-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.
The skies come down to the ground and are eventually devoured by the hungry ground. For centuries, wars were fought and partitions made over land. Lines were drawn in the name of creating borders over the land’s bosom; murders were committed; blood was spilt. Sometimes, it was spilt in the name of religion, nationality, region, ideology and thought. Occasionally, language, culture, colour and race became a reason for burying humanity alive; this has been the case over the centuries. As the homo sapien continues to increase his population, the land gets increasingly congested.
Previously, the sky came down to the ground; but now the land rises up towards the sky. Human greed will never subside. But the greed for usurping, confiscating and selling land has turned him into a monster. The land had once belonged to God; is now not His. The master of the land lives on it, while God merely stares at his creations who now own His land.
Since these mysterious men of God have gained ownership of the land and turned it into a lucrative business, it has begun to rise towards the heavens above. Originally, it was the British, who gave away lands they didn’t even own, in recognition of the services and loyalty provided by a desi. Local lands along with titles were given to loyal natives, which subsequently, came under the control of conquerors, martyrs and those who lost wars. These lands were constantly divided and re-divided. Everyone did whatever they wanted, whatever was in their power to do. The land was divided, confiscated and occupied by humans. If someone hit a sixer and won the match, then he became a zamindar. If someone helped protect the nation’s ‘ideological boundaries’, he too received the honour of becoming a zamindar.
Previously, the zamindars were only found in rural areas but now they are also found in the cities. People, who came out to shout slogans and struggle against feudalism, had themselves turned into urban waderas. A city-dweller must remain on cordial terms with the urban wadera and vice versa. If a villager has a problem, then s/he must go to the dera. Similarly, if a city-dweller has a problem, then s/he must go to the city’sdera. In any case, more than half of the city has become the Cantt area, while the rest is known as Defence. The remaining city is squeezed in between these two areas. As far as the eye can see, there is only just a heavy populous.
The population increases rapidly, while the available land keeps decreasing. The business that began in the name of Defence has progressed so rapidly that it has reached from politicians, the bureaucracy and the so-called guardians of religions to the judiciary.
Everyone wants land, in urban and other populated areas. It doesn’t matter whether the parties are political, religious, nationalist or progressive. Everything becomes a part of the business, no matter what slogans, ideology and manifestoes they promote. Everyone eyes the land, whether or not they are in power. They distribute and sell land if they are in power and if not, then they occupy by force.
Our unfortunate Karachi, once known as the ‘city of lights’, was a hub of peace and tranquillity, famous for its secular identity. In the past, it wasn’t divided along the lines of religion, nationality, sect and creed like it is now. It was a city where everyone had the right to live without any limitations of religious or nationalistic differences.
A brave daughter of this city, Parveen Rahman, spent her entire youth working for the betterment of this city’s underprivileged inhabitants. She lived only to serve the people; but she was killed a few days ago by the sons of the ‘city of lights’. These sons, who were once armed with a school curriculum now cradle arms and have plunged this city into darkness.
-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.
Since Parveen didn’t rank amongst murderers, sects, looters or land-grabbing groups, her death didn’t affect the city’s ‘guardians’. Business continued as normal, while no strike was announced. A newspaper headline announced her death saying that Parveen Rahman was amongst the many killed in the city; she died just like the poor die here everyday. In this cruel city, those who serve the poor meet the same end as them.
Parveen was known for the Orangi Pilot Project, where she had served since 1980. Working with Akhtar Hameed Khan and Arif Hasan, she followed in their footsteps and became a friend of the people she had worked for. Serving them gave her more solace than fame or wealth ever could. This city has great wealth; but instead of amassing a fortune, she amassed the affections of the deprived. Parveen preferred to work in silence and didn’t care much for recognition. The work she has done is much more than you and I could imagine.
For the last few years, Parveen was working to save the old goths of Karachi. Not only did she conduct a study on those goths but she documented the details in the form of maps. On one hand, Karachi’s real villages were in danger of being usurped. Meanwhile, one girl single-highhandedly persisted in continuing her work despite frequent death threats. She remained steadfast in walking the same path of truth that she learnt from her mentors to her last breath. Her friends never saw her without her customary smile and that is how each of us shall remember her. According to our friend Karamat Ali, when the assailant would have fired at her, she must have smiled at him and told her attacker that this was all he could do.
-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.
The Orangi Pilot Project that she worked for was a settlement project for the immigrants from East Pakistan. The project became a world-wide example and continues to be followed today. Our Sindhi friends have the slogan ‘Bihari na khapan’. And here is this one Bihari girl who lost her life in trying to save the real villages of Karachi.
In 1947, their family had to leave India; then in 1971, they had to leave Bangladesh. And now the land traders have removed Parveen from their path. Her mother, who had lost her ability to speak when they departed from Dhaka and is still unaware that Parveen is no more, shall leave this land in a few days for another land, accompanied by her elder daughter. Salute to the daughters of this family who lived truthfully wherever they lived.
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