Karachi Conference 2020 Online Dialogues

3-day Karachi Conference 2020 Online Dialogues at the IBA Karachi

The Karachi Conference 2020 Online Dialogues, in collaboration with the IBA Karachi, held its first dialogue live from the IBA-CEJ studio on Monday, December 8, 2020 on "Devotional Music and Sufi Traditions in Sindh".

The session kicked off with an introduction by the Karachi Conference Foundation Vice-President, Dr. Hasan Ali Khan, who outlined the Karachi Conference vision and themes and briefly described the history of the conference since the last eight years.

Three eminent scholars from their respective fields presented their views on how Sufi and devotional music in Sindh can be understood and appreciated in different ways. M. Rizwanullah Khan from Karachi University provided his perspective on "Sema in the Khaneqah Nizam: Myth and Misconceptions." Dr. Stefan Williamson Fa joined from the University of Birmingham in the UK to give a fascinating presentation on Aziz Balouch and the search for Flamenco's sufi origins. Akhtar Dargahi, as a practicing musical maestro, explained the six different genres of Sindhi devotional music and demonstrated these through short live performances during the session. The panel discussion was chaired by Dr. Abdul Haque Chang, Assistant Professor, Social Sciences and Liberal Arts Department, IBA Karachi.

Day 2 of the dialogues revolved around "The Lesser-known Communities of Karachi" which was introduced by the Karachi Conference Foundation's Joint secretary Aliya Iqbal Naqvi. This session was chaired and moderated Dr. Ali Usman Qasmi from LUMS university, well known for his publications on minorities.

Renowned scholars participated in this session, commencing with Professor Charles Amjad Ali from Chicago. In his talk, he openly outlined the history of minorities from the early era of Islam, wherein they were actually considered a part of the Ummah, as opposed to being outcasts, and the central role they played in the formation of early Islam.

Rumana Husain touched upon the Hindu sub-caste of the Vaghdis and regarded them as outcasts due to both heir untouchability and their religion. Also, as part of the discussion, Jurgen Schafflecher's film, 'Mother Calling: Kali in Karachi' also dealt with the Vaghdis in Karachi, focusing on their ability to practice their religion in relative harmony.

The final presentation was delivered by Rumina Kermani, who spoke about the role the Parsi community played in the evolution of Karachi. She explained the great spirit of philanthropy that the community practiced, which helped the city flourish.

The Karachi Conference 2020 Online Dialogues held its last dialogue on December 10 with architect Arif Hasan, who delivered the keynote address. His talk was titled, "What I have learnt in 45 years about urban planning of Karachi through participation, voyeurism, disillusionment, love, hope and affection." Executive Director IBA, Dr. S. Akbar Zaidi and Mahim Maher from SAMAA TV were also present for the session.

Mr. Hasan opened his talk with the question of how the city of Karachi developed after 1947. It was a city of 400,000 people and suddenly 650,000 more migrated to Karachi. And so, for the first few years after Partition, the only problem in the city was how to accommodate these people. Besides accommodation, Karachi also had to deal with issues concerning the port and railway management. He questioned what decisions were made to bring it to this despite the fact that, at one point, an inland water navigation policy was worked on extensively. That policy was never implemented and as a result, Karachi's roads were destroyed, movement rates went up and citizens are bearing with these issues till today.

As the discussions continued on the final day, various other matters pertaining to town planning and encroachments were touched upon. Mr. Hasan had strong views on how the law did not always deliver justice and spoke passionately on why the government should not feel proud of its achievements in this regard over the past few years. Elaborating further, Mr. Hasan cited examples of environment degradation through informal settlements, island schemes and nullah widening efforts. Allegedly, 3,500 hectares of mangrove jungles will be destroyed in the process and an estimated 60,000 to 65,000 households will be homeless. He also estimated that in the recent anti-encroachment drive, 9,000 khokhas and 20,000 shops were removed in four months causing a loss of 1.5b rupees to the street economy in Karachi.