'I Am Karachi' had planned their Karachi Day at Frere Hall on Sunday hoping to promote peace and tolerance in the city. Little did they know that they will be dedicating the day to the woman who had been passionately working for the same cause for several years.
The consortium collectively dedicated the day to Sabeen Mahmud, who was shot dead two days earlier shortly after The Second Floor cafe — a project she had started to create an open space for people to share ideas — hosted a talk on the controversial issue of missing persons in Balochistan.
Sunday's Karachi Day was a sort of conclusion to the 'I Am Karachi' consortium's activities, such as recycling, planting and cleaning activities by the students of Pak-American Cultural Center. Similarly, the Charter for Compassion organised a cricket match. Karachi United Football Foundation organised football matches and graffiti activities in different areas. Injaz Pakistan also held a beach cleaning activity at Sea View.
Once these activities ended, the participants gathered at Frere Hall to celebrate. The heritage building was filled with vibrant colours, various food stalls, 'I Am Karachi' merchandise corners, a 'selfie-booth', swings and rides for children, along with a pledge canvas.
The most fascinating instalment in the event was the 'I Am Karachi' map, which was an apt depiction of the diversity in Karachi. The areas in Karachi were marked in numbers on the map and people were asked to put a sticker on the area where they live. It turned out that the crowd had showed up from as far as Gadap Town, Lyari, Korangi and Orangi Town.
The ceremony started after sunset in which campaign manager Wajiha Naqvi gave a tribute to Sabeen and requested the audience to observe a minute of silence. She handed over the stage to the host, Sidra Iqbal, who invited all the consortium members and ambassadors of 'I Am Karachi' on stage to recite the national anthem.
Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui and former chief of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee Jameel Yusuf signed a pledge that said that every second Sunday of March will now be celebrated as Karachi Day. "It is a beginning of a never-ending journey," said Siddiqui. "As a custodian of Karachi, nothing can be more exciting than signing this pledge to uphold the celebrations to maintain peace in Karachi."
Industrialist Ziad Bashir shared his experience with The Express Tribune. "It is our aim to remind the people of the Karachi where fear was non-existent," he said. "It is an achievement for us to arrange friendly football matches in Lyari and Korangi because only interaction among the people can stir peace."
A trustee of the football foundation, Taha Alizai, chose to speak about freedom of speech. "The sentiments of people must not be hurt by using the label of freedom of speech," he said. "There are certain boundaries for expressing yourself which must not be crossed." He urged that it is obligatory for the people of Karachi to respect the sentiments of people as a civilised society. He reminded, however, that 'I Am Karachi' managed to hold dialogues in public spaces where the youth could express their opinions.
"People from all over Pakistan come to Karachi to earn bread and butter," said fashion designer Deepak Perwani. "If Karachi is giving them bread and butter, they must come forward with pride to take its ownership." He pointed out that the city's history was not 60 years old. "Whether or not we stay, Karachi will always stand still at its place. It is our responsibility to respect, clean and promote Karachi."
Actor Talat Hussain recited the Urdu translation of an excerpt from Mohammad Ali Jinnah's presidential address on August 11, 1947. He also urged the youth to respect laws as responsible citizens. "I think a movement like this should have started much before," Hussain told The Express Tribune. "Now that it has begun, I only wish it will go a long way."
Writer Rumana Husain gave a tribute to Sabeen. "You [Sabeen Mahmud] will surely create a Peace Niche up there, not on the second floor but on the seventh," she said. "You will question Him directly, and He had better have the answers! [sic]"
Later, Mai Dhai, Shehzad Roy and Fuzon performed.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2015.
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