Going Back to Karachi: Focus on the Children

Posted on June 23, 2010
Filed Under >Hira Qureshi, Economy & Development, Society
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Hira Qureshi

My first impression when we drove out of Quaid-e-Azam international airport was that Karachi has really changed!

No question that Mayor Mustafa Kamal has done a phenomenal job. Huge billboards were always there, but now you get to see a lot more from bridges to parks, and much better roads to fast-food chains that I never thought could exist in Pakistan. I had been seeing pictures of different projects that were under construction and even those that had been completed, but it was hard to believe until I actually saw them.

But here I was back to Karachi after years. And ‘My Karachi’ was nowhere to be found.

Believe it or not, people do try to stop at a red light now, (of course there are exceptions and excuses) and you would also see some people with paper bags and their old fashioned baskets instead of those black plastic shopping bags that were all over the streets of Karachi (and I highly respect them for trying on their part to solve environmental issues).

But before I could believe Karachi had changed for good, I heard someone knock on my window. I rolled down the window and there it was! The stark reality.

I had found the Karachi I thought I would see and just when I was about to believe that the Karachi I saw years ago had changed to a much better place, I was struck by the reality that everything hasn’t changed. The girl that knocked on my window was probably around eight or nine years old and was asking me if I wanted to buy roses. The first thing that came to my mind was about all different social service projects that were targeting child labor and homelessness. “So they weren’t a success?”

As you drive around you would see kids working in restaurants, fixing cars, selling toys, flowers, candies and God knows what. And yet they still get yelled at by people who don’t want them to clean their windshields, or even knock on their windows, just because for them it’s too hot to pull down the window and let the cool air out (they probably think it’s snowing for those kids out on the streets).

Can’t they see the pain in their eyes? These children are trying to make a living. If we can’t help them, we have no right to scream at them either. It was very disturbing to see these children walking around, (usually bare foot) and trying to survive in a city that I heard had totally changed and on top of that they have to take these “Jhirkiyan.”

It is obvious that the socio-economic gap has increased. On one hand, it seems as if all that exists in Karachi are the impoverished. On the other hand, the number of people eating out has greatly increased, but of course if a kid comes by all they get is an “attitude.” I also noticed that unlike before when you saw a bunch of tables right outside restaurants, most people would prefer to eat inside the restaurants. Pollution is probably a factor, but these kids also play a role. People don’t want to be bothered by these children, while they’re enjoying their food.

This wasn’t the Karachi I wanted to see. But before I lost all hope, I did find out that people like Shahzad Roy, were attempting to help these children attain a better living standard. I’m not exactly sure if it’s a hundred percent success, but at least some people are trying. Of course it’s nearly impossible for these few to end child labor and homelessness, but even if it’s a drop in the bucket, why not?  It makes a huge difference in someone’s life. I strongly believe that Pakistanis living abroad can make a difference too. We always have excuses like, “we can’t do anything, I don’t trust this organization, We can never end these problems, and Pakistan will always remain the same,” but is that really true? There are opportunities out there if you really plan on doing something productive.

Other than that, there are still things that can bring a smile to your face. The cats still walk around the tables (that’s only if you decide to eat outside) as they did before and make you feel like you’re ‘home.’ I was actually glad to see them because that was one thing that I missed about eating out and seeing a cat come by and stare at me for food.  Just a side note, If you like chocolate, the “Kulfi wala” does have chocolate dip now. I definitely enjoyed that as well.

By the time I left, I came to the conclusion that although Karachi had changed, there are still disturbing realities that are sugar coated and portrayed as if they don’t even exist.  But I’m hopeful that although many societal problems still exist, there are people who are working to overcome these problems and we can play our role as well. Let’s be optimistic and say that sooner or later these issues will be resolved and we will have a Pakistan where all kids will be in school instead of being on the streets trying to make enough that will last them for a day or two.

We can make it happen!

24 responses to “Going Back to Karachi: Focus on the Children”

  1. Akmal says:

    Majida Tufail says:
    June 23rd, 2010 4:12 pm

    I was in KHI in April, visiting after 5 years. I have told and also written almost the same story as you did. However to me disturbing were not only these kids (will get back to this later on), but also those organised beggars at Tariq Road for instance, where the kids are almost clad the same, and on commando (i observed) put on the show of some disability.

    Many arguments on these posting are false and hence very superficial.

    All these things show the failure of so called “Pakistaniat” because of the failure of the character of many Pakistanis. On the contrary there are many Pakistanis who are still waiting to their country to be “reconstructed” in an American way. Beggars can never be choosers.

  2. Erum says:

    Just saw the video and it is very depressing. We just don’t think about what lives these kids are forced to lead.

  3. Asim says:

    After reading the title of this article, I am too afraid to read this article or comments in it as I fear by reading anything on this page would just drop my heart dead…I hoe and pray there is good news in this… i know am just a total wimp!

  4. Good news Children going back to there home

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