Partition, 70 years on: Salman Rushdie, Kamila Shamsie and other writers reflect

More than a million were killed and many millions more displaced by Indian partition. Authors consider its bloody legacy and the crises now facing their countries

Pankaj Mishra

Pankaj Mishra. Photograph: Windham-Campbell Prize

To think about partition on its 70th anniversary is to think, unavoidably, about the extraordinary crisis in India today. The 50th and 60th anniversaries of one of the 20th centurys biggest calamities were leavened with the possibility that India, liberal-democratic, secular and energetically globalising, was finally achieving the greatness its famous leaders had promised. In contrast to Indias grand and imminent tryst with destiny, Pakistans fate seemed to be obsessive self-harm.

The celebrations of a rising India were not much muted in 1997 and 2007, even as hands were dutifully wrung about the imperialist skulduggery and savage ethnic cleansing that founded the nation states of India and Pakistan, defined their self-images and condemned them to permanent internal and external conflict. Today, as the portrait of a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi hangs in the Indian parliament, it is the scale and ferocity of Indias mutation that haunts our thoughts.

But should it really be so shocking? Were we too beguiled by the intellectual complacencies of historians and journalists, who turned liberal democracy, secularism, globalisation and economic growth into articles of a new faith?

It is of course easy to ignore the malign and enduring potency of partition. Many of our everyday experiences of pluralist identities comprehensively negate it. My own life has been enriched by Pakistani writers, musicians, cricketers and friendships across borders. Yet the Hindu fanatic who murdered Gandhi for being soft on Muslims and Pakistan exemplified early the lethal logic of nation-building. So did many avowedly secular Indian leaders who used brute force to hold on to Kashmir.

In many ways, Narendra Modi and his mob are completing the unfinished business of partition: the unification of a political community through identification and persecution of internal and external enemies. In conforming to this grimly familiar historical pattern, India has outpaced Pakistan, where regional differences serve to check a ruthlessly homogenising nationalism (and Islamism), and no single ideological movement is able to colonise all key institutions of the state and civil society.

We persuaded ourselves that India was somehow exceptional, immune to the political pathologies that have infected almost every nation on earth, and entered its bloodstream at birth. It is frightening to contemplate on this 70th anniversary what lies ahead for nuclear-armed south Asia. No illusions of a liberation from history, of a rising or emerging India, comfort us today. And we Indians as well as Pakistanis are forced to acknowledge the partition as the great atrocity that decisively shapes our brutish present.

Pankaj Mishras most recent book is Age of Anger: A History of the Present (Allen Lane).

Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie. Photograph: Eloy Alonso/Reuters

Midnights Children was published a few months before the34th anniversary of Indian independence in 1981, and another 36 years have elapsed since then. The novel now feels like a half-time report. The second half deserves its own novel, although I am not the right person to write it.

When my novel was published, some people criticised it for ending too gloomily. Its true that much of the novel was written during the mid-70s Emergency, Indira Gandhis shameful 21-month suspension of democracy, and it bears the marks of that dark moment. But in the novel, as in real life, India emerged from the Emergency into a new day, and the narrator Saleems son Aadam represented the hope of anew generation. That new generation has grown up to inherit the world of midnights children, and India is becoming a different country. When I look at the last pages of my novel now, they feel almost absurdly optimistic.

The country is rapidly being pulled in the direction decreed by the proponents of Hindutva, Hindu nationalism, and away from the secular ideals of the founding fathers. To criticise this movement, in the age of the political Twitter troll, is to be branded sickular, or, even worse, asickular libtard. Meanwhile, in the land of the sacred cow, people are being lynched for the crime of allegedly possessing or eating beef. History textbooks are being rewritten as Hindutva propaganda. The governments control over a largely acquiescent news media (there are a couple of honourable exceptions) would be envied by the president of the United States, if he happened to concern himself with such faraway matters. The worlds largest democracy feels more authoritarian and less democratic than it should.

But the Modi government is popular. Its very popular. This is the greatest difference between the India of Indiras Emergency and the India of today. Back then, Mrs Gandhi called an election, wrongly believing she would win, and by doing so would legitimise the excesses of the Emergency years. But she was voted down resoundingly and driven from office. There is no sign that the Indian electorate will turn against the present government any time soon. Midnights grandchildren seem content with whats happening. And thats the pessimistic conclusion to volume two of the Indian story.

Salman Rusdhies latest novel, The Golden House, is published by Jonathan Cape inSeptember.

Kamila Shamsie

Kamila Shamsie. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

When I was growing up, partition was not so much a historical event as a family story. Partition had made half my family Pakistani and the other half Indian; partition meant my grandmother couldnt get a visa to visit her dying mother; partition meant that while I cheered on Pakistans triumph against India in the 1987 Test series, my great-uncle, who was then visiting his sister/my grandmother, inKarachi, was despondent that his cricket team had lost. Partition also meant that I grew up in Karachi, multi-ethnic city of migrants, which I loved fiercely enough to make the loss of half a family seem like a price worth paying in a childs black and white way of seeing the world.

But at the level of official and national conversation in Pakistan, 1947 was a year to which the word independence rather than partition was attached. It was in British text books and British Raj revival films that partition almost always trumped independence. Of course it did. To talk about the independence of Pakistan and India is to acknowledge the yoke of colonial rule. Far easier to talk about partition, with its implication of everything falling apart as the British left, as though the falling apart wasnt the direct result of a policy of divide and rule. And so Ive always been uneasy and continue here to be uneasy when Im asked to talk about partition rather than independence in Britain.

But the complicated truth is that the entwined nature of independence and partition must be acknowledged. These were nations born as a result of a heroic opposition to imperial rule, but their birth was also marked by hatred andbloodshed. Contemporary conversations often focus on what that bloodshed means for India and Pakistans relationship to each other, but increasingly as I look at both nations, now so mired in violence towards their own minorities, I wonder what it means for each nations relationship to its own history, its own nature. There was never a reckoning for the violence of partition; that would have got in the way of the narrative of a glorious independence. Instead it became easier to blame the other side for all the violence, and pretend that at the moment of inception both India and Pakistan didnt wrap mass murder in a flag and hope no one would notice the blood stains.

Kamila Shamsies latest novel, Home Fire(Bloomsbury), has been longlisted for the Man Booker prize.

Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid. Photograph: Sarah Lee

Seventy years after partition, the old hatreds are alive and well. India is descending into an intolerant Hindu nationalism, apparently intent on imitating the religious chauvinism and suppression of dissent that have served Pakistan sopoorly. In Pakistan, a moment where it seemed that the press might finally become free and elected civilian rulers might regularly complete their terms has passed.

