August 19, 2011

bus-burning-karachi-violence-2010The threads one hears and reads about online about the unrest in Karachi, specifically, and the fire burning in Pakistan in general, include mentions about the flight of capital and how people are moving out. And within those stories is frustration, especially from “civil society” and other activists both in and outside Karachi and inside and particularly outside of Pakistan, over why the people of Karachi don’t just rise up and push back against the obvious culprits.

I am from amongst the “people of Karachi.” I am from an earlier generation that moved abroad because of “all this,” directly or indirectly. Today, I do not have any immediate family in the city. But still, when Karachi throbs, our hearts beat in time to it. And when Karachi bleeds, our hearts bleed too.

It is easy, though, to say that it is hard to believe how people can bear all that and not come out on the streets in protest. But Karachiwalay have been out on the streets since the first time the sound of jackboots were heard in the Islamic Republic. They have backed efforts to “fix” things, going back all the way to standing behind the Mother of the Republic (Madar-e-Millat) when she stood up to our first dictator. Still, one heard what one is hearing now – “Why don’t they come out into the streets” – during the movement in support of the Chief Justice.

One can make a pretty good case today (excuse the pun) that the CJ has been quite a disappointment in the case of Karachi today, can’t one? From corruption in Hajj funds to sundry other things, the court has taken notice and “suo moto” action, but nary a word on the hundreds of people dying in Karachi over the last few months and years. Maybe the people of Karachi have a better sense of what will or will not pay dividends in terms of actually changing things for the better for the majority of the people of this Land of the Pure. Along the way, maybe in all they have seen, borne, and experienced, maybe the “people of Karachi”, the teeming silent majority from Steel Town to Clifton and from Defense to Gulshan-e-Maymar learnt – and I dare say earned the right – to be just a little discerning about when to step out.