National Geographic : 1967 Jan
Pakistan's largest city, two million strong by latest estimate, lies on a flat, dusty, dun-colored plain. As we drove along, I was struck by its harshly new look. Most of Karachi has been built since the birth of this geographic anomaly, a coun try split in two by the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. The city, in Pakistan's western wing, was then little more than a fishing port sweltering on the Arabian Sea. Today it teems with life and traffic. Brokers' Beards Dyed a Sunset Hue Under wheeling kites skirling their eerie cries, countrymen in the garb of upland tribes mingled with businessmen in West ern suits. Cars bulled through a tangle of sputtering motor rickshaws, creaking camel carts, and even an occasional nick ering flock of goats. Though the political capital has moved to Rawalpindi 700 miles northeast, pending completion of a spanking-new capital at nearby Islamabad (pages 20-21), Karachi remains the finan cial center. The ambitious come to the big city from all parts of the republic. The floor of the Karachi Stock Ex change, heart of the nation's commerce, presented certain differences from Wall Street. The mouths of brokers shouting bids were stained a wet scarlet from chew ing betel. Older brokers had hennaed their graying beards a flaming orange-pink. From the exchange we went to the street bazaar where the humble retail trader sells his wares. I had left my shaving kit at the previous stop; when I priced replacements at the hucksters' carts, I was staggered $5 for an American double-edged razor, $2.65 for a small pressurized can of lather. Because of rigid import restrictions to save foreign exchange, other overseas products sold for similarly high prices. Hucksters haggled keenly, however, to sell commonplace domestic items, such as jet-black powdered antimony for outlining the eyelids of men and women, a strap studded with bells for a camel's ankle bracelet, or a live lizard from which to extract oils beneficial to aging males. The dust blew thick, and the last rays of the sun played on a phantasmagoria of yellow and blue turbans from the North West Frontier, red felt caps from the Sind, white puggarees from the Punjab, and a Pakistani soldier's green beret. Here and there a fist fight created a brief swirl of excitement, until peacemakers wrestled the opponents apart. "Do you Pakistanis always fight like this?" I asked Imam. "This is the holy month of Ramadan," he said. "During this time we Moslems do not take so much as a sip of water between sunrise and sunset, and tempers wear thin by the end of the day." Atop a minaret, a loudspeaker sputtered to life. The recorded and amplified cry of the muezzin floated over the marketplace, sounding adan, the call to prayer. Kalash girl dwells in Chitral. Pakistan's pageant of people "TOT Afghans, Turks, or sons N of Tartary, But of one gar den, and one trunk, are we ... " wrote poet Mohammed Iqbal, who in 1930 first voiced the idea of Pakistan as a nation. He envisioned a people united in faith, though diverse in customs Young eyes focus on a festival. Minarets and multitudes: 300,000 worshipers, overflowing Lahore's Badshahi Mosque, dramatize the challenge facing Pakistan. The Moslem republic, separat ed from Hindu India in 1947, struggles to meet the needs of an exploding popula tion that already totals some 116 million. Aurangzeb, last of the great Mogul emperors, finished the marble and sandstone mosque-one of the largest in the world-in 1674. Graceful white domes rise above a prayer chamber and depository of relics of Mohammed. The throng celebrates Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan-Moslem month of fasting. THIS PAGE FOLDS OUT Mystic strolls a bridge near Dacca. Garlands wreathe victor in Hyderabad. 5 6 Dancing camel performs at Lahore.