I know a couple of you are interested in this stuff, so I figured I'd make a post.
Now my residence here is in Karachi. I've heard from various sources that Karachi is the most dangerous city in the world right now, that Karachi is on adventurous travellers' top 5 not to visit list, etc. I've heard from Karachi residents that the main fault lies with the media (Pakistani media tend to fill up the space that'd normally be dedicated to naked girls with violence instead, with pictures and everything); crime statistics show that it's no worse than a number of US cities or Mumbai.
Most killings are targetted, which is good because if you're not a target, you should be safe, but then a couple of things happen. For one, MQM (the muhajir/Indian migrant/Urdu speaking political party) will call a strike which means all shops need to stay closed or they will shoot them down. And then after some murder that's widely publicised, random people will start rioting and if you're on the road your car might get set on fire. There was only one "important" killing (that triggered stuff like that) while I was there, so that was good. Most people at my work took the day off and the bank was closed.
Due to the fact that it's really unstable, I'm not allowed out over there without rather heavy protection (guns and all) and a very long bureaucratic process of security clearance protocols, and even then usually only in certain areas unless someone volunteers to take responsibility. Yay, being white and female. The stupid thing is that there are very safe areas to the south, but the city is so large it'd take at least 45 minutes to get there, in good traffic.
The upside is, I work in probably the best workplace in all of Pakistan (which is also better than most workplaces in the developed world). For that alone, I will try and return to Karachi next year.
And then there's the fact that I get comforts. Cleaners, drivers, people to bring me bread randomly and all that. Plus a really fancy room.
Without the security situation, it would be pretty awesome. I love how you can walk along a street and a completely different smell will hit you every 2 yards. I love the atmosphere when security is not an issue for a little while. I love the colours. I love when there is hope.
In the end, there is still a very simple way to describe why I can't commit to the place 100%: It's neurotic. The whole bloody city of 20m is neurotic.
Karachi link that is nice
Karachi link that is not so nice
Then last weekend I went to Islamabad/Rawalpindi. People stare more because there's no guy pointing a gun at them when they do, especially in Rawalpindi - Islamabad is so full of foreigners no one cares anymore. Islamabad itself is ridiculously beautiful (it's like DC, but with better weather) and green and fancy and completely safe while still being the second cheapest city in the world (after Karachi). Rawalpindi is just another city kind of like Lahore or Karachi but not quite as awesome but close enough to Islamabad that it reaps the benefits.
Yesterday, I took a bus through rural Punjab (so beautiful, and the name, meaning five rivers is totally a lie because there are so many rivers), where I briefly got lost at a motel but some little girl found me and got me back to the bus, and then arrived in Lahore late at night where my awesome redditor friend who also got me a job here picked me up.
And then, Lahore. That's where I am now. It's the most amazing magical place. It is like Karachi, but cleaner and safer. I say that working in the slums.
Speaking of that, I am working 7:30-11:30 now due to power cuts over there (don't want to get those in the midday heat), the slums are actually quite nice compared to Karachi's shopping streets even, and today my work was basically taking pictures of a girls' cricket match.
My room is nearly as luxurious as in Karachi, plus I get a guy to do my laundry and just got a 3 course dinner via room service, and it's generally so much more peaceful.
There is so much more hope and so much less chaos of the bad kind here. Lahore is still chaotic, traffic is a bitch, you don't know what might happen, but people don't vote terrorists into goverment and most have enough hope to stop and be nice.
They sound so much nicer in every language.
Quick note on the power cuts: Most areas in Pakistan have between 2 and 22 hours of scheduled powercuts a day because of an energy shortage. I experienced it in Rawalpindi, but with enough backup power to have fans running at least. I did not in Karachi or Lahore because I'm staying in elite accomodation.
I'll stop here. I could write 10 times as much, I guess, but I didn't mean to make this anywhere near as long as it is.
Edited, Jul 17th 2012 4:42pm by Kalivha
Edited, Jul 18th 2012 4:21pm by Kalivha