Adventures in Pakistan

I awoke this morning at 6am to the sound of a loudspeaker Muslim prayer call in the distance layered over a wild rooster crowing and other tropical birds chirping. The birds are the most active in the early morning, when it is cool enough to be active. It reminded me of my time in the Dubai airport on the way here. The airport prides itself on minimizing announcements over the loudspeaker to keep the airport experience pleasant. But out of nowhere around 6 am, a woman started singing/chanting a very beautiful song/prayer over the loudspeaker. It must have gone on for 5 minutes. I actually love the public chanting/singing, it is calming and unifying in some way.

The last couple days have been very relaxing, as I’ve mostly stayed at the home while the city is consumed with protests over the recent sectarian suicide bombing of Shia Hazaras in Quetta. Sit-ins have been staged all over the country in protest to the violence. Most businesses and schools were closed in Karachi as people did not feel safe to leave their homes and travel through the protests during the day. We have, however, gone out each night for dinner quite safely. The newspaper said the protesters are mostly Shias, who want the government to step-up and help stop the genocide killings of their people.

In talking with one of the relatives, they have encouraged their children not to get involved in the political protests. They expressed uncertainty about the future of their country, and fear for their children’s safety should they try to make a stand. It seemed somewhat defeatist, like the country’s problems are bigger than they feel they can affect. They are in survival mode. We have it so nice in the US, we might get tear-gassed during a protest gone badly, but rarely do we fear for our lives. I can understand a parent’s concern, while it concerns me that they are releasing their control of their country’s future in exchange.

Gas stations have been overwhelmed because cars and commercial trucks did not fill up for a couple days then needed to all at once. There have been a couple small bomb blasts in Karachi, but thankfully with no injuries. The paper said they are probably meant to frighten the protesters. According to the paper, the Shias in Quetta are refusing to bury the dead. The coffins line the streets, 89 so far with more to come. The paper showed one woman holding up a homemade sign: “If being Hazara is a crime, I feel great to be criminal!”

Because of the vast class differences, there is no more safety/security in everyday life. The US should take note of this, as they are headed toward greater class disparities. For example, here in Karachi, those with any money have their homes built like a mini-compound. There is an armed guard, very cheap, uneducated servants and drivers, multiple locks on the gates and doors (interior and exterior), and even the bedrooms in the house are locked when you leave so that the servants are not tempted to steal anything. If you are carrying any kind of valuables on you, you make sure your driver drives very fast to your destination so that you are not followed/hijacked. In general, it is safer not to stop your car, especially in more remote parts of the city.

At the last wedding party we attended, most of the guests had left and our smaller wedding party was eating catered food and having a lovely time chatting. We were kind of lost in discussion, when one of the men noticed that the laborers and caterers were starting to fill up the wedding tent toward us, staring and lingering for no good reason. He advised us to leave in a hurry, together, making sure not to leave a single car behind the group. And we sped home.

The upper class loves living here, because you can live like kings and queens, having 5-star dinners at country clubs, servants to take care of all the daily chores, leaving you free to have a very easy life. But that luxury comes at a steep price. Pray for the Pakistanis that they might realize a state of greater equality, freedom, and safety. And pray for the US that they might see where class inequality could lead them.