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Torture City June 2, 2006

Posted by KG in FS Life, Pakistan.

Karachi.  The largest Muslim city in the world at 15 million strong.  Arguably the cosmopolitan capital of Pakistan.  I've been here for two days on temporary duty, headed back to Islamabad tomorrow.  Outside my window, there's nightlife, people, hustle, and bustle.  And as I predicted, it's torture.

The work here is uneven.  Sometimes, its interesting and varied, work that I really enjoy.  Other times its monotonous and utterly boring.  Still, its a completely different portfolio than what I handle back in Embassy Islamabad, and that makes it a welcome break from the daily grind.  If that were the only consideration when coming down here, I'd be enthusiastic.  But the quality of life issue…

Karachi is a very-slash-very hard place to serve.  Security rules make it mandatory that temporary duty folk go from the Marriott to the office and no place in between.  This makes sense, considering the string of hits and near hits the Consulate General has suffered from in recent years, most recently exactly three months ago.  American officers permanently stationed here cannot move unless in a heavily armored vehicle, and then only to certain locations.  And in a city with some real offerings — great restaurants, shopping, culture — this must be a very hard blow.  I briefly entertained the thought of challenging these restrictions and going out clad in local garb, but thought better of it.  Maybe one day I'll get to experience Karachi in all of its seedy, crime-ridden, wacky glory.  But on this trip I smartly passed.  No use jeopardizing my job for foolhardy adventurousness.

Unfortunately, that one good decision meant a night trapped in a hotel, and unlike hotels in, oh, the rest of the civilized world, the Marriott in Karachi has no hotel bar, that vital oasis for the weary business traveler.  Luckily, my room had a television and a comfortable chair.  Unluckily, the hotel satellites were on the fritz and half of the channels weren't working.  The other half?  Broadcasting either Friends, that one show whose name I dare not speak but was spun off from Friends for like three episodes, and something with Jeff Foxworthy.  (Since we can't conduct much here in terms of effective public diplomacy, these particular cultural offerings are really no way of encouraging folk here not to make the Consulate go boom.)

I don't know how other people define torture, but I think even our Attorney General would agree that when in a major metropolitan city with actual culture and life, the combination of movement restrictions, no hotel bar, and obscenely horrible television makes for a fairly accurate depiction of some special circle of hell reserved for me.  What I did to deserve the sentence, I don't know.  Luckily I'm Islamabad-bound in about 45 minutes, and not a moment too soon.  Not getting cable television at home was a fantastic idea.



1. contractor - June 3, 2006

Diplodocus, what did your bosses say when you first asked for clearance to do a blog? I think it’s fabulous that Karen Hughes is now allowing American diplomats to have their own blogs and say anything they damn well want!!! I guess the old days of clearances are beyond us. Thanks, Karen and Condi, for democratizing (small “d”) your agency!

2. Anti-contractor - June 5, 2006

Sssh! Karen doesn’t know about it yet.

3. alizaki - November 18, 2006

From a karachiite, being deprived of karachi’s nightlife is truly tragic. It’s a wonderful city. Perhaps a personal trip would be in order 🙂

Also, I do hope that my city regains its lost glory (apparently, was quite a happening place in the 60’s and 70’s) and sends the bastards who tarnished its name straight to hell.


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