We are back in the murk of the unsaid, the unacknowledged, the undemocratic. Soldiers of both sides are firing across the line of control in Kashmir. Nuclear stockpiles grow. Rhetoric is unmeasured, indeed often unhinged. A person brought forward in time from the murderous slaughter of 70 years ago would probably look around and say, yes, this is what I expected.

What a failure. A failure for all of us, who live in south Asia. And for all of you, who live abroad, in countries whose governments see only market sizes and geopolitical advantage, and turn a blind eye to the great and mounting danger your angry brothers and sisters pose to each other.

Mohsin Hamids most recent novel, Exit West, published by Hamish Hamilton, has been longlisted for this years Man Booker prize.

Kiran Desai

Kiran Desai. Photograph: Samuel Aranda/Getty Images

Every Saturday I suffer from a depression I call my Saturday depression. The main symptom of this is that when I look inthe mirror I dont see myself, I see a ghost. The sight of this ghost fills me with fear. I know this spectre is merely the cumulative result of one more week in one more year of many years of self-imposed isolation for the sake of a book I have been working on a long while.

Last Saturday to avoid my unavoidable depression I went to the Rubin Museum in New York to see the Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs of India. One section of the exhibition displays the photographs I almost wrote paintings that Cartier-Bresson took during the last days of Gandhis life and the days following his assassination. The photographs are painterly. Rather than emphasising a passing event, they have a staying presence; while the days they were taken were chaotic, they have a composed stillness; while it was surely noisy, the photographs are overcome by a hush as ifviolence has blasted the scene still and all the millions of people in the crowds have been condemned to an eternal moment. The quantity of people is important here, and the fact that every individual in this crowd of millions appears to be missing his or her face. You cannot see the person for an emotion more primal than our human selves has consumed their individual natures to make them part of a whole catastrophic betrayal. Pandit Nehru wears the same loss as Brij Krishna, Gandhis secretary, as a man who has clambered up a tree for a view of the funeral pyre, as a refugee ona train leaving Delhi for Lahore.

I was glad to be alone for I found my face was wet with tears. But I wasnt weeping over the past, I was grieving for the present. The political wing of the RSS, the organisation to which Gandhis assassin was once a member, is the party that runs the country now, and it exults in the same vocabulary of violence now as then. The faces of the poor are the same now as they were then. An exhausted labourer sleeps on the street beside his cracked shoes in the same way. The footage of a Muslim dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan, begging for his life before a Hindu mob, one of many such attacks this year link back to these photographs as if the nation is condemned to forever return to the time of its conception. Perhaps India will never overcome this moment photographed here. Everything that has happened since feels fateful, cyclical, endless and pre-determined.

I thought for a guilty moment that I had no right to feel this for I had not been there to share it. But when I looked at these photographs, I didnt see them from a foreign distance.

I remembered the story of a grand uncle jailed by the British when he came out of prison he never left his room, he had been so damaged he stayed inside spinning khadi. He shared a special bond with my German grandmother who had sailed with a trunk full of china to marry the engineering student from East Bengal she had met in Berlin. She made a home in a country that would soon fight Germany alongside the British, became part of a family that was meanwhile fighting for Independence from the British. Everything a contradiction in ideologies, but not in the one thing that could undo it all, the personal story against all this history, all these wars.Gandhis funeral train leaves Delhi for Allahabad, the ancestral home of Nehru, reminding me of my childhood visits to my grandparents for my grandfather was a judge atthe Allahabad high court. They were also Gujarati like Gandhi, and like millions of others had made a harsh journey away from their landscape, language, religion, their notion of caste for a secular ideal of India. My parents, born in British India, saw their childhood landscapes of Delhi and Allahabad alter beyond recognition as half the population departed for Pakistan. By the time I was born, things must have seemed comparatively quiet, although it was a year inwhich India and Pakistan went to war, but I too growing up had witnessed Delhi burning in another incarnation of violence. I remember the disabled Sikh gentleman down the road from us who was carried out of his house by a mob and never seen again.

I thought of my father who taught himself to read Urdu and took pleasure in reciting Faiz and Ghalib on his rooftop on a summer night. I thought of my mothers book, In Custody, about a professor of Hindi literature trying to record the poetry of an Urdu poet. That India, the inclusive India, my natural birthright, is once again under threat, and it has always been so.

As I composed myself in the cool darkness of the museum before I stepped back into the bright summer day, I felt a private gratitude to Cartier-Bresson, for his example of an artist who erased himself becoming a ghost behind his little 35mm Leica in order to memorialise the erasure of others. While the pictures depict violence, looking at them restores one to a place of humanity.

Kiran Desai is the author of the Booker prize-winning The Inheritance of Loss.

Siddhartha Deb

A refugee camp in Delhi in 1947. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Baniachang, the village in Sylhet from which my fathers family came, became part of East Pakistan in 1947. Today, after the secession of East Pakistan in 1971, it is in Bangladesh. Ive never been there. How difficult was it, I thought when hearing my family talk about leaving Baniachang, for them to choose one kind of identity over another, in this case religion over language and culture? Partition, as books in recent years by Yasmin Khan and Vazira Zamindar have shown, was a different process depending on which part ofityou were caught up in. The British and Indian elites making their new nations men exemplified by the British viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, the future Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his hardline Hindu nationalist deputy, Vallabhbhai Patel, the Indian industrialist and Gandhi patron GD Birla were all in a hurry to force the process through. Mountbatten insisted on 15 August 1947 as the date for partition, just two and a half months after the decision to divide the subcontinent had been made. The boundary commission headed by the barrister Cyril Radcliffe finished preparing their maps only on 12 August, although these maps would not be made public until 17 August, two days after partition.

By then, the ethnic cleansing was well under way. Over amillion were killed, thousands raped and abducted, and between 12 and 20 million displaced in the process. Trains criss-crossed the landscape with carriages filled with corpses. Those escaping on foot travelled in columns that were sometimes 45 miles long. None of this violence and pain has really worked its way into the official histories of Britain, India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. This is surely one reason why the partition shows an uncanny ability to replicate itself through the decades, in mini partitions, mini pogroms and the steady marginalisation and brutalisation of minorities that has become the governing spirit of nationalism in south Asia.

The Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, who reluctantly moved to Pakistan from Bombay after partition and found himself utterly disillusioned in his new nation, captured the situation best in his short story about patients in a Lahore asylum being divided up as assets for the new countries. TheSikh protagonist, named Toba Tek Singh after the village he comes from, is taken to the border to be sent to India, although his village happens to be on the other side, in what is now Pakistan. Lying down on a bit of land that belonged to neither India nor Pakistan, he refuses to take part in this process of exchange that has already blighted so many lives. Seventy years after Partition, Toba Tek Singhs defiant madness evokes freedom better than anything achieved by the supposedly rational nations that came outof that bloody process.

