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Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Different World Part II: Zina ul Haq's Debauchery

(Continued from A Different World Part I : A Travelogue of Sorts)

The irony is this: people on both side of the frontiers were predominantly Punjabis. Only fifty plus years back they spoke the same language, looked the same, shared similar culture and passions, but today they are different...not physically different...but in their mindset and attitude.

Zina-ul-Haq (Zina means rape: Haq is Truth – my coinage for the erstwhile dictator) induced religious stupor had flamed the latent fundamentalism and created such a wide gulf of intolerance and divide that most Pakistanis today accept segregation as the norm. Some even elevate it with piety. He unleashed his version of Islam that has polarized Pakistanis, increased the chasm not only between Sunnis and Shias but also between Sunnis themselves as well as fanning parochial differences between residents of all provinces.

The denial of one's roots and ersatz emphasis on a culture that was and is almost alien led to an influx of mental and sexual depravity. The orthodox misinterpreters of religion (read Islam) twist and bend the religious injunctions to satisfy their limited understanding and fetishes. This increase in provincialism, parochialism and ethnic diversity played well in the hands of manipulative politicians and the occupying army. Divide and Rule!

And it has also led to the killing of Pakistanis by other Pakistanis in the name of the same Allah.

Today's West Punjab and indeed Pakistan is set on a different course. Not the one envisioned by any of her founders or detractors in their wildest hallucination.

Off the intersection of Aram Bagh Road and Bunder Road, now M. A Jinnah Road, the Pakistani equivalent of Indian cities' Gandhi Margs, there is a side street. To the south is Dow Medical College and to the north is Pakistan Chowk. At the end of this side street there is a gurdwara, I was told. I had dragged M through the traffic, dirt and pollution but all we could see was the walls. The side street was a furniture market and unless you knew there was a gurdwaraonce there you would miss it.

In Mata: Meem, Alif, Tay, Alif I had written about visiting some of the mandirs in Karachi:

Karachi has lots of mandirs. And there are a few functioning ones too that I visited. There is one in Clifton, one across from the KMC building on M A Jinnah Road, one near the old Native Jetty Bridge, two in Soldier Bazaar and one in Amil Colony # 2 near the Islamia College. And there is a crumbling one on the beach in Manora that ravages of time has turned into a crumbling structure.

The Lakshmi Narayan Mandir across from KMC building on M. A. Jinnah road is in a compound. When we visited it one afternoon, the mandir was closed and some boys were playing cricket nearby. One twelve year old asked us if we were Hindus. M smiled and said she is aninsaan. The kid nodded wisely.

Tu Hindu banayga na Musalmaan banayga
Insaan ki aulad hay insaan banayga

Neither a Hindu nor Muslim will you be
A human you are, a human you shall be
Another day we visited one in Soldier Bazaar. One thing is imprinted on my mind from that visit. Inside the sanctum sanctorium on the far wall Mata was spelled in glittering Urdu lettering, about two feet high - meem-alif-tay-alif. Mata was written in multicolored glitter ribbons, the kind used in garlands and for decorating the bridal car. Mata: Meem, Alif, Tay, Alif
Karachi is perhaps in the top twenty cities of the world by population. It citizens are always on the go and unaware of its history and heritage. Less than one in twenty Karachite is aware of a fort in Karachi. It is a city of affluence and poverty - of palaces and mansions with high walls, private zoos, monitoring cameras and Kalshnikov carrying guards and jhuggis and huts. In a nation where prohibition is the law, more alcohol is consumed than can ever be imagined to the loss of the exchequer. The private bars of individuals would shame the sommelier of a seven star establishment.

In one evening friends spend more at the BarBQ Hut or Coppper Kettle than the average monthly salaries of their drivers and servants. The poor can be seen lining outside modest hotels in the evening, where the affluent drive by and pay up for the meals for 20 or 30 people.

The middle class wants to shrivel and disappear. It is despondent and despairing.

Lawlessness is rampant and its acceptance is annoying for the casual visitor. Almost everyone you meet has had their cellphones snatched or robbed at gun point at least once. Every acquaintance you meet has a home robbery tale for you.

My notes for the trip - names, places, times and photos stored on the Palm Treo were lost to a gun totting polite robber. "Uncle, please give me your cell phone." With the gun inches away from the stomach, there were few options available. The phone was replaced the next day but it took me a long time to get over the loss of those notes.


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