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

Jul 30. 2016
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By Dawn
Asia News Network

A special report by Dawn, a member of the Asia News Network

PIA airhostesses receiving lessons in English and French in Karachi in 1975.

PIA continued to grow into a world-class airline, and was making handsome profits since the mid-1960s. Karachi Airport, too, remained one of the busiest in the region, accommodating flights belonging to all the leading airlines of the world. But from the late 1980s onwards, PIA began to face a gradual decline. Its quality of service deteriorated and by the 2000s, it was on the verge of bankruptcy. It still is.

The airport in Karachi, too, lost out its ‘gateway to Asia’ status to Dubai. And due to rising incidents of terrorism in Pakistan, traffic at the airport was drastically reduced, despite the fact that the airport was shifted to a brand new building in 1992.



The incomplete building of what was supposed to be one of the largest 5-star hotels in Asia.

With rising violence in Beirut in the mid-1970s, the Bhutto regime planned to divert the wealthy European and Arab tourists from the crumbling casinos of Beirut to Karachi. For this purpose, the Bhutto government began building a large 5-star hotel in the heart of Karachi (Hayat Hotel), and an equally large casino situated on the shoes of the city’s Clifton Beach area.

By 1977 both the buildings were almost complete when Bhutto was overthrown in a reactionary military coup. Work on the hotel and the casino was halted. The empty casino building was finally torn down in the 2000s, whereas the incomplete structure of the hotel still stands, rather aimlessly.

The ‘recreational’ wealth Bhutto was trying to attract to Karachi eventually moved to Dubai.



The 5-star Taj Mahal Hotel on Karachi’s Shara-e-Faisal in 1981.

Its appearance symbolised a brief respite from economic turmoil which the city had fallen into in the late 1970s. The Ziaul Haq dictatorship was replenished with US and Saudi aid (at the start of the Afghan Civil War), and it also began to dismantle Bhutto’s rather ill-formed ‘socialist’ economic policies.

A new class of nouveau-riche began to emerge, which was comfortable with combining the accumulation of wealth and material exuberance with exhibitions of public piety encouraged by the Zia dictatorship.

Many members of this new class could be found holding business lunches and dinners at the Taj Mahal. The hotel still exists but in a more depleted state. It is now called the Regent Plaza and has become a 2-star resort.



Karachi’s Seaview Area begins to emerge in 1982.

Much of this area, located along the Clifton Beach, had just been about the sea, sand and shrubs. But in the early 1980s, town-houses and small bungalows began to come up, mostly catering to the growing middle-class sections of Karachi.

Today, it has become a widespread residential area with shopping malls, exotic restaurants and tall office buildings. However, the sea water here has become extremely polluted.



Prince Karim Agha Khan being given a tour of the Agha Khan Hospital in 1983.

Funded by the prince, the hospital has remained Karachi’s largest and most sophisticated surgical and treatment facility. It also has an excellent medical university attached to it.



Two photos of the same street in one of Karachi’s largest impoverished areas, Orangi. The pictures were taken by famous architect and sociologist Arif Hassan to demonstrate the success of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP).

The first picture is from 1983 and second from 1984. OPP was an initiative of Akhtar Hameed Khan, a social scientist. He began a ‘bottom up community development program’ in Orangi which, at the time, was a large slum.

He registered the OPP as an NGO and then generated funds and plans for the upliftment of Orangi. He mobilised the area’s people and involved them in various self-help schemes aimed at building an effective sewerage and sanitation system, paved streets, low-income housing, schools and medical facilities.

He often got into tussles with the many land-grabbing, extortion and drug gangs operating here. The gangs utilised the area’s religious figures to intimidate him. But the OPP was a huge success.



Pakistan and India battle it out in the 1981 Champions Trophy at the Hockey Club of Pakistan (HCP).

The HCP is a state-of-the-art hockey stadium and headquarters of Pakistan’s hockey federation. Situated off Shara-e-Faisal Road in Karachi, it was inaugurated in 1979 and was the first hockey ground in the country to have an Astroturf field.

The HCP held various international tournaments between 1980 and 1992. Most of them were won by Pakistan which was a force in international field hockey between the 1960s and early 1990s. Pakistan’s fortunes, in this respect, began to plummet after 1994, so much so that by the 2000s, this once international hockey power and winner of three hockey World Cups was even struggling to qualify for the sport’s major events. The HCP stopped holding international events. The last major event here was actually a pop concert in 1995.



