the city of Karachi too. He had his self appointed peons at every level who did nothing with this absolute control.Why did it take the Rangers and help from outside to finally bring a semblance of order to Karachi? You may blame the provincial government of Sind and the Federal government in Islamabad but at some point you have to own up to your own inadequacies. Passing the buck and blaming others doesn’t resonate any more because Karachi has been cleaned up in just a few years with the Rangers. People in Karachi need to take pride in their cities and environs like people do elsewhere in Pakistan. Have you heard a Lahori curse Lahore ? Unheard of. Ditto for Faisalabad, Peshawar or any other city despite the clear challenges and inadequacies in all of our cities. Yes there is a large population in Karachi including undocumented migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and elsewhere but then people should put pressure on the provincial government to limit the number of people moving to Karachi. I am not Sindhi but I have always said first preference in Sind should be given to native Sindhis in their own land. Sindhis blaming Muhajirs, Punjabis, Pashtuns or others is not the answer to assist Karachi.Recommend

  • True Karachiwala

    First of all thank you for reading my comment. Secondly it’s good that at least you replied, though with same hackneyed reasons. You just second my reasoning: ownership. You correctly say Lahori owns Lahore, etc. How come almost half of Karachi’s population which is here from upcountry will own this city when they have no emotional link with this great city ? Again, dear Musharraf did not take over for Karachi. Yes, he managed to give Karachi what it deserves to a great extent, but again basic governance system did not change. Things are now as beforeRecommend