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Posts tagged "Karachi"

A dance with the deities

By Yumna Rafi, Danyal Adam Khan and Akber Ali

Legend has that Lord Rama was sent into a forest exile of 14 years by his conspiring stepmother. The noble crown prince was accompanied by his devoted wife Sita and brother Lakshman. It was soon after that the rakshas King of Lanka, Ravan, showed up in the guise of an ascetic to kidnap the loyal princess.

“Come to me and I will forgive you,” narrated Lord Rama’s messenger to Ravan. On his refusal to comply, Rama led an army to the gates of Lanka and the epic 10-day battle of the Ramayana ensued, leaving Ravan and his empire devastated.

A few thousand years later, crowds at Karachi’s Swaminarayan Mandir jump for joy as the flaming arrow from Rama’s bow lodges into the defiant Ravan’s abdomen. Hundreds of women and children sway to religious tunes as the age-old tale unfolds night after night.

The staging of the Ramleela – a retelling of Rama’s battle with Ravan – is an essential part of the Hindu festival of Navratri, which could very well be as old as the religion itself. Celebrated in the name of the goddess Durga, the event goes on for 10 days at temples across the world. After much worship and festivities, a 20-30 foot tall effigy of Ravan is brought out on the last day to be set aflame.

“The burning of Ravan signifies something much deeper than what is visible to the eye,” says Vithal Babu, the maharaj of a mandir near Soldier Bazaar in the city. “It is symbolic of ridding oneself of inner evils and purifying the soul.”

The enthused pundit explains how the various names and depictions of Hindu deities are all mere manifestations of the same thing: the fundamental contrast between good and evil.

Vithal Babu has been invited to oversee Navratri rituals at the Lakshminarayan Mandir, a small temple under the Native Jetty Bridge, which has been the centre of a long-standing conflict with the authorities. Leaders of the Hindu community and organisations like the Human Rights Committee of Pakistan have claimed the ceaseless surrounding construction has indelibly affected the environs of the site.

In September 2012, the Sindh High Court had to intervene to prevent the Karachi Port Trust from demolishing the 200-year-old structure. A case has been filed against the provincial minister for excise and taxation, Mukesh Chawla, who is also a member of the Hindu Panchayat.

Sindh has an ancient relationship with Hinduism, which some claim dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. After persevering through the centuries, this dominance eventually lost out to the Islamic invasions. There was still a considerable number of Hindus in Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947, most of whom left for India. However, Sindh – both urban and rural – still has a higher percentage of Hindus than the rest of the country: approximately 6% as opposed to 2%.

“The problem is a lack of support from our representation in the provincial and national assemblies,” claims Vijay Dhakecha, a nearby resident and visitor at Lakshminarayan Mandir during Navratri. “This temple was almost shut down, while Hindus in Parliament did nothing to prevent it. They continue to mishandle funds and leave their people to fend for themselves.”

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(Source: dawn.com)

Gay Pakistan: Where sex is available and relationships are difficult

By Mobeen Azhar

Pakistan is not the kind of place that most people would associate with gay liberation. But some say the country is a great place to be gay - even describing the port city of Karachi as “a gay man’s paradise”.

Underground parties, group sex at shrines and “marriages of convenience” to members of the opposite sex are just some of the surprises that gay Pakistan has to offer. Under its veneer of strict social conformity, the country is bustling with same-sex activity.

Pakistani society is fiercely patriarchal. Pakistanis are expected to marry a member of the opposite sex, and the vast majority do.

The result is a culture of dishonesty and double lives, says researcher Qasim Iqbal.

"Gay men will make every effort to stop any investment in a same-sex relationship because they know that one day they will have to get married to a woman," he says.

"After getting married they will treat their wives well but they will continue to have sex with other men."

Gay Pakistan: Where sex is available and relationships are difficult

Taliban in Karachi: the real story

ON the evening of March 13, Director Orangi Pilot Project Perween Rahman was shot and killed by masked men half a kilometre from her office just off Manghopir Road in Karachi. The police were quick to point a finger at the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

In an “encounter” the very next day, they killed Qari Bilal who they claimed was a leader of the TTP and the mastermind behind Ms Rahman’s murder. Many in the development sector, however, believe she was targeted because she had fallen foul of the city’s land mafia because she was placing their activities on record. They may both well be right, even if Qari Bilal was falsely accused by law-enforcement agencies.

The latest players in Karachi’s land grab — for long the domain of those with close links to the major political parties and forces amongst the establishment here — are TTP elements who have been putting down their roots in various parts of the city over the past couple of years.

Large swathes of Pakhtun neighborhoods in districts west and east, as well as pockets in districts Malir, central and south are reported to be under the influence of the TTP. While all 30 or so of its factions have a presence in the city, the most influence is wielded by the Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah factions.

According to local police and residents of the affected areas, elements belonging to the TTP have entrenched themselves in these areas after having terrorised the local Pakhtun population into submission, and driven out the ANP from most of its traditional strongholds.

In the past few years, after it won two provincial seats in the 2008 elections and acquired real political clout in Karachi, the ANP and MQM frequently clashed in a deadly turf war. Both accused the other of killing its workers. In 2010 and 2011, when the MQM began to allege that the Taliban were acquiring a presence in the city, the ANP accused it of trying to use that claim as a pretext to ethnically cleanse Karachi of Pakhtuns. However, on 13th August 2012, when an attack in Frontier Colony killed local ANP office bearer and former UC nazim, Amir Sardar, and two party workers, the ANP did not accuse the MQM. Since then, numerous ANP offices have been shut down, scores of its workers killed and many driven out of Pakhtun-dominated areas. Qadir Khan, an ANP spokesman who has now joined the MQM, says “no political party or group can stand up to these militants”.

The TTP affirmed its presence in Karachi for the first time when the organization claimed responsibility for an attack on The Business Recorder/Aaj TV offices on 25 June, 2012 as a warning to rest of the media houses in the country.

The military operations in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009 triggered the latest wave of migration of Pakhtuns, compelling tens of thousands of residents to flee the fighting. Embedded within the exodus of these desperate internally displaced people (IDPs) were a number of Taliban fighters. Although the urban jungle that is Karachi had been a refuge for the latter even earlier, the untenable situation in their native areas prompted many of them to adopt a more permanent abode here.

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Pakistani Sunni and Shia praying Maghrib namaz together during the solidarity protest at Bilawal House, Karachi. After the Quetta blasts, protests broke out throughout the country in support of the Hazara community and other minorities. Via @Adbawany.


Pakistani Sunni and Shia praying Maghrib namaz together during the solidarity protest at Bilawal House, Karachi. After the Quetta blasts, protests broke out throughout the country in support of the Hazara community and other minorities. Via @Adbawany.