Karachi under siege – Eric Ellis

IT IS a measure of the limited appeal of Karachi, Pakistan’s bumptious commercial capital, that eager taxi drivers try to lure their few tourist passengers to a laundry.

Admittedly, Karachi’s ”dhobi ghats” are perversely impressive in a modern world of Whirlpools; kilometres of downtown riverbank are strewn with shalwar kameez, carpets, undies and so on being pounded, washed and bleached under burning sun by scores of minions, a scene an Asian Hogarth might have conceived.

But a more eloquent statement of how Pakistan struggles to appeal, and why that is a worry for us all in an age of Islamist terror and suicide bombers, is that in a city bursting with a population equal to Australia, this supposed hub of south-Asian banking and business has just two international-standard business hotels. Both are shabby embarrassments to their global brands and neither have been full for years. By contrast, even Manila – capital of south-east Asia’s most infamous economic basket case – boasts the usual 30-odd Hyatts, Shangri-Las and Hiltons.

Is it any wonder? The Pakistani family that owns the Karachi Marriott has seen several of its other properties in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar devastated by suicide bombings in recent years, killing scores. Their Karachi flagship is sited next door to the US consulate here, which might provide comfort to travellers.

Or might not. Breakfast titter among the Marriott’s few foreign businessmen – usually bluff resource types sussing out Pakistan’s underdone energy sector – has a disquieting morbidity about it, diners speculating when, rather than if, this hotel will be bombed too….

Read more >> SMH

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