The Other Side of Kati-Pahari
I usually travel on car in the city ever since I was robbed on a bus back in 2007. In the past four years there have been very few instances where I had to use bus, Rickshaw or taxi for commute. July 30 was such a day when I decided to use public transport so that I don’t get bogged down in the so-called Peace Rally organized by Karachi’s political parties.
Luckily a Rickshaw just stopped to drop off my neighbor in front of our house and I bargained fare with the driver. I had to attend orientation ceremony at Regent Plaza Hotel and there was still an hour’s time to get there comfortably. Once we decided on the payment I retrieved my documents from the house and climbed in.
The driver was middle-aged Pakhtoon with reddish, well kept beard and soft speaking manner. I struck conversation with him to pass the time and he was a willing to share his views on every topic. The first time he told me he’s from Kati-Pahari area when I asked him if he can stay long enough to take me back home as well. He apologized that he can’t since he’s from the opposite end of the city and have to go back soon. I then asked him about the security situation of his area and that’s where our real conversation started.
In the next 45 minutes we touched upon several topics and talked on a few sensitive issues like ethnic conflicts, Taliban situation, target killings, Qasba Colony incident of the 80s etc. His conversation was like a story of his own life that has shaped his views, giving a glimpse to opinion at the other side of Kati-Pahari and is reconstructed below to the best of my memory.
I came from NWFP, now Khayber Pakhtunkhwa, and lived at Kati-Pahari since. I spent my youth in the mountains, traveling extensively and easily able to survive by eating leaves. I was young when I joined the war veterans to man the Pak-Afghan border during Soviet conflict. Living with guns, grenades and rocket launchers all my life, Jihad had always been my passion just like most people of my race. There isn’t a Pakhtoon family that I know who hasn’t contributed at least one male member to Jihad.
Our race has been a proud warrior but we also know our place in the society. Our conflicts should not affect those who wish to live in peace and the Muslim who kills an innocent Muslim is not a Muslim at all. People say Taliban are the bad guys, I say all the Pakhtoons are Taliban because they all follow the same ideology. The only problem is that a section of the Taliban is much stricter and willing to go to any lengths which paint all of us as bad. It is like if one family member seems like a madman then people think the whole family is mad.
Taliban are everywhere, whether you consider the KP province or any other. The Taliban that America and others are looking for are under their very noses and hidden, that’s why they are stuck in Afghanistan and trying to run away. When we Talibs can break superpower Soviet into pieces, someone like America can hardly stand up to us. They came in Afghanistan by their own choice, they will leave by ours. They have been trying to negotiate a way out but we have told them clearly that they will suffer until we are satisfied and if they wish to leave, they can go by leaving all their equipment and weapons behind.
It is unlikely that they can even come close to winning the war. Pakhtoons are from Karachi to Russia and have clear presence in three countries; with such numbers America is fighting a losing war. But relatively old fellows like me know when to move aside and let the youth take our place in fight. I came to Karachi and settled down as Rickshaw driver, a far cry from the glorious Jihadi life I spent as a young man and sometimes wish to have that strength and health back to go back to my Jihadi life.
But here living in peace is like Jihad itself. Pakhtoons have lived side by side Punjabis, Sindhis and Balochis for centuries. You don’t see news of ethnic clashes between these races but the only conflict highlighted is Pakhtoon-Muhajir conflict. There were Muhajirs in KP as well who spoke both Pushto and Urdu. In my Kati-Pahari neighborhood we have Urdu speaking Muhajirs who even visit our house and we visit theirs. The conflict is really senseless, usually orchestrated by leaders and especially government for their own goals.
In the 80s, most of the Pakhtoons that settled in Karachi had recent war experience with Soviets. One night some Pakhtoon families were attacked near Qasba Colony and wiped out, including women and children. The next day the sight of littered dead bodies enraged Pakhtoons all around and attackers were traced back to Qasba Colony. Blinded in anger, large contingent of Pakhtoons rose and attacked Qasba colony and you know the rest. After that the Paktoons attacked more settlements of Urdu speakers nearby and wreaked havoc.
The matter of life and death isn’t new to us, we have lived with it all our lives but unlike fighting tribal instincts which most Pakhtoons, Balochis, Sindhis and Punjbis have lived with most of their lives, the majority of Muhajirs have either not faced it or seen little of it. These incidents invited more violence and greater fighting which the Pakhtoons have attempted to hold back. The government figures say 4 million Pakhtoons are in Karachi, I say we are over 10 million and have a lot more weapons, as advance as that of government and security agencies, jihadi training and natural fighting instincts compared to the Muhajir population.
But most of us don’t wish to fight; needlessly shedding blood of innocents has nothing to do with bravery or Islam. All these settlers of Karachi are Muhajirs, including us Pakhtoons who came from KP, and have lived here for decades. It’s only a few who want to keep us fighting to achieve their goals and we fail to see that. It’s only Allah to whom we are answerable for this whole mess and the ruination of our future generation. There are so many instances where things are not shown as they are.
Like last week when in North Nazimabad a media team came and started filming. Men from MQM who were in that area got alarmed because no media house contacted them about it and the whole thing looked suspicious. When confronted, the fake media guys tried to run away but were caught and handed to police. Who were they and what they wanted to do with the video footage, we don’t know. Then there was an incident when media men came for an interview at Kati-Pahari. There are four major mosques where we all come for Friday prayers. That day we saw on TV that Bilal Mosque was telecasted on news, showing Namazis coming out after Friday prayers and the newscaster was saying “Taliban extremists exiting the mosque after finishing their meeting”.
This isn’t the way we want to live but some people don’t want us to live peacefully and make us fight one way or the other. We are discussing conspiracies of each other and fighting each other but do not see the larger conspiracy designed to create smaller conspiracies to make us fight.
Hearing this guy’s views was refreshing, not because I sympathize with Taliban or agree with his views but because I actually got the chance to hear the story from ‘the other side’. Quite frankly, Pakhtoons dominate manual labor workforce in the city but have practically no outlet for masses to hear their thoughts and opinions. Most consider them necessary part of Karachi’s cheap labor and nothing more and form the smallest part of educated class from all ethnic entities in the city. They virtually have no forum to raise their voice and share their opinion and many government and non-government entities capitalize on this fact.