Siddhartha Deb is the author of The Beautiful and the Damned: Life in the New India, published by Penguin. An excerpt from his new novel, set in part against the backdrop of partition, will be published in the autumn issue of N+1.

Fatima Bhutto

Fatima Bhutto. Photograph: Sophia Evans for the Observer

India takes its name from the Indus, which flows through Sindh, my hometown in Pakistan. The mighty river is a force that animates the legends of India and Pakistan. Mohenjo-daro, the seat of that ancient river culture, is shared no matter modern partitions between our two countries.

Today Hindus and Muslims gather to pray together to the saint Udero Lal, a form of the beloved Jhulelal, in the complex where both a temple and a mosque stand together. Jhulelal has many avatars: for Sindhi Muslims he is a manifestation of Qalandar, a Sufi mystic who travelled from the Middle East to our shores to bring the faithful closer to God; for Hindus, he is an incarnation of a Varuna, a Vedic god who ruled the oceans. Across the border, the holy city Varanasi isnamed partly in his honour.

I spent many days in my childhood among the bricks of Mohenjo-daro. My brother spent his teenage years journeying to Udero Lal. Both of us have driven hours from our home in Karachi to sit under the golden dome of the Sufi shrine of Sehwan Sharif, where rose petals are offered to thetomb of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar by all faiths. Last year, theshrine was bombed by Isis because of what it stood fora refuge, a site of adoration and love, for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Sehwan, the name of the town where Pakistani Sufisms most cherished shrine stands, is believed by many to be derived from the name of the god Shiva.

Sindhs syncretic culture, its centuries of tolerant co-existence and even its turbulent present defy the sectarian logic of partition. And I have faith that it will survive the disasters designed to flow from it, even 70 years on.

Fatima Bhuttos most recent book, The Shadow of the Crescent Moon, is published by Penguin.

Nayantara Sahgal

Books by Nayantara Sahgal. Photograph: Saurabh Das/AP

I am the daughter of parents who fought for freedom under Mahatma Gandhis leadership, and my father died of his fourth imprisonment during British rule. Gandhi overturned the imperial diktat of divide and rule by creating a national movement that forged a political unity, one that rose above regions, religions and languages and recognised Indias cultural and religious diversity as the meaning of India. Thedemand for a separate country for Muslims was, on theother hand, in keeping with the divisions laid down by colonial rule.

The bizarre imperial approach to partition has been best illustrated by WH Auden in his caustic poem, Partition, in which he savagely lampoons the Englishman, Cyril Radcliffe, who had never set foot in India and was flown in to draw a line marking his idea of a boundary. The partition was an unimaginable disaster of bloodshed and suffering that uprooted helpless millions from both sides of the border and still haunts the subcontinents memory. The shock and grief live on in a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a story by Saadat Hasan Manto, a painting by Satish Gujral and in the minds offamilies torn apart. At the time, Nehru and many others, Muslim and Hindu, believed it would be temporary. For years after the event the belief persisted that this unreality would end. A centuries-old history could not thus be unwritten by a line drawn thoughtlessly between its sharers.

Its wounds are partially healed when Indians and Pakistanis meet to celebrate their joint heritage of music and dance, language and literature, and there is an emotional content to a movement in India that rejects war and calls for peace for all time with Pakistan.

But the menace of partition is again upon Indians, this time through the intention to impose Hindu nationhood on us and declare all other Indians outsiders who are here on sufferance. To foist a Hindu identity on a secular republic, one that is the worlds third largest Muslim country and has been home (as Gabriel Garca Mrquez said of his country) tothe human race, is senseless beyond belief. The mentality that murdered Gandhi now relentlessly pursues this agenda, punishing writers, rationalists, dalits, churches and all forms of dissent. Lynch mobs kill Muslims, reminiscent of the lynching of blacks in Americas deep south. On this anniversary of the partition of India, another partition stares us in the face.

Nayantara Sahgal edited Nehrus India: Essays on the Maker of a Nation, published by Speaking Tiger.

Amit Chaudhuri

Amit Chaudhuri. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

When I started writing, then publishing, fiction, partition (the word always came with a capital P) was considered amajor even defining theme for the Indian novel in English. The same was true of independence. Part of this was, of course, the legacy of Midnights Children. Rushdie had done a terrifically funny job of demonstrating how each one of us might potentially be the author of modern Indias history, not unlike the way Spike Milligan had revealed his role in history in Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall.

I began by ignoring history and writing about a family much like my uncles family that lived in south Calcutta. I described a visitor to this familys house: a 10-year-old boy from Bombay. I didnt date the story, but it would have been the early 1970s I was writing of. All the main characters in AStrange and Sublime Address had been displaced, and their present-day lives engendered, by partition. So it was with my family. My parents had grown up in Sylhet, which became part of East Pakistan in 1947, and Bangladesh in 1971. Ive never seen Sylhet. My parents never went back. Wewere in Bombay, and my uncle in Calcutta, because of movements in history. I was instinctively interested in the new lives these people were making for themselves. I didnt want to dwell too long on the epiphany of partition because their lives were composed of various other epiphanies.

Now, with the death of my parents in the last three years, I feel a sense of loss about their beginnings in the milieux that gave them their personalities. I think of it partly in the terms of two great languages: the near-loss of Urdu in the west; the bifurcation of Bengali in the east. Partition is not only about religion or the land that went to one side or the other; it signifies an irrevocable cultural shift. As with Europe after the second world war, what was damaged irreparably in 1947 was a modern civility that possessed aremarkable delicacy. I encountered this civility in my parents. There will be little evidence of its legacy after those who embody it, and still live in countries across the world, have vanished.

Amit Chaudhuris latest novel, Friend of My Youth, is out this month.

Mirza Waheed

Mirza Waheed. Photograph: Sutton-Hibbert/REX

In the seven decades since partition, the empire-made cataclysm that consumed millions and sowed seeds of acrimony among millions more, theres been one source of animus between the two states that refuses to lie still. Kashmir.

Its also been seven decades since Indias first prime minister, Nehru, promised: We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it. Hed also announced: It is an obvious fact that no country is going to hold onto Kashmir against the will of Kashmiris.

In the decades since these promises (and UN resolutions), speeches to Indias constituent assembly and broadcasts to the nation, the Indian state, including the original Nehruvian version, has done exactly that held a people as subjects against their will, and then some. And when the people have risen and exerted their voices in the parliament of the street or on the funeral ground, the state has unleashed unspeakable terror on the long-suffering people of Kashmir.

