Bani Abidi

Karachi series


A sideways glance at a growing manifestation of ethnic, religious and cultural homogeneity in an erstwhile cosmopolitan space. The photographs in ‘Karachi - Series 1’ hypothesize a silent moment when the original denizens of the city step out of their homes to lay claim to a space that is also theirs. Shot at dusk during the month of Ramadan, when most Muslims of the city are breaking their fasts with their evening meal, the artist contemplates the vast emptiness of the city streets and imagines them to be inhabited differently.

I was on my way to a dinner when on the way I saw a bunch of protesters on the street protesting against Israel and against the genocide in Palestine. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good shot, and most of the crowd already stomped ahead before I could get a click. But I’m in love with the support and awareness everyone is spreading around the world. InshAllah we will be victories and iA Allah will be with the people of Palestine!

Karachi,Pakistan July-13-14
A dance with the deities

By Yumna Rafi, Danyal Adam Khan and Akber Ali

Legend has that Lord Rama was sent into a forest exile of 14 years by his conspiring stepmother. The noble crown prince was accompanied by his devoted wife Sita and brother Lakshman. It was soon after that the rakshas King of Lanka, Ravan, showed up in the guise of an ascetic to kidnap the loyal princess.

“Come to me and I will forgive you,” narrated Lord Rama’s messenger to Ravan. On his refusal to comply, Rama led an army to the gates of Lanka and the epic 10-day battle of the Ramayana ensued, leaving Ravan and his empire devastated.

A few thousand years later, crowds at Karachi’s Swaminarayan Mandir jump for joy as the flaming arrow from Rama’s bow lodges into the defiant Ravan’s abdomen. Hundreds of women and children sway to religious tunes as the age-old tale unfolds night after night.

The staging of the Ramleela – a retelling of Rama’s battle with Ravan – is an essential part of the Hindu festival of Navratri, which could very well be as old as the religion itself. Celebrated in the name of the goddess Durga, the event goes on for 10 days at temples across the world. After much worship and festivities, a 20-30 foot tall effigy of Ravan is brought out on the last day to be set aflame.

“The burning of Ravan signifies something much deeper than what is visible to the eye,” says Vithal Babu, the maharaj of a mandir near Soldier Bazaar in the city. “It is symbolic of ridding oneself of inner evils and purifying the soul.”

The enthused pundit explains how the various names and depictions of Hindu deities are all mere manifestations of the same thing: the fundamental contrast between good and evil.

Vithal Babu has been invited to oversee Navratri rituals at the Lakshminarayan Mandir, a small temple under the Native Jetty Bridge, which has been the centre of a long-standing conflict with the authorities. Leaders of the Hindu community and organisations like the Human Rights Committee of Pakistan have claimed the ceaseless surrounding construction has indelibly affected the environs of the site.

In September 2012, the Sindh High Court had to intervene to prevent the Karachi Port Trust from demolishing the 200-year-old structure. A case has been filed against the provincial minister for excise and taxation, Mukesh Chawla, who is also a member of the Hindu Panchayat.

Sindh has an ancient relationship with Hinduism, which some claim dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. After persevering through the centuries, this dominance eventually lost out to the Islamic invasions. There was still a considerable number of Hindus in Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947, most of whom left for India. However, Sindh – both urban and rural – still has a higher percentage of Hindus than the rest of the country: approximately 6% as opposed to 2%.

“The problem is a lack of support from our representation in the provincial and national assemblies,” claims Vijay Dhakecha, a nearby resident and visitor at Lakshminarayan Mandir during Navratri. “This temple was almost shut down, while Hindus in Parliament did nothing to prevent it. They continue to mishandle funds and leave their people to fend for themselves.”

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around 200,000 of pro-Palestine supporters led by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq have joined Gaza Million March to demand the end of Gaza massacre.

By mid Sunday, thousands including women and children had joined JI Chief on the mid of Shahra-e-Faisal, Karachi in Pakistan’s southern province Sindh.

The procession took to the roads in motorcycles, cars, trucks and buses.

my city made me proud today!!!

Gay Pakistan: Where sex is available and relationships are difficult


By Mobeen Azhar

Pakistan is not the kind of place that most people would associate with gay liberation. But some say the country is a great place to be gay - even describing the port city of Karachi as “a gay man’s paradise”.

Underground parties, group sex at shrines and “marriages of convenience” to members of the opposite sex are just some of the surprises that gay Pakistan has to offer. Under its veneer of strict social conformity, the country is bustling with same-sex activity.

Pakistani society is fiercely patriarchal. Pakistanis are expected to marry a member of the opposite sex, and the vast majority do.

The result is a culture of dishonesty and double lives, says researcher Qasim Iqbal.

"Gay men will make every effort to stop any investment in a same-sex relationship because they know that one day they will have to get married to a woman," he says.

"After getting married they will treat their wives well but they will continue to have sex with other men."

Gay Pakistan: Where sex is available and relationships are difficult