Shadow Whispers by Shazia Haris

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The aircraft made a smooth landing on Karachi airport and within seconds the mobile phones were ringing with mixture of Indian hits, Ya Hussain and Islamic tones filling the small aircraft, making it rather suffocating.  Every one seemed to be in a hurry to get the luggage, only to stand crumpled in the narrow space between the seats trying to be the first one to get out of the plane.  The small plane seemed to be a mini Pakistan, overpopulated with a look busy do nothing sort of a mob of people, each more important than the other.

Like each city has its own shadow characteristics and smell, Karachi has its own distinctive smell.  The airport smelled of oceanic heaviness polluted with oil, with a distinctive over populated smell.  Only the black vastness indicated it was sea side where night had casted its shadows, while the typical smell of urbanization made the city a bit more dangerous.

Mobile snatching has gone up and street crime is high while if bikers knock at the window of your car, it’s always better to hand over the mobile and the wallet immediately, as you cant afford to be shot, so it’s advisable to keep something handy if a situation arises, I was told.  Oh it’s not Chicago, it’s my Pakistan.

“Ajrak meri Pehchan hai apki pehchan kaya hai”, smiling Bilawal pulling out an ajrak handkerchief from his typical Pakistani dress, posing for a paid advertisement during the Karachi festival, came to my mind.

The sight of starving little souls of the Thar Desert, mostly dead insignificant shadows of nameless desert dwelling kids, and over three thousand now being shown the lights of city hospital to be saved from hunger, is indeed a culture to be my identity, and appreciated off course for it indicates my thresh hold to be moved is quiet high.  That’s what the city smelled like, total desperation and indifference, as death toll of Thar Desert kids was increasing and people were demonstrating outside tomb of Quaid-e-Azam demanding catching the culprits who rented the room of his grave to couples for a meager amount, on hourly basis to give into the demands of the shadows of animal instincts.

Suddenly, as the car turned at a roundabout, there was a tomb on a higher hill looking pedestal with long line of people queuing on stairs.  I was told it’s the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, wao another Saint just simply resting while the room of Quaid’s grave was being rented out to desperate couples on hourly basis to give in to shadows of lust.  Something about me and Saints, they kind of appear out of no where to make a believer out of me perhaps.

Wonder who is the Saint? The one lying on high pedestal with people queuing to reach and see a glimpse of the grave, the man renting the room with Quaid’s grave, or the forgotten dying soul of a one year old whose eyes spoke and tongue was numb, yet no one understood, nor did the food arrive.  Kind of it makes sense, Democracy is the best revenge!

But with the announcement that the Corps Commander Karachi is looking after the whole operation of setting up field hospitals and camps for affected population, it seems the Saints could no longer take it and their prayers got answered, now people will be fine.  These uniform guys are good at rescuing and sort of saving lives, that’s what they have been trained in, off course.

Somehow, the ring tones of the mobiles in the crumpled airplane follow one like a shadow, names of Allah, Ya Hussain, and Indian hits seem to be reflecting the psyche of Pakistani mob.  The radicals versus the liberals, Shia Sunni divide, terrorism and street crime, and lack of preparedness for natural calamities seem to be more of genetic trait in this part of the world.  It seems we are a purely Islamic nation with motto living today and not planning for tomorrow, leaving rest to God.  The 20 story buildings not having any building code guidelines, with unplanned Kachi abadis around even posh areas of defense, the city hub of all business headquarters sprawled around seems to be the most vulnerable to any disaster.  With ocean at its door steps, and fault lines running below, studies indicate Karachi to be vulnerable to Tsunami due to under the ocean earthquake.  What would be the plan for evacuation and relief in case of emergency? The thought simply needs to be snubbed within, and not to be pondered about.

The environmental pollution mostly caused by countless human habitants, security issues and Thar Desert incident are all eye openers, and require deliberate efforts to make futuristic policies for curtailing human loss in case of emergencies which are likely to arise in future, as it seems Karachi is holding more than its capacity at the moment.

All one can hope is that like we out source our personal security these days, policy making of this country is also not outsourced to other members of global community, as what broke the Soviet Union was not any force from outside, but one rule applied, “removing right person from the right job, thus ruining all departments leading to economic crash”.  May be that’s actually what Karachi symbolically smelled like!



Profile of Shazia Haris

Educated from Government College Lahore, trained Clinical Psychologist, educationist and researcher has worked for over 25 years in government organizations.  She served as Registrar Fatima Jinnah University and was the first Pakistani Women Researcher invited by Ministry of Japan to work in Higher education for females. Having numerous international publications, she has supervised nearly 100 research papers and thesis of master’s level. She represented Pakistan as Gender and IT expert at United Nations, UNCTAD meeting in Geneva.Having taught at University of Sydney, trained in advance data management courses (NSW) and advance training from Manhattan New York in effective media handling, writes on social and security issues. Her focus is on social psychological aspects of development and counter terrorism.  She received commendation letter from the Prime Minister of Pakistan for effective media handling during 2006 and 2008. A mother of two sons, and wife of an eminent scientist who was awarded POP and Sitara-e-Imtiaz, left them in 2011 due to cardiac arrest, is a hawkish Pakistani woman.