By Kazim Alam
Whenever somebody asks me about discrimination against Pakistanis/Muslims in the United States, I say I faced no racism in one year I spent there as a student. The look on their faces is that of incredulity.
I always add that racism is far more rampant in Karachi than in the United States.
Consider this: I witnessed a scuffle today on my bus ride from Qayumabad Chowrangi to NIPA. The Pashtun bus conductor, after collecting Rs11 in lieu of the regular Rs14 fare, asked a ‘Mohajir’ passenger to make room for others and move in the middle of the bus.
The passenger reacted angrily. “Badmaashi mat kar,” he said. The bus conductor said politely that what he requested wasn’t unfair. The passenger pushed the conductor and tried to slap him. Other passengers intervened and the two men were pulled aside.
The passenger, however, kept complaining aloud about the “badmashi” of the conductor.
I was sitting on the last seat. Sitting beside me was an old Pashtun man. He couldn’t take it anymore. He stood up and tried to reason with the passenger. The “Mohajir” passenger abused the old man, too. That infuriated him, but a fistfight was averted, once again, because of other passengers’ “beech-bachao.”
Meanwhile, another passenger, who sat right in front of me and the old Pashtun guy, turned back and gave the scuffle an overtly racist color. He alleged that the old man spoke up only because the conductor was also Pashtun. He said a Pashtun passenger supported a Pashtun conductor to make a point: that Pashtuns controlled Karachi.
That was the meanest thing I’d heard in a long time. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him not to be a racist. He ignored me.
The old man looked sad and depressed. It seemed as if he was at a loss for words.
This is just one glimpse into the Pashtun-Mohajir conflict in Karachi. The ongoing wave of targeted killings, which run in the hundreds, is a result of violent racism in the city.
Still we have the cheek to call Americans racists.