Yes, the conflict is complex, with layers of intractability, with the Kashmiri body politic battered and febrile after thewill of the people in the face of chronic denial and betrayal by successive Indian regimes turned insurrectionary with devastating consequences for all involved but primarily for Kashmiris. Yes, there is the other party (as Nehru noted in his letters to his Pakistani counterpart, Liaquat Ali Khan), the next-door twin who holds a third of Kashmir and who has tried to force the issue via primarily selfish machinations since, well, since forever. And yes, there exist schisms and perennial tensions within the historical movement for self-determination as mandated bythe UN, which India itself brought on board, but which political struggle in history hasnt.

Today, as India and Pakistan celebrate their 70th, the Kashmiri people remain colonised, killed, exiled, raped, tortured, incarcerated and, in an ignominious addition to the catalogue, blinded by nasty little lead pellets sprayed on protesters crying for freedom.

Mirza Waheeds most recent novel is The Book of Gold Leaves, published by Penguin.

Tahmima Anam

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‘It’s all sextortion and revenge porn’: the woman fighting cyber abuse in Pakistan

With ladies in Pakistan suffering harmful and progressively lurid kinds of onine harassment, Nighat Dad is leading the fight to make the online world much safer

A fter the killing of Qandeel Baloch last summertime, Nighat Dad reached breaking point.

Visiting institution of higher learnings throughout Pakistan , Dad had actually been developing rather a credibility for herself and her work. She was getting the word out about the Digital Rights Foundation she developed in 2012 to assist Pakistani females handle the brand-new phenomenon of online harassment.

But when Baloch, a popular social networks celeb, was killed by her sibling, there was a spike in the variety of girls in Pakistan who stated they felt significantly risky online and wished to throw down the gauntlet. A growing number of ladies started looking for Dad to relate awful stories of online harassment, vengeance pornography and males doctoring pictures of females in order to obtain loan from them. She felt herself having a hard time under the weight of obligation.

I reached my limitation, where I resembled, I do not believe that I can handle this, she states. It was effecting on my psychological health. The regret I felt that if Im not going to react to this call or the message which Im getting in the middle of the night, possibly this individual will lose their life or possibly there is a worry of violence.

Recognising there was an immediate requirement, Dad broadened her operations and introduced Pakistans very first cyber harassment helpline. Now, Dad and her group of 12 consisting of a counsellor field as much as 20 calls a day.

The cases vary from ladies desiring suggestions on social networks security settings to more severe issues. Every day we are dealing with these problems. There are concerns of identity theft, blackmail, there are females shot being raped then blackmailed to avoid it browsing the web, states Dad.

Technology is ever altering, so violence in the online areas has actually likewise increased. It has actually ended up being sextortion, doxing and vengeance pornography. Its enormous.

In 2015, more than 3,000 cybercrimes were reported to Pakistans Federal Investigation Agency. About 45% of the females targeted were utilizing social networks. In May, Dads group commissioned a research study that discovered 70% of ladies hesitated of publishing their images online lest they need to be misused; 40% had actually been stalked and pestered on messaging apps.

These figures are not a surprise to Rabia Mehmood, a Pakistani innovation reporter. Harassment is a substantial problem for ladies with access to innovation in Pakistan, and has actually been so because the days of landlines, she states. The shift to much better connection, more user control of gadgets and platforms, has actually not eliminated the online abuse and violence for ladies [ it has] just made the concern a lot more plain.

In Pakistan, outspoken ladies have actually gotten rape and death risks, defamation of characters run versus them, and their contact details has actually been shared on social networks. We have actually seen a transitioning of violence and harassment of ladies from the offline world to online areas.

There is little aid offered. A trust deficit in between the ladies and authorities exists in Pakistani society, states Mehmood. Ladies think justice will not be served, there is worry of being shamed and evaluated, and lastly, unknowning the ideal treatment of looking for aid.

In 2015, Dad was called by a group of girls studying at Edwardes College in Peshawar. Somebody was publishing their Facebook page images together with their names and contact number specifying they were woman of the streets.

It emerged that 2 guys had actually been effectively blackmailing Peshawars female trainees for a number of years by threatening to launch digitally doctored naked picturesof them unless they were paid.

Most ladies, fearing for their credibilities, felt required to fulfill the needs.

However, with Dads assistance, a number decided to resist. The females reported the blackmail as a criminal activity and the males were apprehended.

As the images published were not nudes, and were composed completely in the Pashto language, they were not discovered to be in breach of Facebooks neighborhood requirements standards. Due to the fact that the text might not be comprehended by Mark Zuckerbergs organisation, this was.

Dad started to lobby Facebook. We discovered a space in Facebooks systems, states Dad, who lastly was successful in having the posts eliminated.

As an outcome of exactly what took place in Peshawar, Facebook has actually broadened its operations to consist of more native language speakers to evaluate material.

Online violence versus ladies is an international concern, its simply that the effects are various in Pakistan because of culture, religious beliefs, social standards, patriarchy as well as the absence of awareness, states Dad.

She is positive. Mainly, ladies in fact resist now. When females would simply remove themselves from innovation however thats not a service, there were times. We actually desire them to recover these areas by understanding the best ways to resist, and I believe modification is occurring. Its sluggish, however its taking place.

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Trump ponders crackdown on Pakistan over terror ties despite experts’ warnings

As United States mulls technique over countrys assistance for terrorist groups in Afghanistan, professionals state harder position might own Pakistan towards China and Russia

The Trump administration is thinking about taking a more difficult position versus Pakistan for supporting terrorist groups in Afghanistan, however professionals caution that pressure alone will not bring peace.

Similar strategies have actually stopped working in the past, and experts caution that the United States can just affect the south Asian nation by coupling force with diplomacy, which president Trump appears to avoid.

And tries to strong-arm Islamabad might press it deeper into a growing alliance with China and Russia , and cause more instability.

China, in specific, provides Pakistan a chance to counter the strengthened union in between the United States and India, whose existence in Afghanistan the Pakistani military thinks about an existential hazard.

Among the tools thought about by the Trump administration, inning accordance with Reuters , are broadening drone strikes, keeping help and withdrawing Pakistans status as a significant non-Nato ally.

But efforts to bully Pakistan into submission will just own Islamabad additional to China , stated Ayesha Siddiqa, author and research study partner at the School of African and asian Studies in London.

It likewise suggests that in Afghanistan, there will be more violence. Pakistan sees Afghanistan as an American-Indian job versus Pakistani interests, she stated.

Pakistan is commonly thought to support and harbour Taliban militants, and has actually been considered a spoiler in peace talks.

United States policy on Afghanistan is developing at a time when the defence department is especially effective in policy-making, after President Trump delegated authority to defence secretary James Mattis to set troop implementation levels there.

Meanwhile, the state department is compromised by a continuing outflow of veteran diplomats and a noteworthy absence of seriousness in changing them on the part of secretary of state Rex Tillerson , who has actually backed strategies to cut the department budget plan by a 3rd.

