KARACHI: Farwa Javed, a medical student, was not a lot different from her peers, in that she would spend Pakistan Day by sleeping till noon and then stay glued to the television. This year, however, was to be spent on doing more constructive things. On Friday, March 23, numerous young people could be found on the main Zamzama road. They were participating in an anti wall-chalking drive that was organised by two youth-based organisations, Let’s Build On, and Green Volunteers Pakistan. Farwa, carrying a thick brush, said, “I wanted to do something constructive instead of wasting the day, so I decided to participate in this event after coming to know about it.”
Muntazir Mahdi, who heads Karachi-based Let’s Built On, said, “Instead of wasting their time, we asked youngsters to step forward and take part in cleaning up the city today.” He said that volunteers would continue their drive every alternate Sunday in Defence Housing Authority. They wanted to extend their operation to other localities as well, but the city administration did not grant them permission to do so.
As people gathered with paint buckets and rollers in an open plot near Arizona Grill, Mahdi made the purpose of their mission clear. “We will not erase political chalking. We are not against political graffiti, but only against advertisements on the walls. We would be painting over walls of plots, and not those belonging to houses.”
Mohammad Khurram, a student from Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST) and part of the Green Volunteers team, remarked, “Most of the wall chalking in the area is advertisements by tutors. While political graffiti is also here, we don’t want to run the risk of cleaning them and getting shot later.” He said that he and his friends had taken part in a similar drive in Islamabad last year.
Azka Iftikhar, another volunteer, quipped, “This is the first time I am painting walls. I’m here to play my part because dirty walls turn everyone off.”
A number of children from nearby areas also came out to help the youngsters. A ten-year-old boy, Usman, who had originally come to watch a cricket match that was going on in a nearby ground, said, “Offensive things are written on these walls. That’s why I am helping these people to remove them.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2012.