KARACHI: The row over banning Facebook has led to booming business for makers of replica American and Israeli flags, as the demand to burn them at protests increases.
“I have nothing to do with any political party but it is really enjoyable when you see your work on TV screens,” said a laughing 31-year-old Mamoonur Rasheed who works long into the night to satisfy demands of activists taking to the streets against Facebook for holding a competition of blasphemous caricatures. “I’m busy every day making banners and placards for different religious and political parties but work gets a boost, especially when international controversy concerning Muslims breaks out,” he said.
“Generally, we receive orders for banners for a couple of demonstrations a day but due to the blasphemous drawings issue, the number of orders for flags and banners has increased by 10 to 12 per day,” said Rasheed. “Flags are made for burning. They symbolise what our clients want to express and we are paid for it, so I’m happy to see our work go up in flames,” he added. Rasheed owns a workshop where he employs four craftsmen to paint flags and write calligraphy and has a small printing press.
“We have received continuous orders for American and Israeli flags. Normally, we paint them but when demand surges into the hundreds, we print these flags to get them to our clients in time,” he said. Whenever elections approach or protests start, wholesalers stock huge quantities of cheap cloth and reap handsome rewards.” We are getting bigger orders from scores of painters and printers nowadays,” cloth merchant Muhammad Siddique said. “Pakistan is the country of protests and for this Karachi is undoubtedly its capital and our business gets a boost in such circumstances,” he added.
Waqar Ahmed, owner of a printing press in Pakistan Chowk, said orders are flooding in for posters, pamphlets and placards, temporarily overtaking his main business in books and wedding cards. “I get orders for pamphlets and posters in the event of controversies or elections,” Waqar said. May 15, when Palestinians marked Nakbah day is another landmark. Nakbah – meaning “day of the catastrophe” – is an annual day of commemoration for the Palestinian people of the anniversary of the creation of Israel.
“I got some orders to print flags of Israel and US – 100 a piece – during Nakbah rallies. We have also sold some American and Swedish flags during the protests against Facebook,” Ahmed said.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 27th, 2010.