On Friday, the acting unique agent for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), Laurel Miller, left the post in addition to her deputy, leaving doubts over the future of the position, which was produced in 2009 by Barack Obama. A state department declaration stated that Tillerson has actually not decided on the concern.

Its a difference without a distinction whether a choice has actually been made, because there is functionally no one in the workplace, stated James Cunningham, a previous United States ambassador to Afghanistan. The essential part of this isn’t really whether there is an SRAP workplace. It is how is the senior authorities who is accountable for these concerns, and as far as I understand, that essentially does not exist. This is all part of the trimming, devitalizing, incapacitating of the state departments capability to take part successfully in diplomacy .

Economically, China has actually long gone beyond the United States in significance in Pakistan. The crown gem in Chinas Pakistani endeavor is a $62bn facilities task, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor . China has actually likewise gotten whatever from power business and agreements to gather trash to stakes in the Karachi stock exchange.

Its really various and extraordinary from exactly what Pakistani-American relations ever were. While the United States purchased Pakistan, its supremacy will never ever resemble exactly what the Chinese will be, stated Siddiqa.

For Russia, a US-Pakistani rift opens area to oppose American power, as it does through proxies in Syria.

Western authorities in Kabul think, partially for this factor, that Russia has actually increased its weapons support for the Taliban.

If I were Putin, Id be smirking and thinking, this is my opportunity to obtain back at the Americans and turn Afghanistan into another Vietnam, stated Siddiqa.

Russia has actually confessed to sharing intelligence with the Taliban, to eliminate Isis affiliates.

The Pakistani defence minister has actually contacted Russia to take the lead in stabilising Afghanistan, and in September, Russia and Pakistan performed their very first joint military drill near Peshawar.

However, Hassan Askari Rizvi, a Pakistani expert, stated there is a limitation to what does it cost? diplomatic turbulence nations in the area want to trigger.

For Russia, the very first choice in south Asia is certainly India, and for that reason Pakistan is not anticipating a significant shift in relations in the future, he stated. There might be a downgrading of relations in between them, however Pakistan and United States will not absolutely desert each other.

However, he warned versus magnifying drone strikes on Pakistani soil. Drones will not assist, he stated. If they are utilized on the mainland, Pakistan will decline it, and may strike back by shooting some drones down, he stated.

Barack Obama likewise aimed to persuade Pakistan, by cutting financial support and reducing diplomatic contacts. Obama never ever went to Islamabad in his 8 years as president.

Obama likewise connected to Pakistans arch-rival, India, whose prime minister Narendra Modi was invited by Trump at the White House on Monday, amidst reports that India would purchase 22 United States Guardian drones for its navy and talk about the possible shift of production of F-16s fighter jets to India.

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“Trump” and methods at the white home.”src= “”/&gt; Trump and Modi at the White House. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Thank you quite for purchasing devices from the United States. Constantly makes us feel great, Trump stated in a joint look with Modi in the White House cabinet space. Theres no one makes military devices like we make military devices .

If something joins different local powers, it is suspicion of American intentions in Afghanistan. In a desire to reject the United States its monopoly as a powerbroker, Moscow welcomed delegates from 12 nations to a peace conference on Afghanistan in March.

Meanwhile, the United States is most likely preparing a release of 4,000 extra soldiers to its longest war.

Countries in the area have actually long presumed the United States of desiring an irreversible base in Afghanistan under the guise of combating terrorists. They do not think in the counter terrorism authentic of the United States, stated Barnett Rubin, director of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Regional Program at New York University. If paired with strong diplomacy, #peeee

He included that a troop rise and difficult Pakistan line can just be successful. They cant do that by slashing the state department by one-third, he stated.

Afghans have actually lived under a geopolitical tug-of-war given that Russias and Britains 19th century Great Game. Now it appears more nations than ever want to use up financial and political capital to preserve a grip.

Unless there is an arrangement about Afghanistan in between Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan, India and the United States, Afghanistan will be unsteady, Rubin stated. And if the concept is that Afghanistan is safeguarded and protected by ending up being an American base, there wont be a contract.

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On the frontline with Karachis ambulance drivers

The long read: They pick up the dead and wounded from burning buildings, terrorist attacks and gun battles. And they get paid 1 a day

The impact of the explosion sent Muhammad Safdar flying backwards. He looked up from where he had landed and saw that the windows of his parked ambulance had shattered. As he tried to pick himself back up, fellow volunteer drivers working for the Edhi ambulance service gathered around him; it looked as if Safdar was bleeding. But he had not suffered any external injuries. Human flesh got stuck to me, he recalls now, as we sit in the ambulance control centre in downtown Karachi. My friends were checking me for injuries, but it was pieces of other people. I was trembling hard and I couldnt hear my own voice when I spoke. It sounded juddering. I could only hear whistles.

It was 5 February 2010 and Safdar had already dealt with the fallout of one explosion that day: an hour before, a motorbike laden with explosives had slammed into a bus carrying Shia Muslims to a religious procession. Safdar had raced to the scene to load the dead and injured into his ambulance and take them to the nearby Jinnah hospital. With more than people 30 injured and 12 dead, the emergency room was in a state of chaos, filled with crying and screaming as doctors struggled to cope. He was still inside the hospital when the second bomb exploded just outside the entrance.

Safdar did not realise until later that he had suffered head injuries. At the time, he followed his first instinct, which was to get up and continue to help. A further 13 people were dead, with scores more injured. Everything was a mess, there was blood everywhere, he remembers.

The hospital entrance was badly damaged and there were fears of a third bomb. Ambulance drivers took those with the worst wounds to other nearby hospitals for treatment. Three ambulances were destroyed in the explosion, so they worked with what they had.

Across the crowds of casualties, Safdar kept his eyes on his boss, Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of the service, who was sitting inside one of his own ambulances. As the head of a huge charitable organisation offering services to the poor, Edhi made a point of remaining at the frontline of rescue work. He had been collecting the dead and injured alongside his staff. Safdar ran over to him. I came to pick him up in case of a third blast, but he said, I am not going. Wherever I am, there isnt a blast, so I am not moving. Safdar continued to haul bodies to ambulances parked outside. Amid the dirt and blood, he spotted something suspicious: a very clean-looking motorbike in the car park with a TV set strapped to the back. Safdar ran back to Edhi to tell him what he had seen. Edhi alerted police and stayed put as experts defused what turned out to be a third bomb.

In 13 years as an Edhi ambulance driver, Safdar has lost count of the rescue jobs he has done. He has entered burning buildings, dived into water after shipwrecks, retrieved survivors after terror attacks and industrial accidents, and navigated running gun battles.

