'Go Aish', located in Safari Park, is the city's first adventure park. Entertainment starved Karachiites can now engage in safe and affordable thrills in a well-maintained park
By Bilal Tanweer
Adventure parks are known for facilities that are high on the thrill content and fear-factor. Karachi's first such park Go Aish is located within the city in the infamous Safari Park. Neglected for years, the park was falling into ruins. This addition to Safari Park is not only going to put the much needed spark back in this huge park but also provide young and adventurous Karachiites with a much needed recreation alternative. Covering an area of 12-acres, this park is here to stay, and is a rare addition vis a vis Karachi's entertainment scene.
Imbisat Mallick, has set up the first of its kind adventure park in Karachi. A passionate rope climber, he has done rope courses around the world, and for him this was a labour of love. "I do not look at this like a business. My aims are not commercial. I have done this because it is really my thing - especially, the rope courses. People in this part of the world do not have a concept of an adventure park; we have been fooling around with this idea under different pretensions. I also know that such a thing is not necessary for everyone, but I am sure that there are a number of people among the 20 million in this city who are interested in thrill and adventure." The land has been leased for ten years to him by the City District Government Karachi, and he is the sole manager. Aimed to provide Karachiites with affordable fun, the ticket prices are from 100 to 200 rupees.
The park has been constructed in collaboration with a world renowned Czech Republic based company, Lanove Centrum (Project Outdoors), which specializes in providing amusement/adventure services around all of Europe.
Perhaps the most important thing about the park is that it is a positive omen for Karachi. What is even more welcome is that it is located in an area, which is severely deprived of entertainment and recreational options. People from these parts of Karachi usually have to travel to Defence and Clifton to meet their recreational needs. Not confined to four facilities, it is hoped that these would be increased in the future and more such facilities for public recreation would be created in this part of the city.
– Photos by Athar Khan
A 35 ft by 35 ft wall has been erected for beginner, intermediate and advanced level climbing difficulties. This sport, popular around the world for many decades, now makes its way to Karachi. Requiring toughness, this sport is meant for those who wish to test their physical and mental resilience.
First-person shooter video games are undoubtedly the most popular video games among Karachi's youth, who throng to video-gaming zones in large numbers. Paintball, which is the physical equivalent of Counter-Strike, already attracts a large number of young people who, wearing commando gear, shoot each other with paint-balls. This is one of the fastest growing sports around the world, and it seems that Paintball has been an immediate hit with Karachiites as well.
ATV (All Terrain Vehicles) Quad Bikes
A 1.2-kilometer course surrounded by muddy hills has been designed for these bikes. The course is rugged terrain, and the race is between balance and speed. Allowed to people who are sixteen and above, this is one of the most popular facilities in the park, since it requires minimal instruction or physical pre-requisites.
High Rope Course
The highlight of the park, this high rope course is the longest in the Sub-continent and Middle East. Under the supervision of trained instructors, participants walk over rope courses, designed with increasing difficulty. Before embarking on the course, trainers give detailed instructions to ensure the safety of the participants.
For some reason, the emphasis was on instruction in English, which made it a rather tiring process, because neither the instructor nor the participants had a command over the language. It is advised to keep things simple!
Unique, exciting and physically demanding, Karachiites will soon acquire a love for it!
Kolachi speaks with Karachi's newest Capital City Police Officer Azhar Ali Farooqi. Back from a four-year course in Europe, the CCPO answers questions common on the minds of Karchiites
By Salis bin Perwaiz
Kolachi: What are your plans regarding police reforms and curtailing crime in the city?
CCPO: I have closely observed policing in foreign countries. There is a need to build techniques to deal with the systems such as rural policing. The urban police should be more developed; prevention and detection of crime through CCTV system should be implemented everywhere including the police department, banks, commercial centres and major shopping malls. Every big commercial area in other countries has their own monitoring system, but we are still lacking behind in this regard - the police should integrate it. Various security measures applied in banks and malls abroad have helped the police in developing strong cases. The work must be done in collaboration with civilians.
For police reforms, consistency is a must for the process of transfer and posting of senior officers. In the past transfers of SHO's have taken place on a frequent basis which makes it difficult for them to perform their duties to the best. Since an SHO is a key post it has to be for a long-term i.e. at least for six months. But now I have made efforts to bring an end to this musical chair and have stopped the process of immediate transfer/posting. I have also instructed the police officers to increase their intelligence network so as to give better results, and I assume that the scenario is a little different today as compared to the past.
