Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi

Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi

by Steve Inskeep

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From the host of NPR's Morning Edition, a deeply reported portrait of Karachi, Pakistan, a city that illuminates the perils and possibilities of rapidly growing metropolises all around the world.

In recent decades, the world has seen an unprecedented shift of people from the countryside into cities. As Steve Inskeep so aptly puts it, we are now living in the age of the "instant city," when new megacities can emerge practically overnight, creating a host of unique pressures surrounding land use, energy, housing, and the environment. In his first book, the co-host of Morning Edition explores how this epic migration has transformed one of the world's most intriguing instant cities: Karachi, Pakistan.

Karachi has exploded from a colonial port town of 350,000 in 1941 to a sprawling metropolis of at least 13 million today. As the booming commercial center of Pakistan, Karachi is perhaps the largest city whose stability is a vital security concern of the United States, and yet it is a place that Americans have frequently misunderstood.

As Inskeep underscores, one of the great ironies of Karachi's history is that the decision to divide Pakistan and India along religious lines in 1947 only unleashed deeper divisions within the city-over religious sect, ethnic group, and political party. In Instant City, Inskeep investigates the 2009 bombing of a Shia religious procession that killed dozens of people and led to further acts of terrorism, including widespread arson at a popular market. As he discovers, the bombing is in many ways a microcosm of the numerous conflicts that divide Karachi, because people wondered if the perpetrators were motivated by religious fervor, political revenge, or simply a desire to make way for new real estate in the heart of the city. Despite the violence that frequently consumes Karachi, Inskeep finds remarkable signs of the city's tolerance, vitality, and thriving civil society-from a world-renowned ambulance service to a socially innovative project that helps residents of the vast squatter neighborhoods find their own solutions to sanitation, health care, and education.

Drawing on interviews with a broad cross section of Karachi residents, from ER doctors to architects to shopkeepers, Inskeep has created a vibrant and nuanced portrait of the forces competing to shape the future of one of the world's fastest growing cities.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101547939
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/13/2011
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Steve Inskeep is a co-host of Morning Edition, the most widely heard radio news program in the United States. After the September 11 attacks, he covered the war in Afghanistan, the hunt for Al Qaeda suspects in Pakistan, and the war in Iraq. He won a National Headliner Award for investigating a military raid that went wrong in Afghanistan and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for a series on conflict in Nigeria. This is his first book.

Table of Contents

A Note on Spelling xi

North of North Karachi 1

Part 1 Jinnah Road

1 Promenade 7

2 Lighthouse 14

3 National Arms 27

Part 2 Landmarks

4 Jinnah's Tomb 43

5 Shrine and Temple 67

6 Ground Breaking 81

7 Self-Service Levittown 100

8 Casino 113

Part 3 New Karachi

9 Icon 139

10 Emergency Numbers 148

11 Airport Road 162

12 Parks and Recreation 180

13 Premier Lifestyles 199

14 Dreamworld 219

Part 4 Renew Karachi

15 Birds 235

A Note on Sources 247

Population of Selected Instant Cities 251

A Note on Population Figures 253

Notes 255

Bibliography 273

Index 277

What People are Saying About This

Shuja Nawaz

"Steve Inskeep has captured the vibrant, violent, pulsating rhythms of Karachi with a near native sensibility. His cinema verité prose brings you the sights and smells of this dystopian megalopolis on which the future of Pakistan may be riding. If Karachi can survive its violence and corruption, and thrive as a pluralistic city state then there is hope for Pakistan. If not, then the future is grim for this benighted land. Karachi represents the rich mosaic of Pakistan's different ethnic groups. It is the financial heart of a country whose instruments of state may be failing but whose inhabitants show great determination and creativity, surviving against all odds. Inskeep has written a worthy tribute to Karachi. He blends brilliant storytelling with an eye for detail and nuance that makes Karachi's sights and sounds come alive."--(Shuja Nawaz, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council and author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within)

Martha Raddatz

"Steve Inskeep is a gifted writer and explorer who takes on life and death in Karachi like no other before him. The same mix of mesmerizing storytelling skills, journalistic integrity and downright courage that Inskeep brings us daily on NPR makes for a gripping read. You can hear Inskeep's inimitable voice on every page, excitedly guiding you through the rich and bloody history of this dangerous city. Most importantly, through a compelling cast of characters who help tell the story in such vivid detail, you realize how profoundly important this city is to us all." --(Martha Raddatz, ABC News Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent)