Sporting red T-shirts emblazoned with bold white letters reading EDHI, these workers are a familiar sight at Pakistans all-too-common disaster scenes. Here in Karachi, a megalopolis of around 20 million people, there is no state ambulance service.

Karachi has suffered through decades of violence. Ethnic tensions have been simmering since the 1950s, ramping up as conflict and natural disasters elsewhere in Pakistan pushed more and more people into the city. For years, gang war raged in the slum of Lyari, and as terrorism increased in Pakistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks and the declaration of the war on terror,Karachi became a key militant operating ground. Since 2014, a crackdown led by the army has brought a semblance of calm, but violence still simmers below the surface.

Safdar, in his rudimentary ambulance, has been at the frontline of the shifting conflicts consuming his city, placing himself at huge personal risk for very little money.

Safdar first stumbled into the Edhi Foundations main office in 2003, shouting that his brother had waited too long for an ambulance. Safdar was around 22 years old (it is common in Pakistan for people to be unsure of their exact birth date), and his brother Adil was roughly 20. The ambulance driver on duty, Muhammad Liaqat, remembers, Our reaction was not to reply in any aggressive way. He has a very good heart, but he is hot-headed.

Adil had contracted polio as an infant, and the disease still endemic in Pakistan left him disabled. He needed a series of painful leg operations. With no car and limited funds, the family relied on the Edhi ambulances.

Despite Safdars anger, he was impressed by the operation. I saw other people waiting at the hospital for hours for transportation, he recalls. Edhi Sahib [a term of respect] alone was trying to help. Safdar had dreamed of joining the army, but needed to stay at home because of Adils illness. So, he got a driving licence and joined the ambulance service. Now he creates trouble for us every day, says Liaqat.

On his first day,Safdar went with another driver to collect one of the unclaimed bodies frequently found on the streets of Karachi. He couldnt look. The other driver slapped him in the face. What do you think this is? he said. Its a human being. What are you? A human being. Why are you behaving like this? Safdar picked up the corpse.

It takes time to get used to this work, he says. A lot of people leave after a week or so as they cant take it. They have fear in them.

Safdar is a thin man with a meticulously stylish haircut, equally quick to laugh as to fly into a rage. His boss, Anwar Kazmi, ironically introduces him to newcomers as our most polite driver. Safdar constantly chews a betel nut derivative, which has a stimulant effect a common habit among drivers in Pakistan. He is outspoken and talks a million miles a minute, his rapid hand movements expressing a range of emotions. He refuses to enter a government hospital where the boss was once rude to him. But he cannot stand to see suffering, sometimes getting in trouble for using his siren for non-emergency call-outs, and stopping to help if he spots anyone injured or lost on the road.

His usual base is the Edhi ambulance services main control centre in Kharadar in Karachis bustling old town. The office is open to the street, with a kiosk at the front for donations.

In a city where media companies and hospitals have armed guards, this accessibility is unusual. Inside, drivers sit and chat in between shifts, the overhead fan whirring and causing the dim electric light to flicker over their faces. Their standard work shifts are 18, 24 or 36 hours. At night, some nap on their stretchers. High up on a wall, stuck to peeling paintwork, are photographs of eight drivers killed in service. The bosses sit in this room too, behind two large desks. Kazmi, the general manager and spokesman, is always stationed at the right-hand desk, two phones and a mobile in front of him.

Safdar lights a cigarette during a moment of downtime. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Abdul Sattar Edhi came to Karachi as a poor man from an Indian village in 1947. Starting with a small pharmacy tent, his work rapidly expanded, powered by donations from ordinary citizens. With the help of his wife Bilquis, he set up a maternal health clinic and a centre for abandoned children. A large donation allowed Edhi to buy a second-hand truck, which he put to use as his first ambulance.

Pakistan can sometimes be a cruel environment, its residents caught between the dual pressures of poverty and violence. Yet it is also a place of great kindness, with a strong culture of charitable giving. Donations from what Edhi called the common man still power the foundation. It refuses state money, and has politely turned down donations from businessmen that it considers unethical. The organisation fills many gaps left by the state, operating a dizzying array of services, including homes for victims of domestic violence, food banks and a shelter for stray animals.

Kazmi has a persistent cough and frequently quotes Karl Marx. Despite the heat, he wears a woolly hat and a waistcoat over his salwar kameez. Im leftist-minded. Edhi Sahib was too, he tells me. Some 40 years ago, he said to me, You cant say when the revolution will come, but this is a way to serve the common man. Come and work with me. So I joined.

Pakistan is a conservative, religious state. The Edhi Foundation is unusual in its ignoring of caste, creed, religion and sect. This strict stance has led to some criticism from religious groups. Edhi lived in a humble, ascetic way, even as his charity became a multimillion-pound enterprise. He refused exploit his growing celebrity for personal gain, never took a salary and even satoutside the office with a begging bowl.

When Edhi died on 8 July 2016, Pakistan entered a period of national mourning. He was hailed internationally as the worlds greatest humanitarian. Leadership of the organisation passed to his eldest son, Faisal.Criticism from religious conservatives about the familys beliefs ramped up. Donations dropped. Pakistan is now watching to see if Edhis legacy can be continued.

Like other Edhi ambulance drivers, Safdar is technically a volunteer and works for a basic salary of 4,300 Pakistani rupees a month (33). A private driver would earn 10,00015,000 rupees. This basic salary covers the high-risk rescue work; the easier patient services jobs moving people between hospitals and transporting corpses incur a small fee, so drivers receive a commission of around 100 rupees (76p) per trip. Sometimes patients tip. But clearly, money is not the motivating factor.

When Safdar talks about his medical knowledge, his face lights up. Edhi drivers receive a few days of basic instruction, and those who display an aptitude later get more specialised training on an ad hoc basis. Safdar can rattle through the correct procedure in the event of a heart attack, electrocution, broken bones, fire, bombs. He has tricks for picking up heavy people, and uses the grubby cushion in his ambulance to prop up the unconscious to keep their airways open. Doctors giving me these trainings would ask me how long I have studied for, and I would show them my thumb, he says proudly. This signifies illiteracy: those who cannot sign their name use a thumbprint for official documents. Theyd say, You seem like youve studied for a long time, because you know the right questions to ask.

Safdar and other workers care passionately about continuing Abdul Sattar Edhis legacy. Edhi was staunchly non-hierarchical, and had a personal relationship with even his most junior staff. Safdar keeps in his ambulance a dog-eared newspaper obituary, which quotes him saying that Edhi was like a father.