Kolachi: How successful has the Lyari Task Force been in maintaining law and order in Lyari and what is the status of Chaudhry Aslam and former TPO Lyari, Omer Shahid's cases?
CCPO: Most of the functionaries are in jail, including SP Aslam, DSPs, Inspectors and Sub Inspectors. There is a symbolic presence of Lyari Task Force in the neighbourhood. They have done a good job in detecting Arshad Pappu's gang, but a lot more needs to be done by them in conjunction with the area police to get rid of other gangs as well.
As far as Chaudhry Aslam and Omer Shahid are concerned, Aslam is already in prison and recently his bail was rejected by the Sindh High Court. The former TPO Lyari, Omer Shahid is in London for an academic course, and will be dealt with as soon as he returns.
Kolachi: Huge quantity of smuggled alcohol is easily available through bootleggers in Karachi nowadays. What are the police doing about that?
CCPO: Prior to the present government there were not as many liquor shops as are now. Bootlegging has reduced due to the wine shops that operate legally. Last year, the police seized more than 5,000 liquor bottles, and also arrested the culprits. However, a growing demand for foreign liquor has been witnessed and it is brought in the city by foreign ships and traders, who are out of police jurisdiction.
Kolachi: What is the police doing to control the law and order situation to compliment the government's goal of boosting foreign investment in the city?
CCPO: The law and order situation is not at all terrible, small pockets of trouble are prevalent in every mega city of the world. And any party before investing always send a survey team to look for all possible advantages and disadvantages of investing there. Thus, investments are only made after the party is completely satisfied with the set up.
Kolachi: There has been a drop in street crime recently. However, it has been reported that children of police personnel living in the police headquarters are said to be involved in street crimes. What measures have been taken in this regard?
CCPO: Urban policing should be introduced and the escort culture has to be done away with. This includes the culture of employing private guards. Regarding the involvement of children of police officials, the argument is baseless. No such case has come into my notice although, there are cases wherein, police officers were involved and action was taken against them.
Kolachi: There is a general conception among the masses that police are hardly seen on duty except when there is a VIP movement. Is there a shortage of officers?
CCPO: Karachi is a mega city with an estimated population of about 16 million. The sanctioned police strength is 28,000 which is insufficient. Furthermore, there are 2,000 vacancies in the department. At any given time, around 10,000 officers are not available - either they are suspended, or on leave, or posted on a guard duty, desk jobs, or non-operation duties. That leaves 16,000 officers in active service. There should be three shifts each of eight hours, but unfortunately it is not being implemented.
Kolachi: quite a number of Police personnel were killed in targeted murders last year, what have your investigations shown? Were they targeted because they were corrupt?
CCPO: Any sensible person can figure it out why they were killed -- maybe they were harsh with citizens, or corrupt, or they were competent officers and a threat for criminals. It is an occupational hazard that a police officer must put up with. Some criminals involved in the killing of police personnel were arrested and interrogated.
Kolachi: The Police's image is still largely negative. Distrust is rampant amongst the public. Do you plan to do something to get rid of the image problem?
CCPO: We are encouraging free registration of crime so that people go to the police station and report. Stress is also being laid upon the police to be accessible and cooperative to the citizens.
Kolachi: Mobile traders involved in selling stolen phones were being picked up by the police. Why has that been stopped?
CCPO: We have formed a Karachi Mobile Phone Unit under the command of the DIG. A list has been prepared of mobile markets that indulge in the sale of used or second-hand cell phones and a major crackdown will soon follow.
Kolachi: In spite of installation of tracking devices, cars are still regularly being snatched at gunpoint. Where do these stolen cars end up?
CCPO: The annual ratio of recovered stolen cars is 60 per cent where most of them are found abandoned in the city. The remaining is either used to extract spare parts, sold in the black market or end up in Balochistan. Anti-Car Lifting Cell is also performing its job efficiently. However, the absence of a centralised registration system is making the flow of stolen cars from one place to another easy for the criminals.
Kolachi: What are your plans for traffic awareness? What action is being taken against the traffic police officials who take bribe from citizens in groups?
CCPO: Internationally, the traffic system is controlled by radar and surveillance cameras and importantly, citizens are well aware of traffic rules and regulations. But here the general public even knowing the laws do not follow them.
