Karachi through the Headlines
By Ambreen Vahidy
Karachi, Pakistan

Karachi was once famous as a city of lights and beauty. Lack of patronage by the government and its stakeholders has defaced this once great city beyond recognition. Vast slums, overflowing gutters, depleted roads, un-checked crime, chaotic traffic and alarming air and noise pollution have shaken its very structure. The recent rains have also caused widespread flooding and devastation, which has led to the loss of precious lives, extensive damage to property, destruction of roads, etc. We read this dismal news everyday, right? Read on. With newspapers blaring headlines such as ‘People suffer as KESC fails to repair faults’, one is inclined to say in disgust that the supply of electricity in such a city as Karachi is but a mere farce and nothing more.
Karachi already has insufficient voltage if one notices that even illuminated streetlights are like candles on the poles except on a few roads. However, the supply of electricity used to be uniform and almost constant to the residential and industrial areas once upon a time. But now the problem of this ‘hide and seek’ game has created tons of damage beyond repair the likes of which Frank Schmidt cannot make up for even in his grandchildren’s generation.
Take another headline ‘Market runs short of gram, pulses’. The holy month of profit making (according to the traders) Ramadan has just passed. Although Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan had empathically stated on several occasions that the prices of edible commodities will be in control, the reality is that basic essential items of daily use such as grams and pulses were sold at appreciably higher rates, far exceeding the usual rates. This did not come as a surprise for housewives who buy these goods each Ramadan, but it must have been a problem for single income families who cannot buy such items in stock. Do traders consider this before they go on their price-raising spree? I imagine not.
Yet rather serious middle of the page headline caught my eyes as I was turning the newspaper pages: ‘Education department defends ban on teachers’ associations.’ What is to become the fate of schools and colleges? What IS to become of teachers politics? Haven’t we had enough of red and black ribbons, lathi charged teachers (recent events) and student strikes, I dare ask? The morbid stubbornness of the Education Department to meddle in teachers’ affairs is beyond comprehension. Because after all, it is our students who are ultimately paying the price, isn’t it?
Let us turn to another interesting headline: ‘SHC seeks statement on rickshaws phasing out’. It beings a smile to one’s face to think of our Supreme Court declaring our innocent rikshaw walas and putting ‘declarations' on their livelihood enough to make headlines. Indeed after reading this one, I thought soon we would not even have enough rickshaws to travel by, for goodness sake, someone is finally doing ‘something; for the blue collared transporters.
Another striking, alluring headline that made it to the top of the pages: ‘Man dies of viral fever at JPMC: Fumigation drive urged’. Now, while the two statements contradict each other, one is left with a gaping mouth: what could the loss of one more life mean to the authorities? Perhaps nothing. After all, the fumigation drive needs to be urged, correct? I for one cannot bring myself to ‘singing’ praises for the any effort of the government in this regard if it leads to such blatant negligence. They fact is, on page, they were nobodies. In life, they were someone’s ‘breadwinner’, someone’s son, someone’s husband.
I conclude with a clichéd, much favorite headline of the day (self awarded): ‘136 deprived of cars, cell phones’ and yes this one surely takes the prize, anytime. The count may be low, but for sure it is rising. Our dear smuggler brethren who seem to be just as active, maybe a tad more in the month of Ramadan are looting people off the streets, depriving them of the century’s most essential commodity – the cell phone. Now what could be made for more interesting reading than that? One could go on for time unending, but the reader has to be kept in mind above all. And while this may not have been a news reading, it was a brief vent for a common scribe, with Karachi headlines to rant about. The rest is life’s daily pages, as they say.


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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