Held at gunpoint? Here eat some cake, and other stories from Karachi

Published: November 23, 2013
From L-R: Napa third-year students and graduates Noel Francis, Kulsoom Aftab, Meesam Naqvi, Kashif Hussain and Bakhtawar Mazhar reading a series of stories - some real - of and by people in Karachi for 'Mein Hoon Karachi' (I am Karachi) directed by Napa faculty member Zain Ahmed on Nov 22, 2013 at the Napa auditorium. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

From L-R: Napa third-year students and graduates Noel Francis, Kulsoom Aftab, Meesam Naqvi, Kashif Hussain and Bakhtawar Mazhar reading a series of stories - some real - of and by people in Karachi for 'Mein Hoon Karachi' (I am Karachi) directed by Napa faculty member Zain Ahmed on Nov 22, 2013 at the Napa auditorium. PHOTO: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS


It is not an instrument Daniel Pearl perhaps used but on Friday, actors from the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) used their voices as instruments to give a performance dedicated to him and the seven other journalists who have been killed in Karachi since 1992.

The actors gave dramatic readings of stories — some of them real — in a play titled ‘Mein Hoon Karachi’ (I am Karachi), directed by Napa faculty member Zain Ahmed.

A group of men gave a performance in which one man danced with a pot on a stick balanced on the top of his head . PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

The performance was dedicated to the journalists for a reason. Each year, since 2002, Karachi has hosted a Daniel Pearl World Music Day when he and they are remembered. But this year it almost did not happen for many reasons. It may not have been music as such, but surely Karachi can remember Daniel Pearl and the other journalists as they did tell our stories after all.

Sheher-e-Munn curated by Arshad Faruqi at NAPA Open Grounds . PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

And it was through stories that the five actors — Kashif Hussain, Noel Francis, Meesam Naqvi, Bakhtawar Mazhar, Kulsoom Aftab — sketched an arc of Karachi’s narratives and the people who suffer, love, die and hope here. Take the couple harassed on a date by the security guards or police, the fat school principal who turns way a poor mother but welcomes a donor in diamonds.

Every day a story unfolds of a desperate parent with two hundred rupees in his pocket, who begs the government hospital pharmacy to open up to give him medicines for a sick child. “Bachay ko private hospital le jao,” comes the response. The idle doctors are wearing black armbands and the strike will be extended for a week.

A poster of Sultan Rahi holding the flag of Pakistan has been put up across the city . PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

We know the story of the worker from a troubled neighbourhood where the firing is so intense that he can’t make it out of the house to the factory. The seth cuts his Rs8,000 pay by Rs2,000 before ordering a pizza for that very same price. Take the news stories that appear in the roznama dailies of the child who falls in and dies in an open manhole whose cover was stolen the night before by a heroin addict hoping to sell the lid as scrap. The city government and perhaps the boy’s own parents are blamed. A few columnists write about it and then, well, you know the story.

This ‘#GA Karachi’ sticker was made by an IVS student. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

All of the actors put on a stellar performance but it was Bakhtawar Mazhar’s rendition of the kitty party aunties that was a real hit. These are the women who like making dramatic entrances to drawing rooms under a chiffon cloud. These are women who natter on about lawn exhibitions amid pregnant pauses for effect, faux emotions and Louis Vuitton-accessorised arms. But what happens when one of them is held at gunpoint just as she makes her way over to Annie dahlink’s house? “Uff, don’t be such a dramaybaaz,” drawls one of them who is wearing a suit that looks like a lace doily. “Here, have some cake.”

In ‘Mein Hun Karachi’ play, five artists shared their stories of Karachi, some of whom were eral while some were fictitious. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

And again, Mazhar stole the show with her second solo as a grief-stricken and wildly desperate woman whose son, Bilal, was kidnapped two weeks earlier. She mistakes, for the slightest second, hope in Inspector Rasheed’s eyes. It is pity. No, that isn’t him, she says wearily when he shows her photos. She is maddened with worry: “God knows where he is, whether he’s eaten or not.” Suddenly the phone rings at home and her sister picks it up.

She starts to wail: he’s dead! I’m so sorry, he’s dead. “Why are you sorry,” replies the mother calmly, a little too calmly. “At least he’s in a safe place now. No one can harm him.” They take her and put her in a small room in a place where there are lots of other mothers like her. Our children are taken from us and killed, she muses from her padded cell. And you put us in these small rooms. You call us mad.

‘Hum Sab’ was an interactive session with coastal community stakeholders. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

And perhaps that is why Napa’s talented actors dedicated their voices to Saqib Khan, Wali Khan Babar, Muhammad Arif, Daniel Pearl, Mohammad Samdani Warsi, Mohammed Salahuddin, Zaman Ibrahim and Asadullah. We must keep telling stories for Karachi.

Journalists killed in Karachi since 1992

Motive confirmed

Saqib Khan, Ummat, 2012

Wali Khan Babar, Geo TV, 2011

Muhammad Arif, ARY Television, 2007

Daniel Pearl, The Wall Street Journal, 2002

Mohammad Samdani Warsi, Parcham, 1994

Mohammed Salahuddin, Takbeer, 1994

Motive unconfirmed

Zaman Ibrahim, Daily Extra News, 2011

Asadullah, Freelancer, 2001

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists

Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • x
    Nov 23, 2013 - 4:09AM

    Heartwarming! These endeavors must be lauded and it’s heartening to see that even if our government couldn’t protect our journalists including foreign journalists like Daniel Pearl who was working to tell OUR story to the people at large,the people are commemorating him and others. Absolutely beautiful. The stry of the mother with the kidnapped son brought tears to my eyes. Commendable work.


  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Nov 23, 2013 - 5:56AM

    I can’t find the words to express my gratitude to these Arts performers, when I come across people like these who care enough to remember and honor others regardless who they were then I feel there is hope for Pakistani nation, our country also have people who are standing up to the brutalities of others who want to impose their brand of what ever they believe in. This play makes me happy and sad at the same time, thank you for not forgetting the fallen Journalists.


  • Nov 23, 2013 - 12:24PM

    I was there a day before, for Waiting for Godot. Damn… but excellent effort, bravo.Recommend

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