The Story of Karachi
Kamal, Ajmal (ed.). Karachi ki Kahani. Karachi: Siti Prais Buk Shap, 2007, 2 vols, 950pp.


The Story of Karachi

Karachi ki Kahani

Karachi ki Kahani (The Story of Karachi), a collection of articles, was first published in 1996 as the special issue numbers nineteen and twenty, of Aaj (Today), a Quarterly Urdu periodical from Karachi. In 2007 Ajmal Kamal, the editor of Aaj, published them in a book, writing the introduction himself. The appendices comprise sixteen rare maps showing the changes in the city over the years, rare photographs of the landscape and of some famous citizens, important facts about Karachi in the form of figures and tables, and facts extracted from the findings of the census report of 1998. In 1996, when Aaj published these articles, it had been almost a decade since this city had been in the grip of extreme violence. The editor is seeking answers to the challenges affecting Karachi by studying the city’s evolution. 

The editor has selected material in the form of memories, biographies, autobiographies, diaries and books containing the history of the city. He furthermore invited some important people, who had been involved in the development of the city and had studied the city thoroughly, to contribute to the book. 

According to Ajmal Kamal, when India was partitioned in 1947, Karachi went through a process which no other city on the subcontinent experienced. Almost the whole of the middle class population of Karachi, which consisted of Hindus, migrated while millions from other parts of the subcontinent emigrated and settled in the city. As a consequence conflicting views of Karachi’s history have emerged hindering at times purposeful and positive dialogue. 

The two most controversial points of view presented in the book relate to the date which Karachi’s history is deemed to commence. On the one side are those who believe that the history of Karachi begins in 1947: according to this group, Karachi owes its development to post-partition immigrants and therefore these groups should have more rights over this city than other inhabitants. The other view is that Karachi is “a purely Sindhi city,” and that the majority of the people now living in Karachi are illegal refugees who should be ousted.

In contrast to the views mentioned above there are some very important articles that emphasise the role of different ethnic groups in the development of this city. Some of the articles are produced by writers of different ethnic and religious groups who assert that Karachi’s foundation was based on co-existence and that people should strive to achieve tolerance. 

There are some articles and memorial biographies focusing on some personalities who have proven their attachment to Karachi by giving their money or using their skills for the enhancement of the city. The authors hope that these people would be seen as sources of inspiration for good leadership. 

A numbers of articles describe the slums of this city. Since the majority of Karachi’s population live in slums, these papers raise concerns about the miserable condition of its inhabitants and their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation by opportunists. 

The editor believes that although a lot of time has elapsed since the first publication of this book in 1996, much of the information is still relevant and useful for learning about Karachi. 

Navin G. Haider Ali

G. Haider Ali, Navin. '"English abstract of 'The Story of Karachi'". Translated by Navin G. Haider Ali. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi, 70. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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