Can we blame anyone else?

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Today I attended the formal inauguration of Port Grand, a food street built on 150 years old bridge at the Karachi Port. The view is breathtaking; atmosphere is amazing and the food outlets exhibit a unique blend of local and foreign cuisine. The whole project put together by the managers of the venue compels a visitor to admire the ingenuity of those involved in it. While I was basking in glory and boosting the attractiveness of Karachi, I experienced several things which made me reflect hard on the society at large and forget about the wonderful new place built for dwellers of Karachi to enjoy their life. Today my conviction grew stronger in the believe that it is not Zardari, America, Taliban, India or for goodness sake western media, which is responsible for the state of affairs in which we find ourselves . If this society has produced entrepreneurs to think out of the box and succeed, the same society is the reflection of our social attitude.

During today’s gathering most of the people attending the inauguration of Port Grand belonged to the elite of the society. Their behavior showed that why we deserved to be condemned to the condition in which we find ourselves in.

During the inauguration ceremony one of the ministers announced that today all the food outlets will serve free food. This announcement was very well received by audience. Once the speeches concluded, everyone rushed towards the food outlets to capitalise on ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ of getting free food. There was a long queue at the pop corn shop serving popcorns. Next was an ice cream shop and there was a big rush of people in anticipation of free ice cream costing 30 rupees a cup. It was just amazing how people were forcing their way to get a scoop of ice cream for free. Further down was a place serving food. However the entry was restricted to media. I always wonder why media has to be bribed in this way. As a journalist I knew how important it is for reporters to look for the scoop. However over here media men were looking for a plate full of biryani. Yet the most interesting thing happening was the fact that non-media people wanted to benefit from the presence of journalists and fill up their stomach with some bun-kebab instead of juicy stories. When the organisers stopped general public from entering the area where the food was being served, the Karachi socialites AKA Defense aunties snatched the plate from across the barrier and pushed their way towards food and no one dared tell them that it is restricted to media, leave alone taking the plates overflowing with food away from them. Once the society’s elite established this precedent, members of law enforcement agencies decided to enforce their own code and snack on the ground rules established by the organisers.

As we walk further down, more entertainment was in store for us. To our amazement some of the outlets were indeed offering free food for all and sundry. When something is free for all, people do make sure that they also get themselves free from all the inhibitions. A stall giving away, mix-plate chat in a cup, saw dozens of people literally begging of a cup of mix-plate. Next there was an outlet offering free puri and gravy. It seemed people never saw puri in their entire life and it was a lifetime opportunity to get a pair of puris. We could overhear the person giving away the puri, “if you are unfortunate enough not to get a pair of puri, do remember that you can go to Boat Basin and get this tomorrow morning by paying 10 rupees for each puri. Entertainment did not end here. There was a coffee shop giving away free tasting of cake with a filling. The view of seeing people pushing each other and waiting for over ten minutes just to get a bite of this cake was an eye opener.

Yet the best of all and the star of that day was the minister who announced free food for all attendees. As he was having an informal exchange with those present at the venue one of the disgruntled ladies complained to the minister that despite his announcement some of the food stalls are charging for food and for her that was a big infringement of her right! Hearing this complain, the honorable minister really feel enraged and asked the lady who was that guy who dared bypass his instruction. The lady gladly obliged. What happened next actually showed the real life characterization of how the justice is dispensed and authority is exercised in this society. Once the minister reached that person, the policemen escorting the minister slapped hard, right on to the face of that person who was guilty of not giving free food to the elite despite instructions from the minister. That gentleman against whom the accusation was made and who was declared guilty and who was not even given the chance to present his case faced the ‘instant justice’ meted out to him. Witnessing this incident really made me feel so bitter about the whole episode that I totally forgot about the nice ambiance around us. However more unfortunately than this was my wife’s reaction to this episode. I brought my wife to the inauguration to show her that there are still some nice things happening in Karachi and Pakistan. As a Pakistani it was an act of marketing on behalf on my country to someone who was born and brought up in Singapore. Witnessing this drama she curtly said, “I have told you that I do not want to go to a place where the ministers and other VIPs are invited. To be around them is like putting yourself in danger. Who know someone will bomb the place or someone will start shooting” Thinking back I realize that how true it is because anyone anywhere, who can not take all this, can get too enraged and can consequently become very violent. His anger might blind him to the extent that he will stop caring for his life and the lives of innocent people around the target of his rage. Indeed who needs Taliban when we have the elite of this sort.

by Fahim Uz Zaman

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