KARACHI: The Karachi Independence Day City Parade, which was set to begin at Bara Dari to culminate at Merewether Tower on I.I. Chundrigar Road, actually commenced from I.I. Chundrigar Road across Shaheen Complex on Sunday afternoon, had more people representing the various government departments than common folk.
The people who wished to join in on the many routes leading to I.I. Chundrigar Road, meanwhile, were held back by barriers and the police personnel deployed there. A portion of Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road was closed off too for VIP movement as traffic was diverted to other roads.
The bearded senior citizen with the microphone was going quite mad, yelling orders to the scouts and police to be ready as he had heard that the chief minister was on his way. “Humaray har dil aziz ... [Our lovable ...],” he was heard also showering praises on the various government officials or bureaucrats said to be joining the parade soon. A mechanical road sweeper truck was quickly sweeping the road as policemen told everyone to clear the way for the parade.
In the chief minister’s absence, the Karachi commissioner and the LG minister jointly inaugurated the event
A Pakhtun boy carrying three cricket bats walked on the footpath with a sad expression. “My friends and I always meet here on Sundays for a game of cricket in the afternoon, but we were told to take our game elsewhere today,” he told Dawn.
“Yaar, qaumi naghme shuru karo [Start playing the national songs, pal],” the annoying man on the microphone ordered someone as one could hear sirens in the background. The sirens then died down in songs such as ‘Iss parcham ke saaye taley ...’, ‘Morr torr tillay ...’, ‘Dil dil Pakistan ...’, etc, until the VIPs actually reached and the band started playing military tunes.
A man with the Pakistan flag in hand and a child by his side held on to one end of a green ribbon while his mirror image with another child and another Pakistan flag held on to the other end a few feet away waiting for someone with scissors to do the honours of the opening ceremony. Finally, with the chief minister not
showing up after all, Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shallwani along with Sindh Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah jointly inaugurated the event by cutting the ribbon.
A four-men police cavalry tried controlling their horses and take the lead, followed by the band taking its place right behind them and more police personnel on their big white motorcycles with lights flashing following up along with the police trucks and armoured vehicles surrounding the air-conditioned double cabin trucks carrying the VIPs. The police trucks had women police officers sitting outside in the back with the guns.
There were also several NGO representatives on motorcycles with small trailers attached advertising Rotary Pakistan Literacy Mission, polio drives, etc. In the end one could spot a few decorated horse-drawn carriages, some donkey cart racers and cyclists in the official white and green parade t-shirts.
A man with three little children in tow told Dawn that he worked at one of the cafes on I.I. Chundrigar Road. “I brought my children with me to work today for the parade. They have been very excited,” he said. A few minutes later he was seen with the children, each grabbing on to a free t-shirt while exiting the parade. “It’s too hot and the children are happy with their souvenirs. We are going back as the officials too told us to make way for the VIPs. I don’t want my children to wait any longer in the sun,” he said. More people who had the misfortune to be on foot decided to quit before even starting.
Some sportspersons also told Dawn that they had been called to take part in the parade from their respective sports academies and clubs. “We came here early, took several photos and selfies. It is time to go back now,” said one of them.
It was not a very big procession even with so many official vehicles (to add to the volume or mass they had even brought police tow trucks) though it looked respectable when captured in closeups.
The parade had been planned by the commissioner of Karachi’s office to highlight the original history, glory and cultural aspects of the city. It was also organised four days late due to the heavy rains around Independence Day on Aug 14.
One could see many people watching from behind the barriers where the roads had been closed to keep them out watching quietly after getting tired of arguing with the police to let them pass through. “You don’t make build healthy crowds by inconveniencing the public, you only scare them away when you keep yelling at them to clear the way for the VIPs. It would have been better for these big shots to take a round of the lawns inside their palatial official residences instead of coming out like this,” said a disappointed individual there.
Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2019