My trip to Karachi

Most recently, the city has been beset by a plague of flies — a “bullying force,” says the New York Times, “sparing no one.” The swarm of flies, which I was fortunate enough to miss, was the result of monsoon season, malfunctioning drainage systems clogged with solid waste, and slaughtered animals from the Muslim celebration of Eid. (The same monsoon season, by the way, led to power blackouts of up to 60 hours.) On a livability index, Karachi ranks near the bottom, just ahead of Damascus, Lagos, Dhaka and Tripoli.

There is no subway, and a typical street scene blends cars, auto-rickshaws, motorbikes and the occasional donkey pulling a cart. It’s fun for the visitor, but I wouldn’t call transportation easy.

And yet to see only those negatives is to miss the point. Markets speak more loudly than anecdotes, and the population of Karachi continues to rise — a mark of the city’s success. This market test is more important than the aesthetic test, and Karachi unambiguously passes it.


Most of all, I am impressed by the tenacity of Pakistan. Before going there, I was very familiar with the cliched claim that Pakistan is a fragile tinderbox, barely a proper country, liable to fall apart any moment and collapse into civil war. Neither my visit nor my more focused reading has provided any support for that view, and perhaps it is time to retire it. Pakistan’s national identity may be strongly contested but it is pretty secure, backed by the growing use of Urdu as a national language — and cricket to boot. It has come through the Afghan wars battered but intact.

That is all from my longer than usual Bloomberg column, all about Karachi.


'Markets speak more loudly than anecdotes'

They really do, as noted 175 years ago by a German journalist in the UK.

'This market test is more important than the aesthetic test'

That journalist was not particularly interested in aesthetics - he used other measures to judge the differences between growing cities and countryside.

'liable to fall apart any moment ... backed by the growing use of Urdu as a national language'

So, how were your travels in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province)? And how many Urdu speaking Pashtuns did you meet there?

So? Is it a shithole country or not?

Indeed, and Europe will foot the bill surrendering the territory to them and their likes.

How about the Europeans and their descendants give up the Americas and Oceania in exchange for Muslims going back to their lands? Sound fair?

Because the hunter-gatherers were doomed in any event, unless you want to keep them in human zoos like the Sentinel Islands while everybody else discovers the wheel and penicillin.

>is it a shithole country?

>monsoon season, malfunctioning drainage systems clogged with solid waste, and slaughtered animals

Tough call

Worked with a woman from Pakistan. Wonderful person.

I can't hear you, markets are speaking too loudly.

Rising population of developing-world cities is surely due to above-replacement fertility and ongoing migration from rural areas, rather than some kind of "market test".

Most likely they are fleeing from the brutal "zamindar" feudal landlords of Sindh who will not bat an eye murdering uppity tenant-farmers, like the abominable Bhutto clan that is lionized in the West simply because one of its bloodthirsty scions went to Oxford.

Pakistani technocrats are actually quite good, and the Army usually has the good sense to bring them in rather than rule directly during its periodic coups. They are powerless to stop the truly epic embezzlement by either the kleptocracy or the military, and then Saudi Arabia steps into the gap to fund "education", if the spreading of their toxic Wahhabi ideology can be called that.

'like the abominable Bhutto clan that is lionized in the West simply because one of its bloodthirsty scions went to Oxford'

I thought it was due to having a woman become the first female prime minister elected in a Muslim majority land, but the Western lionization process is truly inscrutable. Especially when more than one of the prime ministers from the Bhutto clan went to Oxford.

Karachi gets migrants from most of the country. A number of my friends who stayed in Pakistan moved there for work after college.

Did you ask them about Kashmir? That's usually a fun convo.

paradoxically cricket is the one thing unifying india pakistan and afghanistan...there is a real love for the game in each country...sadly the forces of history are stronger

'I was very familiar with the cliched claim that Pakistan is a fragile tinderbox'

Well, that characterization might not be shared by a certain Pakistani politician - 'Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, has said he has been trying to raise the alarm at the United Nations this week about the danger of a nuclear war breaking out over Kashmir.