David Simon

"Urbanity is our certain and fixed future. How human beings live together—or fail to live together—compacted into great cities where a world's races, religions and ancestries share ever-tighter quarters—this is the fundamental question for the new century. With Instant City, Steve Inskeep tells the story of a single violent and volatile day in the teeming streets of Karachi, Pakistan. In doing so, he reveals what is now at stake not just for Pakistan, or Asia, but for the human species. This is thoughtful, important work."--(David Simon, creator of HBO's "The Wire" and "Treme" and author of Homicide and The Corner)

Steve Coll

"Steve Inskeep has written a magnificent, engrossing book about one of the world's most vivid and fascinating cities. His subject – urban Pakistan's struggles and zig-zagging achievements – is of deep and timely importance. His voice reflects the best traditions of politically alert travel writing, endowed with calm wisdom and curious empathy." --(Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens)

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Instant City 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
iftyzaidi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an absolutely outstanding book. NPR reporter Steve Inskeep has written a brilliantly insightful look at the Pakistani megalopolis, Karachi, and what ails it. To understand what is happening in Karachi (and in a wider context in Pakistan), Inskeep focuses first and foremost on the fact that it is an "instant city". In 1947 it had a population of 400,000, was known for its cosmopolitanism, (just over half the population was Hindu) entrepreneurial spirit and progressive politics. The upheaval of partition dumped over a million refugees in the city in the space of a couple of years. Continued migration means that the population, within the span of a lifetime has boomed to an estimated 18 million. Within the course of a lifetime it has changed completely. In a series of vignettes Inskeep explores how and why the city has changed in this time and the invisible currents that underlie today's fearsome headlines about the city. He profiles some astonishing characters, including architects, high-powered businessmen, clerics, doctors, policemen, racketeers involved in land-development, and the indomitable and eccentric Abdul Sattar Edhi (who if there is any justice in the world should win the Nobel Peace Prize he has been nominated for this year for his lifetime's work - though honestly his wife should have been jointly nominated alongside him). Immensely readable, and truly insightful, I'd single this out as probably the best non-fiction book I've read this year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
* sholwers have separate closed off areas for privacy. The lady products and such r chained down. Fights will result inan hr of tge Death Room*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JamieJS More than 1 year ago
Mr. Inskeep spins a good tale and presents a variety of facts but his organization is haphazard and often seems sacrificed to the demands of the narrative:to keep the story rolling. The discussions of Karachi relative to other developing world "instant cities" seems superfluous to this city's story. His discussion of the country's and province's political parties is fragmented and not terribly instructive about their intersecting ethnic, sect, and class-based loyalties. A better but more challenging book is Anatol Lieven's, "Pakistan: A Hard country".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The morning host of NPR's Morning Edition has written a worthwhile account of the staggering growth of the mega-city Karachi, Pakistan. Inskeep uses the bombings during Ashura in Karachi on December 28, 2009, to center several of his stories of the city. He reminds his readers this was a time when most Americans were more aware of the shoe-bomber than of these atrocities in Karachi. By using a series of anecdotes based on his journalistic interviews throughout the city, Inskeep familiarizes his reader with a number of the salient issues -- from the historical pressures that led to migration of the Hindu elite after independence in 1947 to the often far greater issues among the various groups of Muslims, both indigenous and those who immigrated, often poor and illiterate. He chronicles the impact of secular versus religious government; the impact of increasingly fundamentalist influences regarding alcohol, gambling, entertainment; the growth of illegal and corrupt practices; particularly to provide housing for the influx of refugees; the transitions to military government; the individuals and organizations, from city planners like Constantinos Doxiadis to ambulance entrepreneur Abdul Sattar Edhi to religious and political parties. The reader is given a quick and entertaining (and perhaps frightening) insight into the history and present of this city that grew from ~1M in 1950 to over 13M by 2010! The writing is journalistic in tone. The reader is sometimes treated to comparisons with other instant cities on the global scene before being brought back to Karachi. The story telling style may bury information useful for reading tomorrow's news, but makes the infusion of many names and places and groups palatable.