Sunday, November 28, 2010

Megacity Madness

A piece in Der Spiegel shines a light on a truly dark and dangerous place--Karachi, Pakistan:
In Karachi, politics is conducted with Kalashnikovs. The major parties maintain gangs of thugs and killers to protect their spheres of influence. Armed men dressed in suits stand in front of the heavily guarded headquarters of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM). The party represents the Urdu-speaking immigrants who came to Pakistan from the Indian part of British India after partition in 1947. Today they have their own courts and their own security service, representing a parallel system to that of the state's, according to the police.

The Awami National Party (ANP), which represents the Pashtuns, has also become a powerful force. The two parties accuse one another of constantly inciting violence. Since October, about 100 people have been killed here for political reasons, most of them provincial members of parliament and party officials. The death squads travel on motorcycles and shoot their victims while driving or stab them to death with knives.

The militias are fighting each other for the dominance of individual apartment blocks and streets, for shares of the drug and weapons trade, for votes, for shakedowns or sometimes simply for honor. Even the liberal Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is supported by its own trigger-happy militia in its stronghold of Lyari, a drab neighborhood of narrow streets near the harbor.

All are perpetrators and victims alike in this megacity of grotesque contradictions. Vastly wealthy families live in their villas, protected by high walls, while the barefoot children of the poorest of the poor play football in the garbage heaps of the rich. Young urbanites like the shrill TV host Ali Saleem, 31, who says he wants to "party, party, party until the end," crave a freer, Western lifestyle. Meanwhile, in large Koran schools a few blocks away, thousands of students are being indoctrinated into an extreme interpretation of the Koran -- and taught to hate the American way of life.
Fun town. The Las Vegas of jihad.

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