KARACHI: The sight of young men and women scattered across the Empress Market, picking up orange peels and sweeping the dirt aside was strange —“are you shooting a drama?” asked one of the bewildered vendors.
Around 40 Karachi University students celebrated Pakistan Day at the Empress Market, Saddar, cleaning up the famous market as part of a four-day campaign. The students started ‘Saaf Saaf Pakistan’ from March 21 and will end it today (March 24).
The young volunteers assured the shopkeepers and vendors they were not part of a TV commercial. “We want to set an example for people here. It’s your place and you have to stop littering,” said a student.
If it was not the set of a patriotic ad, then there was absolutely no good reason for young girls to be picking up trash in a public market like this, felt the uneasy salesmen. “She seems to be from a respectable family, why is she doing this?” asked a vendor selling secondhand toys as he pointed to one of the volunteers.
Another student, Hina Mujeeb, said they had already taken part in a cleaning drive at their university. The trash at the market was more organic, which does not mean it was any prettier. Lemon peel, rotten vegetables and intermittent smatterings of betel juice decorated the ground. When cars ran over this garbage it became not just uglier but almost impossible to clean up, she said.
While the older vendors seemed confused, the younger boys who pick up trash and then sell it were not too happy about this newfound competition. “The children were getting insecure,” quipped Hina.
Student Arshad, however, was disappointed. He said that even though there was a garbage dump quite close to the market, the vendors were least bothered. Even as the students picked up the garbage, other people in the area tossed wrappers over their shoulders.
A sweaty, hectic two hours later, the students finished up. They left carrying four huge bags full of trash.
The students plan to separate plastic, polythene and paper and send it for recycling, said volunteer Ahsan Raza Farooqui.
He clarified that it was not a campaign restricted to a few selected national days. KU students want this to be a message for their fellow students caught up in class and creed divisions.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2011.