The fine art of protest
Hundreds of Karachiites are recording their protest against extremism and injustice in a recent wave of rallies and protest demonstrations.
Kolachi takes a look
By Sabeen Jamil
Karachi is changing rapidly. The change has not only come in the outlook of the city, but with time Karachiites too have changed. From being ground zero for most populist movements in the country, Karachi went to being a city without a voice. Political parties took over the protest agenda as citizens took a back seat. And when they did protest, they became violent. But in the past month citizens have been civilized in recording their protest against injustice. Contrary to the culture of protest, in the past, which was more violent and aimed at letting out anger on public property, Karachiites now are adopting ways more civilized and communicative, to record their anger.
The shift in attitude was very obvious with the recent wave of protest demonstrations, hunger strikes and peaceful rallies held in the city by different political parties, lawyers, NGOs and other factions of civil society for varied reasons. Despite the fact that in huge rallies by political parties hundreds of participants are forcefully brought in hijacked public buses, the shift in the way to record protest and the hike of political awareness among Karachiites is commendable.
"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest" – Elie Wiesel.
Karachi's Hyde Park
Needless to say Karachi Press Club is one of the most happening ones in the city. Rich with history, the club has been the hub of writers, poets and artists for over fifty years
By Shahid Husain
A couple of years ago a very senior American journalist Josephine Campbell sent me an e-mail asking about the significance of Karachi Press Club because she was intrigued that many news stories originating from the financial hub of Karachi were somehow related with the club.
Josephine Campbell's query should not be astonishing because Karachi Press Club has acquired the status of Hyde Park and most of the demonstrations in the mega city are held in front of this 115-year-old historic club and it also happens to be the culminating point of many rallies.
The political clout associated with Karachi Press Club could be gauged from the fact that Pakistan Peoples Party's founding chairman and former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto initiated his campaign against military dictator General Ayub Khan from Karachi Press Club and General Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, the information minister of yet another military dictator, General Ziaul Haq dubbed the club as "enemy territory."
Established in 1958 by a group of enthusiastic journalists in a Victorian style bungalow on what was then the Ingle Road and now Sarwar Shaheed Road, Karachi Press Club has today more than 900 members and has played a vital role in the democratic struggle in general and the struggle for press freedom in particular.
"The Karachi Press Club was inaugurated by late General Azam Khan, rehabilitation minister in the Ayub Cabinet and a former governor of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). We are the product of Martial Law but we are deadly against Martial Law," says Habib Khan Ghouri, a senior journalist and a former president of the club.
"Prior to 1977, permission had to be sought from the deputy commissioner if a meeting using microphone was organized in the club. Once I was summoned by Inter Services Press Relations (ISPR) department to explain why speakers in the club were directed towards the Coast Guards building and would constantly denounce the government. I said KPC was not a public place and was our home. I was asked to stop propaganda against the government. I asked the ISPR people to issue a directive in writing. We never received a directive," says Ghouri. "And we continued our activities."
Ghouri pointed out that KPC's role as a bastion of freedom came to the forefront in 1970 when journalists went on a 10-day hunger strike across the country for implementation of Wage Board Award. Not surprisingly, many leading journalists for instance I. A. Rehman, Ibrahim Jalees and Minhaj Barna were sacked by their employers. But KPC became the hub of political activity after 1977 during the era of General Ziaul Haq when a movement was launched for the restoration of daily Musawaat and daily Hurriyat that were banned by the military government and hundreds of journalists were arrested across the country. Sadly enough, some journalists were even flogged after a summary trial in a military court.
Known across the country for its defiance, KPC has always opened its arms for the downtrodden. No wonder that May Day has been celebrated in the club with gusto and trade union workers, students, teachers, lawyers, fisherfolk and peasants always found solace in the club whenever they faced any problem.
