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Karachi’s reach across the world

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On October 9 this year, the website of the British tabloid Daily Mail ran a piece on a street robbery taking place on Limestone Street in Ipswich — an urban town near the state of Queensland in Australia. The website also posted an accompanying video in which two very South Asian-looking (and salwar-kameez clad) men can be seen robbing another South Asian-looking gentleman at gunpoint. The report claims that two members of a ‘vicious’ Asian gang mugged another Asian man on Ipswich’s Limestone Street.

However, the website’s comments section was almost instantly flooded by remarks wondering why Limestone Street looked “so shabby”. After one commenter finally realised that the street was not Limestone or, for that matter, the footage not even from any street in Australia, he quipped, “Maybe it is Bali (Indonesia).” Truth is, it certainly wasn’t Australia and nor was it Bali. It was Karachi. It was CCTV footage of a street crime unfolding on a street in Karachi’s Gulistan-i-Jauhar area. Australia’s popular TV news show Media Watch confirmed this in its episode aired on October 16. So what happened?

Well, according to Media Watch, Daily Mail bought the footage from a news agency called Newsflare. The latter buys footage from the pubic and then sells it to media outlets. Media Watch reported the footage that Daily Mail used was originally titled, “Limestone Street, Ipswich, 22 September, 2017”. Most probably the person who sold this footage to Newsflare was from Ipswich. According to Media Watch, Daily Mail ran it without bothering to check exactly which side of the big bad world the footage was from, believing it was of a crime taking place on Limestone Street in the Australian town.

A friend of mine, now residing in Brisbane, Australia, had shared this story with me. But he wasn’t entirely convinced by Media Watch’s explanation. In an email, he told me that it is highly unlikely that Daily News did not check the exact location of the crime. Instead, it did so in a rather “amateurish” manner. My friend wrote that whereas the raw footage is titled ‘Limestone Street, Ipswich’ (as Media Watch also reported), on Newsflare’s own site there is an additional caption that mentions Karachi as well. So by “amateurish” my friend meant that Daily Mail simply Googled the two titles and came up with “Karachi Street, Crestmead, Queensland, Australia”.

Karachi Street? Yes. My friend apologised for not clarifying that there actually was a street called Karachi in Crestmead — a suburban area in Australia’s Queensland state. Why? He did not know. What’s more, he added that there was also another street called Karachi in Midway Point area of Hobart in Australia’s Tasmania state. Midway Point is a suburb. According to my friend, the mentioned street here was named Karachi because some of the first people from South Asia, who travelled to Australia, were from Karachi. They arrived on ships which sailed out from the port of Karachi during British rule in India during the Second World War (1939-45). They had settled in this area. However, there are hardly any South Asians living there now.

Some further research on my part discovered that the only Pakistani city which continuously figures as a street name in faraway countries is Karachi. I discovered a wonderful little piece on this by one M Ayaz Abdal (penned in 2010). He names at least seven streets called Karachi (including the two I have already mentioned).

He writes of a Karachi Street in the Lenasia area in the South African metropolis Johannesburg. Figuring out why a street there is called Karachi is not that hard. Before the demise of apartheid in South Africa in the early 1990s, Lenasia had one of the largest racially-segregated ‘brown’ populations in South Africa. Most of them had roots in pre-partition India and one of the streets here was named Karachi. It’s still called that and the area still houses a large South Asian population with roots in areas of North India and the (now Pakistani) city of Karachi.

There are at least two streets called Karachi in the United States. One is in West Bloomfield in the state of Michigan and the other is in the city of Socorro in New Mexico. The Karachi Street in West Bloomfield is located in an upper-end suburb. I could not quite find out why a street here is called Karachi, except a Facebook page on the area suggested wealthy Pakistani-Americans residing here. The one in Socorro, New Mexico, is actually called ‘Karachi Way’. It is located in a lower-end (but spacious) area of Socorro. Near Karachi Way is Burma Road. This suggests that the area is probably populated by Asian-Americans, including Pakistanis. According to a Pakistani-Christian friend of mine, who has been living in New Mexico’s capital Santa Fe since 2001, a majority of Pakistanis living in the mentioned part of Socorro are Catholic Pakistani-Christians who migrated from Karachi from the late 1980s onwards.

There’s an area called Karachi Close in the small town of Tidworth, south-east of Wiltshire in England. It’s a tiny town but my research could not figure out why an area here is called Karachi Close. The research only managed to trigger more questions because this town also has an area called Lahore Close! Yet, according to the town’s statistics based on a 2011 census, Tidworth is an overwhelmingly white middle-class town and just has a handful of Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi residents. But since it’s described as a ‘garrison town’, most probably it once housed officers and soldiers who had served in British India.

In New Zealand’s beautiful city of Wellington, there’s a zone called Karachi Crescent. It is located in Wellington’s Khandallah area which is near the city’s harbour. Many of the zones and streets here carry Asian names. Apart from Karachi Crescent, there’s a Delhi Crescent, Agra Crescent, Kashmir Avenue (spelled ‘Cashmere’) and a Burma Road. This area developed around a homestead built by one Captain James Andrew in 1884 when he returned to New Zealand after serving as a soldier in British India. In case the Daily Mail gets any more ideas, I must emphasise that none of the areas mentioned in this piece are known particularly for ‘vicious’ street crimes.

(Courtesy: The Dawn)




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