India and Pakistan came close to a conflict in February when India bombed Pakistani territory for the first time in a half century and warplanes from both countries fought a dogfight over the divided region.

Tensions were defused when Pakistan returned a downed Indian pilot. But they have grown again since India revoked a constitutional clause that endowed semi-autonomous status on the part of Kashmir under its control in August. India moved hundreds of thousands of troops to the region and carried out thousands of arrests.'

"According to one crime index, Karachi is now less dangerous than Houston, New Delhi or Sao Paulo. "

Houston? Didn't realize it was so bad in H-Town.

Lack of zoning means crime isn't restricted to designated areas.

Pakistan has nuclear weapons. The U.S. government has alleged that China assisted in Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons (which China denies), and that North Korea has been supplying Pakistan with ballistic missile technology in exchange for nuclear weapons technology. Do markets speak more loudly than nuclear weapons? I hope so. I am sympathetic to the balance of power theory promoted by the late Kenneth Waltz (he argued that in some cases the proliferation of nuclear weapons reduced the likelihood of their use), but I would make the point that it's true if but only if the country that possesses nuclear weapons has a great deal to lose and not much to gain by its use of nuclear weapons.

A famous cricketer remarked "I wouldn't even send my mother-in-law there" (or words to that effect).

The Daily Mirror sent her on a trip a few years later and she loved it.

"The prejudice against Pakistan dates back to before 9/11. It is summed up best by the England cricketer Ian Botham’s notorious comment that “Pakistan is the sort of place every man should send his mother-in-law to, for a month, all expenses paid”. Some years after Botham’s outburst, the Daily Mirror had the inspired idea of sending Botham’s mother-in-law Jan Waller to Pakistan – all expenses paid – to see what she made of the country.

Unlike her son-in-law, Mrs Waller had the evidence of her eyes before her: “The country and its people have absolutely blown me away,” said the 68-year-old grandmother.

After a trip round Lahore’s old town she said: “I could not have imagined seeing some of the sights I have seen today. They were indefinable and left me feeling totally humbled and totally privileged.” She concluded: “All I would say is: ‘Mothers-in-law of the world, unite and go to Pakistan. Because you’ll love it’. Honestly!”

She did get her revenge on him, didn't she?

Can someone explain to me why traditional markets in Asia have such a greater variety of offerings than (capitalistic) markets in the U.S. ? U.S. markets have aisles and aisles of fake food - pop tarts (c) and Doritos (c) in dozens of flavors - and no real choice when it comes to fruits , vegetables, spices, meats , cheeses etc ... Does capitalism kill markets? Some of this choice is being introduced in high-income zip codes in the U.S. through obnoxiously self-aware luxury brands such as Whole Foods . At some point I suspect that traditional markets in Asia will be killed of by capitalism and re-emerge as highly profitable luxury grocery stores (a division of Mega Corp) that cater to the affluent while the poor , who used to have access to an amazing variety of agricultural and natural products , will go to Pizza Hut (another division of Mega Corp).

Seriously , how do defenders of market capitalism explain lack of variety and quality in U.S. grocery stores compared to that found in traditional markets across the world?

Revealed preference. Americans prefer highly processed hyperpalatable food.

Circular Logic post of the day!

Markets sell what people want, not what you think they should want.

For the same reason that there are no authentic "ethic" restaurants in cities that do not have an associated sizable first generation immigrant population. No demand for it. Americans love the sweet Thai food, etc.

It’s not market capitalism that (accidentally?) tried to put artisan cheese manufacturers out of business and discourage the selling of raw milk.

Or require children to have permits to sell lemonade.

"...a mark of the city’s success" -- relative to the surrounding countryside.

Nice Info about Karachi trip! Also you have given nice information about the city and its transportation and others all about.

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