Between jobs, Safdar can usually be found in one of the small shops near the Kharadar base. The biryani stall dishes up heaps of steaming rice and meat to drivers on their breaks. A juice bar, with white walls and bright orange plastic seats, sells fried chicken and canned drinks. The tea shop nearby brews vats of traditional masala chai; milky, sweet, spiced tea that fuels everyone at the Kharadar office through their long shifts.

Sitting in the tea shop, Safdar pours a small amount of his tea into the saucer so it will cool quicker, slurping it up from the plate. I am always on call even though Im free right now, he says. A call comes through. In an instant, Safdar is in his ambulance. There has been an explosion in the Defence Housing Authority, an upmarket suburb of Karachi.

Safdar drives at alarming speed, weaving between lanes of traffic, careering down alleyways, his siren blaring. Edhi ambulances small Suzuki Bolan minivans equipped with a single stretcher and oxygen canister are not set up for pre-hospital care. But their small size means they can zip through the citys five lanes of frequently gridlocked traffic at high speed. Safdar shouts through his loudspeaker for people to move. Hey Muslim! Go quicker! he calls to a man with a long beard wearing a prayer hat. Rickshaw driver, get out of the way! Old lady, move it! Son of a bitch, are you drunk? He screeches to a halt outside the flats where the explosion has taken place.

The Edhi Foundationhas around 500 ambulances in Karachi, out of a fleet of more than 1,500 across Pakistan. This makes it the worlds largest voluntary ambulance service. The Chhipa ambulance service is also run as a charity, on a similar model to Edhi. Founded in 2007, it is Karachis second-largest ambulance fleet.

Safdar considers Chhipa as a rival to Edhi. I dont consider them ambulances, he mutters. As far as ambulances go, we are the dons and these guys are just kids. Once, he got into a physical fight with some Chhipa drivers. Edhi was still alive then and made sure Safdar was arrested. He wanted to teach me a lesson, Safdar says.

The Defence Housing Authority explosion was caused by a domestic gas cylinder, and four people were badly injured. The rate of injury and death in Karachi resulting from poor health and safety standards is particularly noticeable now that tightened security has reduced violent crime.

Pakistans security crackdown was triggered by two major incidents in 2014. The most shocking was a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, one of the countrys northern cities, on 16 December, in which more than 150 people, mostly children, were slaughtered. The other, which happened six months earlier, on 8 June, was a brazen assault on Jinnah international airport in Karachi. Around 11pm, 10 heavily armed militants entered the airport and launched an assault. Heavy fighting with the Airports Security Force ensued.

A group of Edhi workers arrived at the airport soon after the first blast and provided medical back-up to the security forces. Clad in bulletproof vests, Safdar and his colleagues were inside the airport for 16 hours as the gun battle raged. During the active fighting, our job was to keep in a corner and watch for injuries and see if someone was shot, says Safdar. Workers darted out with their stretchers to pick up the wounded. Of the 28 who died, 14 were security officials.

In Karachi, a number of people were killed in the crackdown that followed. Sometimes, ambulances are called to clear up the mess.On this subject, Safdar is uncharacteristically reticent. Whether it is a big raid or a small one, back-up is needed. Sometimes we arrive and find police in masks. It is our job to check if anyone is alive, not to ask any questions.

Edhi workers have not always had an easy relationship with the police. In April 2012, the streets of Lyari broke into a new iteration of an old gang war. The police staged a crackdown, shutting down electricity and water. Police and gangsters battled in the streets. Thousands of people were trapped inside without basic supplies, so Abdul Sattar Edhi announced that his ambulances would deliver water, rice and powdered milk door to door. This allegedly angered police, and led to widespread conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated allegations that ambulance drivers distributed arms to gangsters.

My job was to take groceries to homes, says Safdar. We couldnt do much for the injured as the government was involved. But lots of families had other emergencies heart attacks, going into labour. We catered for that despite the police operation.

One day, Safdar claims, he and a colleague were apprehended by Chaudhry Aslam, who was then the police superintendent. He cut open the sacks of rice, looking for weapons, and took them into custody. The incident demonstrates the dangers of operating an ideologically independent organisation in a corrupt and unpredictable state. Safdar is sanguine: My only regret is that I was not able to slap Chaudhry Aslam in the face as he arrested us.

The call comes in the early afternoon. A dead body has been spotted in the sea, near the port. Siren blaring, Safdar weaves between cars. It is not common for us to have accidents, and when we do, it is usually the publics fault, he says. A large truck fails to give way. I dont think you can even hear the horn! he shouts, glaring at the driver.

At the port, Safdar picks up the sheet from his stretcher. Bodies are harder to lift when they are waterlogged: limbs are fragile and parts can come away. When the wooden rescue boat comes in, he and a colleague climb nimbly down the rocks and onto the boat. They roll the corpse onto the sheet, wrap it around, and carry it up to the waiting stretcher. It is fresh, a few hours old, and has not started to smell. The man was in his 60s.

When a body is found, a strict procedure follows. The ambulance takes it to a government hospital, where the death is logged and if possible, relatives contacted. If no ID is found, the body goes to a police station. From there, it is taken to the Edhi mortuary, where further efforts are made to track its identity. If this proves impossible, the body ends up in the Edhi graveyard.

The Edhi mortuary is in Sohrab Goth, an impoverished area that until recently was a hotbed of urban militancy. The mortuary is set back from the road, with a large open waiting area lined with benches, where relatives can sit. To the left are rooms where the bodies are washed. To the right is the cold storage facility. This is the only functional mortuary in Karachi, a city of more than 27.5 million people.

Safdar chats with a colleague at the Edhi Foundation office in Karachi. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Although state hospitals are equipped with cold storage facilities, most are not operational. Funds earmarked for their maintenance are frequently diverted elsewhere. The mortuary deals with unidentified bodies and the aftermath of disasters, but families can also pay for deceased relatives to be stored while they await burial, or for their bodies to be washed in the traditional Islamic way.

Ghulam Hussain, the senior clerk, has worked at the mortuary for 12 years. After his first day, he walked out. There were so many bodies, in all conditions, fully mutilated, so there were just parts of them. When I saw that, it was like the ground was pulled from under me. It is impossible to forget. It stays with me, it never fades, he says. Two months later, he returned, and stayed. Slowly, I got used to it. Human beings tend to manage things. He says that on average, between four and six unidentified bodies come in each day, rising to between 10 and 12 in the summer.

It is difficult work, and Hussain takes refuge in systems. He describes the details of procedures for treating and identifying the bodies. Until a few years ago, bodies were buried within three days, in keeping with Islamic tradition. Now that Pakistans ID card system is biometric, fingerprints are taken from corpses and sent to the central authority to check for a database match. This can take anything from 24 hours to several weeks.