On the other hand, the licensing system is highly faulty and most drivers obtain licences on their mechanical skills to manoeuvre on roads, parallel parking and narrow-way checking rather than on the basis of their knowledge of traffic laws. The need is to revise the licensing system, wherein, the drivers are properly assessed regarding the traffic laws, road sense and driving skills.
I have personally visited the city roads and wherever the groups of cops were found taking bribe were suspended and ordered an inquiry against them. Also the DIG Traffic was issued directives to check the staff and take serious notice of this. The ladies traffic staff has also been ordered to visit schools and give lectures on traffic laws to create traffic sense amongst students.
Working from the roadside, Hyderabad's craftsmen who make various handicrafts and furniture with straw are in desperate need of state patronage
By Adeel Pathan
Just around the corner from Hyderabad Press Club, you can find roadside craftsmen busy working with straw, making handicrafts of various types. Whether it's raining or the sun is scorching, you can find this bunch earning their livelihood along the roadside. Temporarily encroaching the footpath during the daytime, these craftsmen work by the day and in the evening pack up and take their belongings home. Mostly men, who with the support of their women relatives and children of all age groups, make stools, chairs, blinds and tables with straws. Using straw with coloured thread they make traditional blinds, chiks popularly used to decorate homes. Straw-made handicrafts and chiks are very popular in Sindh. However, despite their popularity, it is a pity to see those who make them live in miserable conditions.
In Sindh, however, this is an example of a common story. Chik-makers are not the only indigenous artisans who have suffered; many other forms of handicrafts are reaching or have already reached their end largely because those responsible for promoting and preserving traditional and ancient arts and crafts are not interested in doing their jobs.
The sorry state of affairs of those who prepare straw handicrafts has not drawn any attention from the concerned agencies or even NGOs working in the arts and crafts sector. Artisans involved in the manufacture of straw made handicrafts sit along roadsides, including outside the bungalow of a former deputy commissioner and also beside Dialdas Club, and work from the roads, trying to make a living.
The prices are not high but the work is difficult and requires a lot of attention to detail. It normally takes a day or two to create one handicraft, but some craftsmen are so experienced and quick that they prepare stools, chiks and tables within hours. Since they work from the roadside, their buyers are from all walks of life.
Kaniya also known as Natho has been working as craftsman of straw-made handicrafts since independence. According to Natho, in winter the sale of straw-made handicrafts is the highest because that's when prices of straw decline but prices of the handicrafts made out of straw go up. "Winter is our prime season when people visit us to purchase maximum quantity of straw made handicrafts," he shares. Natho's entire family is involved in this work.
Sales vary everyday, with some days where these craftsmen manage to sell nothing. Living on daily wages from these sales, the nights when they get nothing they have to sleep without having food. Living hand to mouth from these hard earned daily wages, these people hardly have any savings. In such poverty they are unable to put their children in to schools and inevitably the children end up helping out in the trade. Living in poor conditions, these craftsmen are miles away from the necessities of life, let alone luxuries.
Biju Mal, another craftsman in his thirties, tells Kolachi that he started preparing straw made handicrafts since he was a child. "I enjoy my work even though every day starts with a new problem and what we earn goes to meet our daily requirements." According to Biju, prices of their handicrafts are not fixed and depend on the customer. "Sometimes customers pay well and at times they don't. It all depends on luck."
But Biju needs more than luck to make ends meet and provide for his seven children, who all work with him. "I wanted to get them educated but this is not possible in my meager resources," says Biju.
The price of one foot of straw made handicrafts ranges from 10 to 20 rupees depending on the customer and the quality. While some are interested in these handicrafts solely for decoration purposes, others, especially those who buy chiks want their buy to be of practical use.
Jaggu, another craftsman told Kolachi that they have been working in the same location for decades now, "We have been working from here for a long time now. Before these high-rise buildings were raised. Things have changed around us but our lifestyle and the place we work from remains the same." According to Jaggu, even though they are encroaching, officials and municipal authorities are not interested in evacuating them from this location.
These people are not discouraged by the lack of facilities available to them, as one might have believed. However, they realize the importance of education for their children. Most craftsmen want their children to go to school and get an education, so that their future can be brighter but they themselves did not want to leave this art form. They feel that since they are not educated nor do they have any other skill, they would not be able to make any money at all. But as far as education for their children are concerned, the government and relevant agencies should look into the matter, because education is a state affair.
