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Karachi: What’s in a picture? - Part II

Jul 30. 2016
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By Dawn
Asia News Network

A special feature of Dawn, a member of Asia News Network

Karachi’s McLeod Road in 1962. After the economic boom and rapid industrialisation witnessed during the first half of the Ayub regime, McLeod Road became to be known as the ‘Wall Street of Pakistan’.

New buildings housing the Karachi Stock Exchange, banks, insurance companies, newspaper offices, other financial institutions and advertising agencies sprang up.

Between 1959 and 1965, streets of this area were regularly washed with water. Later, the area was renamed I.I. Chundrigar Road and has become extremely congested and polluted.



A Pakhtun rickshaw driver in Karachi’s Clifton area in 1963. The economic and building boom witnessed during the first phase of the Ayub regime saw the influx of labour arriving in Karachi from Pakistan’s NWFP province.

The hard-working Pakhtuns immediately populated the city’s labour force and also began to operate businesses involved in providing public transport. However, tensions began to mount between the city’s Mohajir majority and the new Pakhtun arrivals. The city eventually witnessed its first Mohajir-Pashtun riot in 1965.



Pro-Ayub graffiti on a wall in Karachi during the 1965 Presidential election.

Ayub Khan (Muslim League-Convention) defeated Fatima Jinnah (of Combined Opposition Parties — an alliance of anti-Ayub left and right outfits) and was re-elected as President. However, Karachi was the only city which voted against Ayub.



1967: An air-hostess of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) pours Champagne for a business-class passenger at Karachi Airport.

In the 1960s, PIA rapidly emerged as one of the top airlines in the world and the Karachi Airport became ‘the gateway to Asia’.



The Intercontinental Hotel, 1966.

It was a popular high-end hotel in a city enjoying an economic boom and a rising number of foreign dignitaries, business personnel and tourists arriving for work and play to Karachi.

The hotel was re-named Pearl Continental in the 1990s. It is now mostly surrounded by tall barricades and security guards due to rise of terrorism and militancy in the city from 2004 onward.



A rare 1965 photograph of the last remnants of Karachi’s Jew community.

The community had grown in size in the early 1900s, but began to shrink from the 1950s onward. By the 1960s, only a handful of Jews remained in Karachi. They completely vanished after late 1960s (moving abroad).

Members of Karachi’s Jew community spoke fluent Hebrew, English, Urdu and even some Arabic.

Pakistan’s Lost Jews: Rumana Hussain (Newsline, December 2013).



A widespread slum in Karachi in 1968.

The Ayub regime’s industrialisation project and pro-business policies had triggered an economic boom. But this boom had a flip side to it as well.

It also created serve economic disparities and gaps between classes and the expansion of slums like this one. The slums did not have any running water, sewerage system or electricity and were riddled with poverty, rising crime and alcoholism.

These tensions were expressed by an intense anti-Ayub movement in 1968-69, largely orchestrated by left-wing student outfits, labour unions and populist political parties. The movement forced Ayub to resign in early 1969.

The populist ZA Bhutto regime, which took power in December 1971, would go on to ‘regularise’ most of Karachi’s slums by providing them with some amenities, and ownership of land to those residing here. The Bhutto regime would also go on to build walls around such slums to stem their physical growth.



A 1970 Pakistani passport.

Though the Pakistani passport was always green (ever since the country’s creation in 1947), the full name of the country inscribed on it kept changing.

From 1947 till 1955, ‘Pakistan Passport’ was inscribed (in Urdu, Bengali and English) on the cover. This was changed to ‘Republic of Pakistan’ in 1956, and then to ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ in 1958.

In 1960, the Ayub regime reverted it to ‘Republic of Pakistan. In 1969, the inscription was changed back to the simple ‘Pakistan Passport’. This was changed in 1973 to ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ by the Bhutto regime (now written only in Urdu and English, because the Bengali-dominated East Pakistan had broken away in 1971).

This has remained, even though the Musharraf regime (1999-2008) did try to revert the inscription back to ‘Republic of Pakistan’, but his move was opposed by conservative opposition parties.



A 1973 photograph of a pop band playing at a nightclub in Karachi.

A majority of such bands, which played regularly at hotels and nightclubs of the city, consisted of members of Karachi’s vibrant Christian community. The community was largely Catholic and its ancestors had begun to arrive in Karachi in the early 1900s. Most had come from Goa where they had been converted to Christianity by Portuguese colonialists.

Karachi’s Christian community largely resided in the Saddar areas and was involved in education. The late 1960s and 1970s were the heydays of Christian pop bands, and most Christian youth made their living through this.

However, after nightclubs were closed down in April 1977 and a reactionary dictatorship came to power in July 1977, such bands struggled to find work. Many from these bands slipped into depression and alcoholism and died young, or migrated abroad. By the 1990s and 2000s, a majority of Karachi’s Christians had migrated.

—Picture courtesy: LMKonline.



McLeod Road in 1975.

Though it was still being called the ‘Wall Street of Pakistan’, the economy of the country which had boomed in the early and mid-1960s had already begun to falter.

Major industries and capital, which were concentrated in private hands, began to take flight and were stashed abroad after the Bhutto regime implemented its ‘socialist’ policies.

Most banks and insurance companies situated on this road were nationalised and fell into disarray. The economy also struggled to come to terms with the dramatic rise in global oil prices.



A 1975 poster of a Karachi-based pop band.

The 1970s were a surreal and flamboyant era in the city. Exaggerated and extroverted displays of one’s personality was common among the youth.



Bhutto inaugurates Pakistan’s first nuclear-power plant in Karachi in 1972. Bhutto accelerated Pakistan’s nuclear program in 1974 after India tested its first nuclear device. By the 1980s, Pakistan had developed its own nuclear device which it tested a decade later in 1998.

The plant which Bhutto inaugurated in Karachi is still operational.



Karachi’s famous Nishat Cinema in 1974.

It thrived in the 1970s and even survived the impact of the VCR invasion in the 1980s. However, in the 2000s, it was completely destroyed and set on fire by militant mobs incited by religious outfits. It has not been reconstructed.



Karachi’s busy Saddar area in 1974.

It had been an upscale shopping area during British Raj. From the mid-1960s, it began evolving as the epicentre of Karachi’s nightlife.

Its streets were lined with trendy restaurants, shops, bars and nightclubs, mostly catering to Karachi’s middle-classes. By the 1980s, it began to fall into disarray and suffer severe congestion. Today, it is a pale and an ill reflection of what it used to be.



Fishermen catch hammerhead sharks in Karachi’s coastal area in 1976.

Karachi always had a prominent fishing industry (fisheries), and it still does. However, ironically, it is perhaps the only major coastal city in the world where seafood is not all that popular.

Though small seafood eateries thrive near the port, and in the city’s historical coastal areas, such as Kemari, exclusive seafood restaurants are rare in Karachi.

This is mostly due to the fact that after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the majority group of the city was made up of refugees arriving from various cities and towns of India. Many of these cities and towns were landlocked and never fully developed a taste for seafood.



Children enjoy a ride at a slum in Karachi in 1977.

The Bhutto regime ‘regularised’ many such slums by providing their residents land ownership and some amenities. Bhutto also got walls built around the slums to stem their growth, but the increasing rate of population in Karachi, inflation, and unemployment, could not stem swelling of poverty and economic desperation.

Criminal gangs dealing in drugs (mostly hashish), prostitution, pick-pocketing, gambling and black marketing grew two-fold in such slums, one of which was situated in the Lyari area. Paradoxically, Lyari had become a bastion of Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from 1970 onward.



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