Bahria Town Questioned!

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Text & Photography by Faisal Sayani

The construction of two huge flyovers and an underpass in Karachi’s Clifton and DHA areas began in March this year. The unprecedented and unusual about this mega project is the fact that it’s funded and being executed by the country’s biggest property tycoon Malik Riaz, chairman Bahria Town, with the cost of about Rs. 1.8 billion (around £ 10.8 million). Bahria Town claims that it’s a gift for the residents of Karachi.

 

The controversial Bahria Town Icon Tower construction site
The controversial Bahria Town Icon Tower construction site

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The heritage sites like the colonial ‘Jehangir Kothari Parade’ and the Clifton monument, the ancient Hindu ‘Shri Ratneswar Mahadev’ temple and the legendary shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, are affected. The historical Hindu temple is constructed beneath the surface of the ground, and when the construction began, stones were falling off from the ceiling.

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Environmentalists and concerned citizens wouldn’t swallow this without some skepticism (and rightly so). The flyovers and underpass in question were being constructed on Karachi’s one of the expensive areas, 26th Street, where the Bahria Town’s giant residential and commercial project, the 68 floor Bahria Town Icon Tower is being constructed. Which simply means the supposedly welfare project was undertaken to support Bahria’s commercial project (in fact, without these flyovers and an underpass, the area around the Icon Tower will be a huge mess, which would negatively influence the price of the housing and commercial units offered).

The residents have to take a series of detours. The construction site of flyovers and underpass.
The residents have to take a series of detours. The construction site of flyovers and underpass.
Another angle of the site of flyovers and underpass construction.
Another angle of the site of flyovers and underpass construction.

The bigger problem and hence the debate is – because of the digging and the use of heavy machinery for the project, following has occurred:

The heritage sites like the colonial ‘Jehangir Kothari Parade’ and the Clifton monument, the ancient Hindu ‘Shri Ratneswar Mahadev’ temple and the legendary shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, are affected. The historical Hindu temple is constructed beneath the surface of the ground, and when the construction began, stones were falling off from the ceiling.

The famous colonial heritage Karachi monument being affected. (Bahria Town Icon Tower in the background).
The famous colonial heritage Karachi monument being affected. (Bahria Town Icon Tower in the background).
Clifton Monument (closer view).
Clifton Monument (closer view).
The historical ‘Jehangir Kothari Parade’ and the rubble of the construction.
The historical ‘Jehangir Kothari Parade’ and the rubble of the construction.

26th Street is one of the busiest roads in the area used very frequently to commute from one spot to another. Now, the residents have to go through a series of detours that are full of bumpy small streets, which also causes traffic jams.

I’d quote from May 2, 2014’s Daily Dawn: “The work had started even before an NOC from the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) had been issued, which is done after the agency assesses a project to determine whether it requires the more basic Initial Environment Examination (IEE) or an EIA (Environment Impact Assessment). The latter is mandatory for projects over Rs100 million and entails public hearings to consider feedback from concerned citizens.”

The gate of ‘Shri Ratneswar Mahadev’ temple and the boundary walls that are affected because of the construction. The temple is beneath this ground shown in the picture.
The gate of ‘Shri Ratneswar Mahadev’ temple and the boundary walls that are affected because of the construction. The temple is beneath this ground shown in the picture.
Juma, a temple volunteer from Hindu community (Hindus are minority in Pakistan).
Juma, a temple volunteer from Hindu community (Hindus are minority in Pakistan).
Worshippers/Visitors at temple have to face difficulties in reaching the temple as the usable road around it is pretty far away now. Juma is helping them getting in.
Worshipers/Visitors at temple have to face difficulties in reaching the temple as the usable road around it is pretty far away now. Juma is helping them getting in.

Various stakeholders have taken the matter to court and work on the project has been stopped twice. Latest, however, is the announcement of Bahria Town of rolling back the flyovers and underpass projects (April 30, 2014). I took these photographs today at around 9 am (May 4, 2014). The work on Bahria Town Icon Tower continues, the flyover sites stay dug up. The damage done to the heritage structures is still unattended. The detours and blockades are still in place.

The shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi (on left with the green tomb) close to the Bahria Town Icon Tower. The entrance to the shrine is almost gone.
The shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi (on left with the green tomb) close to the Bahria Town Icon Tower. The entrance to the shrine is almost gone.

Faisal Sayani

May 4, 2014

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Koohi Goth Hospital – International day to end obstetric fistula…

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he wept inconsolably, and the doctors at Koohi Goth Hospital Karachi could not understand why. They had treated this young woman in her 20s already, and they were ready to discharge her so that she could go back to her family near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

By Farahnaz Zahidi

Photography by Faisal Sayani

A translator was brought in who told them the real problem. “My first born is with the money-lenders as girwi (mortgage). I developed the fistula during his birth. But I was so desperate to be healed of this constant leaking that I took the chance. I needed money to reach here to get treatment.” Doctors at the hospital raised the money and sent her home. One life saved out of the nearly 5,000 women that develop the fistula every year in Pakistan. But thousands await treatment.

For fistulas, precaution is the best cure. And the cure is simple: Women of Pakistan need to deliver babies into trained hands and with basic health care facilities. This cure is still a distant dream.

Koohi Goth Hospital is  a women-friendly space where women heal through sharing joys and sorrows, and are counselled to lead a better life once they leave here.
Koohi Goth Hospital is a women-friendly space where women heal through sharing joys and sorrows, and are counseled to lead a better life once they leave here.

Snuggled away in the outskirts of busy Karachi, Koohi Goth Hospital is Pakistan’s only hospital exclusively built to end the scourge of this preventable disease. Only, there should be not even one fistula hospital in Pakistan, because fistulas should no longer exist. “The last fistula case in England was in the 1920s. Here we are with 5,000 new cases every year,” says Dr Shershah Syed, founder of this hospital.

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For fistulas, precaution is the best cure. And the cure is simple: Women of Pakistan need to deliver babies into trained hands and with basic health care facilities. This cure is still a distant dream.

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“If the labour is prolonged, the baby’s head can get stuck in the birth canal. If it keeps pushing against the thin wall between the bladder or rectum and the wall of the birth canal, thereby causing strain,” says Dr Suboohi Mehdi, one of the surgeons at Koohi Goth Hospital.

Dr. Suboohi Mehdi is Pakistan's one of few surgeons trained to repair fistulas.
Dr. Suboohi Mehdi is Pakistan’s one of few surgeons trained to repair fistulas.

Another way a fistula may be formed is if, by mistake of an unskilled surgeon, a cut is caused in the bladder or rectum during surgery. “We are able to treat just 500—600 every year. Lack of awareness and no accessibility to treatment facilities is the reason,” says Dr Sajjad Ahmed, project manager Fistula Project. The project, run by Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health (PNFWH) and UNFPA, has treated some 3,400 women since it started off in 2006.

Women suffering from fistulas leak urine or stool uncontrollably. Because of this, they are socially ostracised and lead isolated lives. The fear of leaking leads to them starving themselves, which in turn leads to malnourishment-related problems. They miss basic joys like socializing and traveling by public transport.

“I have forgotten what a normal life is. All I have done the last four lives is wash clothes,” says 40-year-old Rihana from interior Sindh. Rihana cries easily; she knows her case is a complicated one. “I don’t know how I will fix her. Sometimes, the cases are so messed up by the time they come to us that there is little we can do,” says Dr Mehdi.

40-years-old Rihana’s case is complicated. “I have forgotten what a normal life is. All I have done the last four years is wash clothes. Everyone told my husband to leave me but he did not”.  Her eyes well up in gratitude.
’40-years-old Rihana’s case is complicated. “I have forgotten what a normal life is. All I have done the last four years is wash clothes. Everyone told my husband to leave me but he did not”. Her eyes well up in gratitude.’

“The first thing we do when a lot of them reach here is give them a shower,” says the dedicated Noor Gul, a senior nurse at the hospital. Gul is now a trainer, helping train young girls who come to the Koohi Goth Midwifery School and Hostel. Once trained, these girls will go back to their communities and be able to help deliver babies safely, so that more women do not develop this disease.