The club is proud to offer honorary life membership to luminaries such as Prince Karim Aga Khan, scientist and Nobel laureate Prof. Dr. Abdus Salam, Prof. Dr. Saleemuzzaman Siddiqui, Justice Dorab Patel, Justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Prof. Karrar Hussain, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Alys Faiz, Habib Jalib, Ahmed Faraz, Josh Maleehabadi, Jahangir Khan, Imran Khan, and Javed Miandad. Abbas Khalili and Air Marshal Noor Khan were among the first members on this roll of honour.
The KPC is housed in a double-storey building and is a majestic heritage monument. The ground floor comprises the main hall where press conferences and functions with large audiences are held. The upper floor houses a well-stocked library, a committee room, a TV lounge. There is also ample room for carom board and chess enthusiasts, a card room, and even a small bar.
Characters such as Sattar, Qayyum, Riaz, Shehbaz and Saleem who have been associated with the club since long as waiters serve the members with love and affection and mingle with many of them like old friends. Then the KPC had another waiter Meezan who is also a brilliant painter and activist and despite the fact that he has now joined an NGO, is equally loved and pampered by the members.
Then there have been members such as eminent artists Bashir Mirza whose painting on Faiz is prominently displayed on the staircase of the club. The club has also paintings by Sadequain and other prominent artists.
But the historic club also has inherent problems.
"Karachi Press Club is the oldest press club in Pakistan but technically speaking, we are still tenants," says Sabihuddin Ghousi, the sitting president of the club and a senior journalist.
"In December, 1958, General Azam Khan offered us this building at a monthly rent of 110 rupees. In 1961 the upper storey was also handed over to us for 110 rupees per month. It was the property of Dinshaw, a relative of Ardeshar Cowasjee. Pakistan's President Iskander Mirza has also lived in this building," he adds.
"In 2004 the MQM government gave us a grant of five million rupees but now they object that the KPC is being dominated by Jaamat-i-Islami people and as a result, the club suffers financially," he points out.
Referring to the various deals about the costly building of KPC, he said in November 1995 the then KMC administrator Fahimuzzaman Siddiqui said he wanted to donate a KMC building to the members where later on the Anti-Terrorist Court was established. In the meanwhile, Dinshaw quietly sold the building to a stock broker Haji Ghani Saya for 1.4 million rupees.
"A tripartite agreement was reached in 1996 when MQM leader Dr. Farooq Sattar was the local bodies minister under which KMC gave us a rest house that was handed over to Haji Ghani Saya in lieu of KPC and title was given to us. But since this is military land, an approval from Quarter Master General is needed but we are not being given the approval," he said. "Technically, we are still tenants."
Since its inception KPC has undergone through tremendous problems but coercion has not been able to subdue the spirit of its members. It was KPC that published Zamir Niazi's remarkable book "Press in Chains" when military dictator Ziaul Haq ruled the roost and even Quranic verses were censored by the Press and Information Department of the Government of Pakistan.
The club also hosted Mushairas that attracted poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jalib and Munir Niazi and organized musical programmes with eminent singers such as Iqbal Bano, Mehdi Hasan, Ghulam Ali, Fareeda Khanum, Nayyara Noor, Nazia Hasan etc.
The club has also been inviting eminent political leaders in its "Meet the Press" programmes. But it seems the authorities are adamant to coerce the community and despite tall claims about the freedom of the press they are not inclined to hand over the property rights to the KPC.
Karachi's urban 'Jungli'
By Hina Mahgul Rind
In a society where women working are frowned upon, finding work for a transvestite becomes even more difficult. But there are some people who prove that gender has nothing to do with ones profession. Jungli is one such person. Opting to work for a living rather than begging like most other eunuchs, forty-two year old Jungli makes and sells snacks near his home in Lyari. He has been called Jungli as long as he can remember and doesn't mind. Impotent by birth, Jungli in his feeble voice and feminine ways talks about his experiences with Kolachi.
