KARACHI: The 2.5-million-rupee black cow the size of a dumper truck is a star attraction at a businessman’s marquee in DHA Phase V where they had to post a traffic policeman to manage the gridlock.
The long queues of families with excited children line up during the day and night outside the tent, which is a temporary home to nearly 70 imported beasts ahead of Eidul Azha. Everyone endures a body check by private guards before being herded past the walk-through gates. Inside, CCTV cameras monitor every little move whether on four legs or two.
To one side you will see the herd of yaks, the kind you find in the Himalayan region. Since Karachi’s heat is alien to them, the owner has installed air conditioners in this section. Meet the goats from Turkey and next door a set of their Afghan cousins.
Five camels, including a giraffe-sized one that the owner claims is the tallest in Pakistan, are having their fur shampooed. A special barber from rural Sindh had been summoned to create beautiful patterns all over their humps. Especially flown in from Islamabad was one cow, described as a cross between an Australian bull and a Pakistani cow. There were around 29 such breeds at the venue. But for the children the real attraction was the rare pair of albino cows. Traffic policeman Manzoor, who has been posted outside the tent, says that after 8pm, the spectator rush is “insane” and the small lane gets choked frequently.
The middle-aged owner of this spectacular bovine and camelidae display insists, however, that this was not an exhibition of his massive wealth. He specifies that he does not want to be named, as “Islam doesn’t allow showing off.”
The jury may still be out on whether it is kosher to hold such open house invitations to exotica but in a city like Karachi this much is clear, not everyone has the money to sacrifice a yak. And while each Muslim manages according to their pocket, the DHA Phase V marquee does contrast starkly with the Eid preparations going on in other parts of the city.
Landhi’s plumber Abrar, for example, who supports his family of three on Rs20,000 a month, will not be able to make a sacrifice this year. “Each year the prices keep going up,” he said. “People like me first shifted from buying goats to taking part in ijtimai qurbani [collective sacrifices], but the prices of that too have sky rocketed.”
For his part, economist Dr Kaiser Bengali interprets the DHA case as a “reflect[ion of] an obnoxious display of wealth and brazen insensitivity to the plight of millions.” But, he argues that it is not new that thousands of people struggle to buy a goat for Rs7,000.
“What is significant is that even the middle class is now afflicted with a kind of poverty,” he said, citing the example of people who have jobs but are squeezed tight by the cost of making it there. The class divide and unequal distribution of wealth is supported by the numbers. For each rupee increase in the national income, the richest 10% of the people in the country gain 34 paisas, while the poorest 10% get 3 paisas only. Perhaps one advantage to the DHA tent full of international sacrificial animals is that many deserving people will get a taste of rich meat this Eid.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2011.