“When they reach us they are drenched in urine. The first thing we do is give them a shower,” says the dedicated Noor Gul, a senior nurse at the hospital who is now trained enough to not only deliver simple cases of child birth, but also train others.
“When they reach us they are drenched in urine. The first thing we do is give them a shower,” says the dedicated Noor Gul, a senior nurse at the hospital who is now trained enough to not only deliver simple cases of child birth, but also train others.
These young girls in pink from the vicinity of the hospital are under training to eventually becomes midwives. “Baaji do you like Balochi people?” one of them asks. “Will you put our pictures on Facebook? Please do.”
These young girls in pink from the vicinity of the hospital are under training to eventually becomes midwives. “Baaji do you like Balochi people?” one of them asks. “Will you put our pictures on Facebook? Please do.”
These young girls in pink from the vicinity of the hospital are under training to eventually becomes midwives. “Baaji do you like Balochi people?” one of them asks. “Will you put our pictures on Facebook? Please do.”
This young midwife in the making from Koohi Goth area has learnt a lot since she came here. “I go back home and raise awareness among my people.”
This young midwife in the making from Koohi Goth area has learnt a lot since she came here. “I go back home and raise awareness among my people.”

In a message on this day, the President Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan (SOGP), Dr Tasneem Ashraf correctly points out that doctors must identify high risk patients for fistula development, especially pregnant women below the age of 20 years or above the age of 40 years, women who have given birth to many children, those suffering from obesity or Anemia, or having larger than normal babies.

Sheher Bano doesn’t know her age but seems not older than 15. “Doctors say I will be cured soon,” she says, and giggles with excitement at the prospect of being dry.
Sheher Bano doesn’t know her age but seems not older than 15. “Doctors say I will be cured soon,” she says, and giggles with excitement at the prospect of being dry.
Six-years-old Salma has accompanied her elder sister  Sheher Bano from a small village in Thatta district, accompanied by their mother Jannat and sister 6 years. “We hope to go back home soon.”
Six-years-old Salma has accompanied her elder sister Sheher Bano from a small village in Thatta district, accompanied by their mother Jannat and sister 6 years. “We hope to go back home soon.”

Husbands on Board

Naz Bibi is tiny in stature but gives a resolute smile. Suffering from a fistula since the last nine years, this woman in her 40s has come to Karachi all the way from Goth Dera Bugti. She lies on a plastic sheet spread out under her, and can’t wait for the day when she will be dry once more. “Every one left me. Family, friends. I smelled all the time. I leaked non-stop. Yet, my husband was the only one in my life. He brought me here,” she says.

Naz Bibi from Dera Bugti, Balochistan, has been suffering from the condition for nine years. “Everyone left me but my husband. On way to Karachi, traveling was tough in the bus because fellow passengers were disgusted with my stench. I hope that will be over soon.”
Support and counselling is a part of the treatment for socially stigmatized fistula patients. A single touch and a kind word can heal.
Naz Bibi from Dera Bugti, Balochistan, has been suffering from the condition for nine years.

“We are seeing a definite positive change in the trend. More and more husbands now support their wives through the ordeal,” says Dr Ahmed.

“My husband brought me here all the way from Sialkot,” says Fozia, who developed a fistula during the birth of her first child. “I am so excited! Once I heal, I will be able to say my namaz. I have not been able to pray for the last seven years”.

Fouzia from Sialkot, developed a fistula in her first child’s birth, and has given birth to another 3 children since then. “I am so excited! Doctors say once I heal, I will be able to say my namaz. I have not been able to pray in the last 7 years”.
Fouzia from Sialkot, developed a fistula in her first child’s birth, and has given birth to another 3 children since then. “I am so excited! Doctors say once I heal, I will be able to say my namaz. I have not been able to pray in the last 7 years”.

Facts in numbers

Fistula is a poor women’s disease, and the patients are 99 per cent poor women who cannot afford to get their child delivered under proper medical care.

Every year, Pakistan has 4,500—5,000 new cases of fistula. Out of these, only 500—600 reach doctors for treatment.