These handicrafts are admired and popular, but nothing is being done to support the community that is involved in creating these pieces out of nothing but straw. It is not just the government's responsibility - there are quite a few non-governmental organizations working in this field, recognizing traditional forms of handicrafts. They should focus on providing micro-credit to these craftsmen so they could expand their work and plan a better future for themselves and their children who otherwise will end up in the same way as their parents.
– Photos by
Between the nights of March 3 and 4 Karachiites stayed up to witness the moon's disappearing act. This combo picture taken of the mosque in the newly inaugrated Bagh Ibn-e-Qasim shows the moon in its various stages during the eclipse
– Photo by M Farooq Khan
By Hussain Dada
From behind his kiosk, apron clad Rafiq is all genial conversation with a bit of raunchy humour that makes the boys (old and young) flock to the Sun Light Paan Shop at odd hours. Now 35, he has been working at his paternal shop for 27 years without furrowing his brows. Word is that his delicately rolled 'saada paan' is the stuff of legends, but he humbly claims that it has more to do with his liberal credit policy and not any magical cloves.
Kolachi: Tell us about your education.
Rafiq: I did my matriculation from a government school in Kharadar, nearby my house. I was never studious, though. But my father wanted me to finish school so I stuck to it for as long as I could.
Kolachi: Did you always work at the same Paan Shop?
Rafiq: No, we have had this shop for around 40 years. Our main shop was located adjacent to Metropole Hotel, and it had been there since before partition. I liked working there. But it had to be closed down due to numerous reasons which are better forgotten. But this place at Soldier Bazaar has been good to us, too. The neighbourhood has nothing malicious about it and the business continues at its merry pace.
Kolachi: So it was more profitable back then?
Rafiq: Much more profitable. Those were the times. It was where all the fun was. People came from all over - travellers, dignitaries, ministers, fun-seekers, profiteers and others about whom you can't write in your paper. Even people had more money to spend. With the rising costs and inflation now, it's tough getting the creditors to pay off their dues even. But I am not complaining because we still make enough to live much better than those around us.
Kolachi: Where did it go wrong then?
Rafiq: I don't know; too many things I guess. The arrival of General Zia changed things for a lot of people, but we didn't benefit. The foreigners stopped coming; people stopped spending. And also, I was a happy go lucky fun-seeking teenager then and now I am married and saddled with responsibilities...so things change. It just that we have to move along with time and make adjustments - just that it's a lot difficult for those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
Kolachi: Tell us about your family?
Rafiq: I have been married for 10 years and have four kids.
Kolachi: Do you have any plans for them?
Rafiq: The eldest goes to a private school. I want them educated, the rest I leave to fate.
Kolachi: Do you have any plans for the future?
Rafiq: Yes, I have a cousin in South Africa. I am thinking of moving there but that would mean leaving my family and business behind, so I am not sure. Let's see what God has in store for me.
Kolachi: What do you think of Karachi?
Rafiq: It's my city. I have lived here all my life. But I miss the old times. It wasn't so divided back then. Now there are too many divisions that create too many complications. It's becoming difficult to survive by being simple. You always have to be on the look out. Make sure that the other person is not trying to cheat you of your hard-earned money. Too many swindlers around now and with few foreigners, those guys have to target the local population. But I have been to the school of hard knocks and won't let anyone swindle me.
Kolachi: How do you spend your spare time?
Rafiq: When I get back from work, I am pretty tired. But the kids lighten up my mood, and it is always fun playing with them for a bit. And as you know, I am an avid cricket fan. So I follow up on what's going on in the world of cricket and also sometimes offer my umpiring services if the night matches are on.
Kolachi: Who do you think will win the World Cup?
Rafiq: It's a tough one, but I think South Africa has the edge now. Australia's recent defeats will greatly dent its morale. Pakistan is out of reckoning now that Shoaib and Asif are out. At least we have memories of the '92 World Cup.
Kolachi: What do you think is in store for you in the future?
Rafiq: Hope is always there. I had hope even in the 80's. During the 90's, too, seeing all the things transform in front of my eyes. But maybe I am getting older now and just want to move on. Maybe my son will make a name for himself in South Africa, you never know.
With hopes for the future and nostalgia for the past, Rafiq continues to put in 14-hour workdays without break and without complaints; and his raunchy humour continues to entertain the motley crew that religiously congregates outside his shop towards the day's end. Forbearance tempered with humour, such is Karachi's character.
– Photos by S Iftikhar Ali