RECENTLY I drove from North Nazimabad to Naya Nazimabad passing through Kati Pahari. This drive took me back to my college days. My driver is a Pathan , his words, his expressions and his reactions are the true reflection of what is in his heart, So I understand him quite well and I guess he understands me too. We often joke with each other about the tiff between our two communities. In the morning when I told him that I have to cross Kati Pahari today he understood, smiled and said he would pray for me.
On both sides of the mountain one can see thousands of houses. They are built by cutting the mountain into steps. Ten to fifteen feet high yellow stone pitched walls have been created which serve as the foundation for a single-room residence. Cement blocks rise over these yellow stones. Unpainted steel doors and windows provide some contrast. Unique, narrow and very steep lanes lead to each house. These lanes are without any railing or protection on sides to prevent a fall. I did not see power cables nor any signs of other utilities. I was wondering as to how do they bring their sick and ailing down from the height on these tortuous paths. Conditions are inhospitable to say the least.
Though the people at the foothills live in proper houses, conditions there are not much better. Health and hygiene seems to be unknown in this area. Be it the Pathans living on this mountain or other communities living on its foothill all seemed to be living in despair.
No wonder they are living on the edge and minor irritants lead to brawls which convert into fights and antisocial elements make good use of such opportunities and divide these communities just like the Kati Pahari.
They don’t fight each other, they are probably fighting the conditions, the hardships created by such conditions and blaming their luck. They don’t fight because they hate each other, they do so probably because they want to express their anger at the conditions in which they live.
In the 1970s this area was not as bad as it appears today. My college was situated on the north side of Kati Pahari. Me and my brother used to ride five miles daily on our bicycle to go to our college. The park on the side of the road was clean. The road was wide, the huge stormwater drain in between the median was clean and dry and there was no plastic bags then. The mountain was a mountain then with few shrubs here and there. A mile-long title of Pakistan’s first English film, ‘Beyond the last mountain’ was printed there. It could be seen from miles. We used to enjoy the ride.
If houses on the mountain, their doors and windows are painted white and blue, it will probably look like a part of Greece. It must be quite picturesque from up there. If the road below are sweeped, the parks reactivated, filth is removed and plastic collected the area would look like Islamabad.
Who knows that Kati Pahari area residents may have another Jehangir Khan, Jansher Khan, Shahid Afridi or Qadeer Ahmed Khan living in these mountains. These Khan sahibans will unite the communities. Let us find them out and give them a chance.
They need schools, sanitation, clean drinking water and basic healthcare. Ask them to participate in improving their lives, lead them and they will follow. Let us try to fight ethnic strife with this method, because all other methods have failed.
S. NAYYAR IQBAL RAZA Karachi