As the election dates draw nearer, our TV channels have been airing nostalgic clips of the good old days, when our leaders were respected and Pakistan was referred to as an ‘Important and powerful ally’ by the US. Today, of course, it is just the opposite and this land of the Pak and the Pure, is referred to as the ‘most dangerous country in the world’.

Field Marshal Ayub Khan, despite the fact that he was a military dictator and the God Father of Pakistan’s Martial Laws, was received with full military honors and given a rousing welcome on his visit to the US in 1961. (

While Karachi, the glittering Jewel in the Crown of Sindh, was truly a city of lights and people from the Emirates and even Singapore would fly over, just to spend the weekend in the City.

For me, the beauty and the brilliance of this jewel was appreciated on completing my studies in UK and returning to Pakistan after twelve years and joining the family business. Our factory had been a trendsetter and a showpiece and some of the dignitaries who visited the plant with Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the President of Pakistan at that time, were US Vice President Nixon and the Prime Ministers of China, Indonesia, India and Turkey. 

Life in those days was easy and relaxed and one enjoyed doing the simple things, like bunder-boating and crabbing on a moonlit night, cruising through Elphy, Tariq Road or to PIDC for a mitha pan or to Old Clifton, without having to worry about target killings, suicide bombings, car or phone snatchings, etc.

There was less noise and air pollution and the roads were safer, with less traffic. No one jumped a red light and the rule of law was observed. The Honourable Judges of our judiciary were respected and their orders and judgments were implemented in letter and in spirit. Citizens respected and had faith in our law enforcing agencies and in the system of justice.

Pakistan was looked upon as the future Asian Tiger, PIA was still a great airline to fly with and a trip to Lahore by train was still enjoyable. The nation’s silver, our national assets, were still bright and shiny and were managed by competent, honest, competent and dedicated bureaucrats with integrity, who were a chip off the old British Raj.   

Our Chinese restaurants were rated the best in the region and the city boasted world class places like Les Gourmet at the old Palace Hotel, now the Sheraton, Samar at the Metropole Hotel and Nasreen Room at the Intercontinental Hotel, now the Pearl Continental.

The library in the American Centre in the old US Embassy was still a popular place and where Chappo, the late Aslam Rizvi, used to organize regular plays. I remember having a great time, acting in some of Neil Simon’s comedy plays, which included ‘Come Blow Your Horn’, with me as the bullying father and Muslim Lakhani as the rebellious son. Another play that we did, was ‘Catch Me If You Can’, a Colombo type mystery thriller.       

And going to the movies was still enjoyable and cinema theaters like Palace, Capital and Paradise showed the latest English movies to packed houses, while Naz and Nishat were famous for the popular Urdu films.

And on any given Saturday night, the jet setters of Karachi would gather to enjoy themselves in the hotels and unless you had the right contacts, it would be difficult to get a table. By nine o’clock, the strains of the twist, samba and cha-cha-cha music could be heard as you drove by and the parking lots of the hotels would be full to capacity with big, glittering, gas guzzling Cadillacs, Buicks, Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles.

And inside would be the crème de la crème of Karachi’s society, all dressed up in white tuxedos, bow ties and black, shiny dancing shoes and their wives in their saris, swaying gracefully across the floor to the music of a Filipino band or shaking their hips to the music of the local Goan group, with their Let’s do the Twist and Rock n Roll numbers.

There would always be a cluster of tables reserved for the ‘Pack’, led by Rafee, my brother, Tahir, the late Ahmed Pirbhoy, the Odos and their friends. Occasionally, angry voices would be raised over some silly argument, disturbing the friendly and jovial atmosphere, but it would soon be over and replaced by shouts of cheers and handshakes.

Sometimes, ZAB and his budding politicians, would be there, to relax and enjoy their cigars and though ZAB was on friendly terms with most of the ‘Pack’ members, a certain chill would be felt in the hall during his presence.

The noise factor would drop and even the musicians would sense the tension in the room and change the tempo of the music. The dancing couples would stop their shaking n rolling and cautiously waltz across the floor. Such was the personality of ZAB even before he became the PM of this land of the Pak and the Pure.

However, all that had come to an abrupt end by the stroke of a pen, when ZAB, in a desperate bid to cling onto power, banned all that had made Karachi an exciting and vibrant city. But that was in the glorious past and we had not even spared the Field Marshal and he too was forced to leave in disgrace.

What happened after that is history. The gloom and doom era had begun and the journey that plunged this City of Lights and the country into darkness, had started. And now, it seems that a clash of the Titans, the Executive, the Army and the Judiciary is again a possibility and could trigger the beginning of the end of the present system of governance.

The million dollar question is that even if the coming elections are reasonably fair and free, will The Great Khan’s tsunami, the tall promises of PML-N or the MQM’s Referendum, restore the ‘good old days’, the lost glory and the Quaid’s vision of Pakistan?

Not an easy question to answer, but let us not give up hope and continue to play our role as responsible and patriotic Pakistanis and hope for the best.