Pakistan has an estimated 38 surgeons who can perform fistula repair surgeries, but because this is not a lucrative line of medicine, only an estimated 15 are regularly working in this field.

Life saving info:

For information, call 0800-76200

Pakistan National Forum on Women Health

PMA House, Sir Aga Khan III Road, Karachi.

Office number: 021-32231534

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24, 2014.

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A Pakistani at a Mumbai café

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’ve been to Mumbai and Pune several times. But my trip to India this May was life-altering in an entirely different way. This time, I was part of a 14-strong delegation comprising members of the Karachi and Hyderabad press clubs who were visiting India as part of a peace initiative.

My last visit to Mumbai must have been at least 12 years ago. Although the city has changed to some extent, I recognised the ‘heritage sites’ and the smell of the pavements. Standing in front of the famous VT Station (now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), I knew that places like Flora Fountain, Colaba and Taj Mahal were nearby.

Leopold Cafe - Bulletholes 1 -22May2012

It was this familiarity that made the restrictions on our movement more onerous. (Of our delegation, however, only I was chafing at the restrictions; the rest appeared content with the hospitality of our hosts and the omnipresent — and possibly armed — ‘escort’.) On day one, my solo flight in quest of a bottle of shampoo earned me the status of  ‘An Enemy of the People’. But day two made even this epithet worthwhile.

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But till the night I visited Leopold Cafe, I never really comprehended what the attacks have done to Mumbai and to India. Standing in front of the bullet-hole punctured wall of Leopold Cafe brought to life the visuals I’d seen on TV: two young men indiscriminately spraying bullets, mowing down 10 people of the 164 killed.

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With the help of two Mumbaiker journalist friends, two Pakistani delegates and I managed to ditch both the delegation and the escort. Wandering along Colaba, we found ourselves at Leopold Café.

Leopold Cafe - Bulletholes 2 -22May2012I was with DawnNews at the time of the Mumbai attacks. As the militants held the entire nation hostage, I could only look at the footage aired by the Indian media in grief, outrage and disbelief. “I know this place … I’ve been there … this can’t be happening …” was the constant refrain in my head. As the broadcast media is wont to do at such times, elements within the Indian press corps came out with jingoistic outbursts and immediately pointed fingers at Pakistan. And I clearly remember the angry faces of some colleagues who wanted to respond vehemently to the allegations. “Phaar do (tear them apart)” was the war cry of one of my particularly militant senior colleagues. (Thankfully, the then editor was a far saner individual who managed to prevent the imparting of misleading and unconfirmed information). And then we found out the identities of the attackers; all were Pakistani.

But till the night I visited Leopold Cafe, I never really comprehended what the attacks have done to Mumbai and to India. Standing in front of the bullet-hole punctured wall of Leopold Cafe brought to life the visuals I’d seen on TV: two young men indiscriminately spraying bullets, mowing down 10 people of the 164 killed. “Not every Muslim is a terrorist but every terrorist (in India) is a Muslim,” is what most Mumbaikers believe according to my Indian journalist friend. As journalists, we’re trained not to generalise. But the sentiments of my Indian friend echo those of most Mumbaikers I met.

That night, when we went back to our hotel, I was on the receiving end of a long harangue from one of the leaders of our delegation. Apparently, our visit to Leopold Cafe had generated shockwaves within our security detail since the cafe is a no-go area for Pakistani journalists.

Leopold Cafe - Interior -22May2012During the rest of our stay in Mumbai and Pune, there were many speeches about the love between India and Pakistan. We all spoke of the warm welcome we’d received in each other’s countries and we all promised to improve relations between our countries. Despite my inherent cynicism, I want to believe all this. My sister married an Indian 36 years ago and lives in India. When her husband died four months ago, I wanted to console my sister in person. I have some wonderful friends who happen to be Indian; I want to be able to visit them. I want to believe that these peace-building efforts are real and not just oratory.

But when I put myself in the shoes of friends who spent a lifetime living in and loving Mumbai, I don’t find any warmth in me for guests from the Karachi and Hyderabad press clubs. If my Pakistani friends who were part of this delegation put things in perspective, they’d also conclude that we were treated far too nicely.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2012.