Kolachi: Tell us some thing about your self
Jungli: My name is Mohammad Younus but I'm commonly known as Jungli. I live in the Baghdadi Safi Lane in Lyari. I'm forty-two years old. We are eight family members; me, my mother, brother, sister-in-law and their four kids. My mother is paralyzed since the last seven years and I don't have a father.
Kolachi: What do you do?
Jungli: I have my stall in our neighbourhood and I sell pakora, bhujia, fried mirchi, fried potatoes and cholay in the morning and in the evening I sell cholay only.
Kolachi: What's your average working day like?
Jungli: I begin preparing my ingredients for pakora in the morning and the mean time cook the masala for the cholay as well. And at eight, I set up my stall and start selling.
Kolachi: Do you cook and prepare everything yourself or someone from the family helps you?
Jungli: I do everything myself - at times my sister-in-law help me out but usually I avoid asking her for help as she has to do home chores as well and looking after the children is a full time job in itself. Besides she also sells home made food and has to prepare that as well.
Kolachi: How long have you been doing this?
Jungli: It's been more than eight years now. I sit at the same place and have been selling the same things.
Kolachi: Have you tried some other work?
Jungli: No, before selling pakora and cholay I used to sell other edible items like makai, black beans, pulao etc. Basically I have always been earning my living selling food items.
Kolachi: How much do you earn?
Jungli: I earn 1000 to 1200 rupees per day. Alhamdulillah I make 300 to 400 rupees after deducting my expenditure daily.
Kolachi: How much do these ingredients cost you?
Jungli: These days prices are very high - inflation is touching the sky and naturally it's also effecting my business and my savings are going down. Before, I could save more but now it's just a hand to mouth situation.
Kolachi: Who are your customers? People don't hesitate buying from you?
Jungli: Why should they hesitate eating from my stall? I'm a human being like them. Yes, they like my pakoras and cholay a lot. Everyone in this neighborhood buys from me - all the men, women, children every one comes here. In fact they don't eat the food cooked at their homes but buy my things and eat near my stall only.
Kolachi: How do you like Karachi?
Jungli: I belong to Karachi, it is my city everything about Karachi is good. But the people aren't. Karachi is like heaven but the people living here are evil, they have destroyed the city.
Kolachi: What do you do in your spare time? What places do you like to visit?
Jungli: Where ever I feel like. I randomly roam around the city and it also depends on how much money I have in my pocket. I go to Manora, Clifton and different parks. When I had money I visited India twice. I have been to Bombay, Dehli, Agra, Allahabad, Lucknow and Puna. And when I was 10 or 12 I went to Dubai as my mother was working with an Iranian Family in Dubai so I was with her and we stayed there for three years and with the Seths we went to Lebanon and India as well.
Kolachi: Have you been to school?
Jungli: When I was really young my parents admitted me into a school but I always bunked and did not study. When I was in Dubai, our Iranian Seth did send me to an Iranian school and I did study some Farsi but now I have forgotten that also.
Kolachi: Have you had any problems with the way people are with you? Do they mock and tease you - the way they usually behave with eunuchs?
Jungli: No, I have never had any problems. My neighbours are very good; they know me since my childhood. They have no problems with me and I'm accepted in this neighborhood like one of them.
Kolachi: What do you think about the other eunuchs that beg on streets and their lifestyle?
Jungli: I don't understand why they make their lives so miserable and become a thing to be teased and mocked. They adopt the transvestite lifestyle deliberately and runaway from responsibilities and live off begging. And on top of that they complain about not being accepted in society! I don't believe in begging and depending upon others hard earned money. I'm not abnormal so why should I depend upon others earnings and pity?
And thus Jungli neatly sums up his life and principles. Not only does he depend on himself but he also supports his family. He made a choice and found a respectful way of living, leaving society no choice but to accept him. Jungli's life is a story of struggle and hard work, of taking your life in your hands and having a say in what happens to you. And such is Karachi's character.