1985: School and college students chant slogans against the government and Karachi’s ‘transport mafia’ the day after a Mohajir student, Bushra Zaidi, was run over by a bus.

The accident sparked a series of deadly riots between the Mohajirs and the Pakhtuns of Karachi.

Hundreds of people lost their lives. These riots triggered a cycle of ethnic conflicts which became an uncomfortable norm in the city. The riots were initially the result of Karachi’s resources coming under great stress due to the unchecked influx of Afghan refugees.

Drug and land-grabbing mafias became interwoven with corrupt security personnel and some politicians and guns became easily available on the black market. This was also the start of ethnic ghettoisation in Karachi, in which ethnic communities began residing in areas mostly populated by their respective ethnic group.



Crew of the first ever Emirates Airline flight to Pakistan in 1985.

The flight arrived from Dubai to Karachi. Emirates, which would go on to become one of the leading airlines in the world, was initially set up by the UAE government with the help of engineers, pilots and administrators belonging to Pakistan’s national airline, PIA.

Ironically, from the late 1980s, as Emirates was beginning its gradual rise, PIA had already begun its eventual decline.



Members of Airport Security Guard posted near an American Pan Am plane on the runway of the Karachi Airport in 1986.

The plane, which was scheduled to take-off from Karachi to JFK Airport in New York (via Frankfurt), was stormed by four radical Palestinian militants belonging to the notorious Marxist Abu Nidal group. The militants had entered the plane dressed as security personnel.

They shot dead an airhostess before Pakistani army commandos entered the plane in the dead of the night. Twenty passengers lost their lives in the gun fight between the commandos and the militants. The dead included Indian, Mexican, American and Pakistani passengers. The militants were captured alive.



Master West Indian batsman, Viv Richards, hitting out against Pakistan at Karachi’s National Stadium during the 1987 Cricket World Cup.

The 1987 World Cup was the first major cricket tournament held in Pakistan (jointly held with India). Both Pakistan and India reached the semi-finals of the event but lost. Australia beat England in the final to win its first cricket World Cup trophy. It would go on to win it four more times!

The National Stadium had a history of crowd trouble. But when in 1987, the stadium was upgraded and a roof constructed over the general stands (to keep out the angry Karachi sun), incidents of pitch invasion and crowd violence decreased dramatically.



Karachi-based pop/rock band, Milestones. Formed in 1990, it went on to become part of a fresh wave of Pakistani pop music which swept the country in the 1990s.



Heroin addiction shot up dramatically in Pakistan in the 1980s.

The most severely hit city was Karachi. Heroin addiction was almost non-existent in Karachi till 1979. But by the end of the 1980s, Karachi had one of the largest number of addicts in Pakistan, numbering in millions.

Heroin first began proliferating in the metropolis when it was introduced by drug peddlers, who had accompanied Afghan refugees arriving in Karachi after the start of the Afghan Civil War in December 1979. Peddlers first handed out the drug free of cost calling it ‘meethi chars’ (sweet hashish).

Users were not told it was physically addictive. But once the users were hooked, the peddlers began to charge them. Growth in drug addiction also led to more violent drug gangs and crime among addicts who soon ran out of money to satisfy their addiction.

The heroin menace cut across classes. In the late 1990s, when the price of heroin became even steeper, most addicts began to inject it. This led to the spread of diseases such as AIDs and fatal forms of hepatitis. Karachi still suffers from a major heroin problem.

The detoxification of high dose heroin addicts in Pakistan: Micheal Goossop (1989)



A market in Karachi shut-down due to a strike in 1993.

When the state and government launched an operation against the alleged ‘militant wings’ of the city’s largest party, the MQM, strikes became common in Karachi.

Throughout the 1990s, strikes shut down businesses and Karachi’s economy and law and order situation deteriorated drastically. Hundreds of policemen and members of the MQM died in the conflict.



Indian actor Shashi Kapoor and British actor Christopher Lee shooting a scene in Karachi in 1997.

The scene was for the biopic of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.



England cricketer McDermott Reeves enjoys a camel ride in Karachi.

Reed was part of the England cricket squad which toured Pakistan in 2000 for Test and ODI series.


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