 

 

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A world of its own: The beach-party

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ARACHI: Take a stroll down the Sea View Beach on a Sunday evening and you will find yourself in a completely different world – away from the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan.

The visitors at this patch of the famous Clifton beach, towards the side of Bilawal House, are not your usual vacationers – they largely comprise those of the very low-income group – the security guards, labourers and construction workers.

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The men huddle in groups and dance to the beat of the drums while holding each others’ hands – the last of the rites of these vacationers before they head off to their homes.

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They’d charge you for the horse ride but the dancing horse show is for free.
They’d charge you for the horse ride but the dancing horse show is for free.

 

Clad in multi-coloured shalwar kameez, these ‘tourists’ arrive in large groups on buses, in rickshaws and any other means of transport they can afford. Some have even walked the three kilometre stretch from Shireen Jinnah Colony where a large number of them live.

Very few women can be seen there.
Very few women can be seen there.

 

The crowd at this stretch is pre-dominantly male. What is most surprising is the warmth and humility with which they welcome you, make you feel as one of them, no strings attached. One gets the feeling these men lead hard lives – these outings each Sunday, their solace from their physically tiring routines.

The handsome Dilpasand Chat wala.
The handsome Dilpasand Chat wala.

One thing is for certain though. These men, young or old, certainly know how to enjoy themselves. A look around the landscape shows various groups playing cricket, football or water sports. The equipment may not be of the best quality but it is indigenously improvised to suit the sandy turf.

Care for a plate of Biryani?
Care for a plate of Biryani?

Then there are the make-shift stalls that sell anything from traditional delicacies such as ‘channa chaat’ to re-usable swimming costumes. The costumes may be used by one customer for a nominal fee after which it is hung up to dry.

Shoe rack and chaddi to rent

The next customer is rented the same pair of trunks after they have dried up on the line. The custom-built shoe-racks, furnished out of old fruit containers, hold the shoes for their owners while they are out for a swim. Perhaps the busiest stalls are the photograph booths where one may stand beside life-size portraits of famous personalities to capture memories of the trip. Another type of stalls that do a roaring business is the ones that provide water for washing purposes. The men use the water to rinse their hands and feet or to perform ablution after their games.

Water for ablution and washing the sand off
Water for ablution and washing the sand off

The most interesting aspect of this particular niche comes at the very end of the day, just before the sun sets. The men huddle in groups and dance to the beat of the drums while holding each others’ hands – the last of the rites of these vacationers before they head off to their homes.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2014.

Water for washing your feet and ablutions

Water to wash feet and to perform ablution, Chaddi (swimming costume) to rent, and shoe racks (made of discarded fruit boxes) are the services often provided by the same vendor.
Water to wash feet and to perform ablution, Chaddi (swimming costume) to rent, and shoe racks (made of discarded fruit boxes) are the services often provided by the same vendor.

 

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Troubled waters: Court inquires if deep sea port project is eco-friendly

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the Karachi Port Trust’s (KPT) authorities to file detailed comments, explaining whether the under-construction deep sea container port would have any repercussions on the ecology and environment or not.
The petitioner told the court that the fundamental rights of the public, particularly of the Karachi’ites, will be violated due to encroachment of the Clifton beach. He claimed that it was the only beach accessible to the public in the port city, offering recreational and entertainment opportunities. PHOTO: FAISAL SAYANI/EXPRESS
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Shot in the air

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OOD FOR THOUGHT:

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I went to Mirpur Sakro on Saturday for a photo shoot and saw some really beautiful and exotic migratory rare birds. We were trying to take pictures of this beautiful unfortunate yellow billed stork (i am not sure if that’s what it is called), when we heard a gunshot and the poor thing fell in the fields. Before we could reach it, a little boy came running and picked it. A man appeared with a rifle and knife in his hands and slit the bird’s throat immediately. Melancholy filled our hearts. I asked the man what is he going to do with this bird. He said they (him and his poor family) will eat it.

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Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2014.

Mirpur Sakro Workshop 1 225Mirpur Sakro Workshop 1 476

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