Two men arrive, looking for a relative who went missing eight years ago. Hussain gives them the catalogue a macabre photo album. When an unclaimed body arrives, staff take three photographs of the face: one from the front and one from each side. These are filed along with a serial number that marks the shroud and then the grave, so that even after burial relatives can find their loved ones.

The cold storage facility is a metal room with its own diesel generator to ensure that the temperature remains at zero degrees, despite Karachis frequent power cuts. The bodies are laid out on metal grilles, on three levels. There are two halls. Both smell overpoweringly of disinfectant, but this does not entirely cover the cloying smell of the corpses. In the first room are bodies brought in by families, entirely covered by white shrouds, with labels stating their name, age and religion. In the second are the unidentified bodies. Their faces are left uncovered, in order to ease identification. A stray hand or foot sticks out in places.

When there is a major disaster a terror attack, a fire, a floodor heatwave there are times when due process cannot be followed. On 11 September 2012, there was a huge fire at a textile factory in the district of Baldia Town. The fire broke out near the compounds locked gates: there was no escape. More than 600 people were injured and more than 200 died.

Safdar and his fellow ambulance drivers worked solidly for four days to rescue survivors and retrieve the dead. The bodies were so badly burnt that if you tried to hold them, they would crumble, he says.

Most of the bodies went to the hospital and then, too charred to be readily identified, to the mortuary. For Hussain, the textile factory fire stands out not because of the overwhelming volume of bodies to process, wash and identify, but because of the stress the team was placed under to work quickly. Karachi is a highly politicised environment. After major disasters, pressure is often exerted by one interested faction or another to release the bodies quickly. That is what happened in this case. We couldnt follow our procedures, says Hussain. We couldnt test the bodies. He is sure that some went to the wrong families, and it still distresses him.

On 12 December 2016, scores of ambulances are lined up opposite the Kharadar base. Today is a public holiday the prophet Muhammads birthday and a conservative Sunni group is holding its annual procession. Overnight, blockades have gone up around the planned route, with paramilitary forces standing guard. The Edhi Foundations logistical machine has kicked into action.

Safdar is late for work; he spent the morning preparing celebrations at home, ordering food and planning a Quran recital for the evening. Instead of his usual cargo trousers, he is wearing a blue salwar kameez. Ignoring his bosss sarcastic comment about his excellent timekeeping, Safdar pulls his red Edhi T-shirt over the top.

Vehicles are stationed along the parade route, and Safdar drives to his spot. The rally fills up in the early afternoon. Trucks with loudspeakers blast out religious music and prayers, and distribute free snacks. Sitting in his ambulance, looking at the crowds, Safdar remembers the same event, exactly 10 years before. In the evening, a massive bomb exploded, so loud that Safdar couldnt hear for a few minutes. His ambulance filled with the injured and he tried to drive to the nearest hospital. When a blast happens, people leave their cars, their bikes, their bags, everything. I drove my ambulance over all this debris. I was trembling and there was a major problem with the vehicle. Only I can ever know how I was able to drive my ambulance that day. A total of 57 people died.

Safdars worst memory is of the procession on the Shia holy day of Ashura in December 2009. Safdar and his colleague Farrukh were stationed near an entrance. They left their vehicles to buy a drink from a roadside stall. A man in a bulky, heavy jacket entered. He detonated his suicide vest metres away from the ambulances. Safdar, stunned by the impact but not injured, snapped into action. He realised quickly that both ambulances were badly damaged, so he lifted the injured up, away from the crowd, awaiting back-up. Through all this, I saw the top half of Farrukhs body lying there. More than 30 people died and dozens were injured. Farrukhs picture is displayed on the honour wall of dead ambulance drivers at the Kharadar office.

This year, the procession passes without incident. I havent spent an Eid night at home since I started this job, says Safdar. Always I am driving, hoping nothing happens, wearing these fancy clothes.

On an average day, a steady stream of people come into the Kharadar office to give small donations or to seek help. One day, a man brings in his four-year-old daughter. She cannot walk, he says. Staff pull out a dusty childs wheelchair and the family leaves with it. Another day, a young woman with a black eye walks in and declares she is running away from home. Within half an hour, an ambulance driver has fetched a female case worker from the womens shelter.

The ambulance is the backbone of everything,says Faisal Edhi.Shelter homes and adoption centres run because of the ambulances. The babies are found in the bushes, ambulances go and collect them. People are lying on the street, ambulances get them.

The final stage of the journey that a body can make is to the cemetery. The day after the procession, Safdar drives to the Edhi graveyard, a huge, flat expanse. Graves are demarcated with wooden signs bearing a number, which are stuck into the earth. This number has followed each body from the mortuary to its final resting place. It corresponds to the number of bodies buried here. On this day, the latest number is 83,390.

A wooden marker at the Edhi Foundation graveyard on the outskirts of Karach. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Each of these 83,390 bodies was given a full funeral service, with four or five Edhi staff present. In Islam, it is believed that you must join funeral prayers if you can, as it eases the persons journey to the next world. Sometimes, other mourners join the prayers, and passersby stop their motorbikes to join in. Safdar, who has led the ceremony on many occasions, remembers times when 30 or 40 people have attended.

Some sections of the graveyard correspond to major disasters; there is a whole section for bodies still unidentified after the Baldia fire, and a long trench where victims of the 2015 heatwave lie. Some graves are no longer unmarked; families who have later tracked down a dead relative have paid to erect proper gravestones, which stand out against the endless lines of wooden sticks.

Most cemeteries in Pakistan are strictly divided along religious lines. Here, because the identity of the corpses is unknown, people of different faiths lie side by side. Safdar points to a grave marked with a wooden cross. Edhi Sahib thought that all humans are equal, he says. Look at that Christian grave, whose relatives left the body here, even though it is a Muslim majority. This is a very beautiful thing to see in Pakistan.

He gets back into his ambulance to drive back to the base. On the way, he passes the scene of an accident. An old man has been knocked off his motorbike and Safdar stops to help, administering first aid at the side of the road, expertly checking for broken bones. As the man leaves, he grips Safdars hand. May you always be happy, he says. Safdar gets back into his ambulance and drives on. If you see someone drowning and you can be of use, why wouldnt you help? Its about help, not money, he says.

Since Abdul Sattar Edhi died, many observers in Pakistan have questioned whether the organisation can continue. Safdar is adamant that things will not change. On his rare days off, he sometimes drives to Edhis grave in Hyderabad, where he speaks to his mentor and promises to continue his legacy. Faisal admits that donations are down 30 per cent since his fathers death, but he is determined to keep the foundations work going. When my father was alive and people would criticise him, he used to say, We do not need to respond, our response is our work. So thats what I say now. Our response is our work.

Main photograph by Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

This is an edited version of an article that appears on Mosaic. It is republished here under a Creative Commons licence

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