It is the common desire among all shades of Pakistanis to travel hither and dither over Eid, to be able to spend it in the company of loved ones. I, being very much a Pakistani, gave in to the same wish and decided to spend Eid in Karachi with my daughter and hence got myself a return ticket from Islamabad on Airblue.

The getting to Karachi journey was uneventful and quite nice actually because the flight was not packed. The joy of Eid was as usual spread out over quite a few days, starting from the Independence Day holiday on August 14 rolling on to Juma-tul-Wida then Eid. (The break will only be logically over after this weekend concludes actually.)

For a country mired in poor economy and a sea of other problems, the will to holiday remains robust and uppermost. Karachi was no different. It is a city that has more people than it can contain and they were all out to party and revel in the aftermath of Eid. The population, it seemed, all wanted to be on the roads that led to terrible traffic jams. As in the floods that arrive every summer, there is equal unpreparedness for traffic jams, which the city administration knows will happen as surely as day follows night. Perhaps, they get a kick out of not planning ahead and by just hoping that people will be too busy watching television or too scared for their lives to come outdoors.

Karachi has learnt to live with risk to life and limb, and nobody gets deterred from having fun and living each day to the fullest, particularly national holidays. The newest place that attracts hoards and hoards of people every day is the Dolmen Mall at Clifton. Within its air-conditioned, beautiful interior one could be at any good shopping mall just about anywhere in the world! The world famous brands, the theme restaurants, the superstore are all a fantastic addition to the city and lull you into believing that good times may just be possible.

The jamming of mobile phones on Chand Raat was a new one for us. This jam was not such a bad thing though. Because everybody you do not want to hear from particularly, as well as their aunts, send you Eid greetings over SMS all night long. It was quite another thing to receive handwritten Eid cards from far and wide, as was done before the SMS age and which added to the festive look at home. But what with over 100 million mobile phone users in the country the tradition of sending out personalised Eid cards has just petered out and has almost completely been replaced by a group message and a message tone on your phone.

To come back to my return flight on Airblue. I had booked for 6:00 in the evening on August 23. It was bang on time and the check in was very courteous, even though the flight was packed. All the passengers boarded and sat in their allocated seats barring 4 or 5 seats, which remained empty until almost the last minute. There was sudden hustle and bustle as two bearded and able bodied gentlemen in shalwar kameez and turbans came on board. Their clothes were not the strange part as was their hand luggage. They had about 12 to 14 pieces of approximately two by two and a half feet of plastic bags containing something very sturdy. They were being assisted by the airline’s ground, male staff. Two seats were taken by the bags while some were shoved in the baggage containers above the seats and the two gentlemen took the two remaining seats. They seemed to be guarding the bags with their lives almost as if they had gold bricks in them. I could not help myself and asked one of the men what was in the bags to which he gave a short, curt reply ‘books’.

The bags blocked the passageway when the plane came to a halt and just about all the passengers were perturbed and curious about this hand carriage facility provided by the airline. As soon as the plane landed, there was again assistance available to the men from ground staff, who offloaded their stuff quickly like almost on a mission. Again one of the passenger busses that take passengers to the terminal was almost piled up with this strange luggage. At the terminal, the two men loaded their stuff on trolleys and were whisked out immediately. Why are rules not rules for everybody, is the question I want to ask the airline’s management. The strange, furtive behaviour of these two mentioned passengers and their mysterious hand luggage would not have been possible on any airline without the explicit permission of the authorities concerned. And the times we live in are certainly not conducive to cause so much suspicious discomfort to the public that travels Airblue.

Postscript: Among some of the negative stories that happened in the last week is the one about a young Christian female child of indeterminate age, and who reportedly has Down’s Syndrome too, being apprehended for blasphemy. The newspapers say that her lawyer is not being allowed to see her. This child is a Pakistani child, belonging to a minority faith which was, (we were told in no uncertain terms by Quaid-i-Azam way back on August 11, 1947), not the business of state and that we were all equal citizens in every sense of the word. It is the duty of every right-thinking Pakistani to ensure fairness and justice for this girl. We owe it to Mr Jinnah’s memory and his long-forgotten school of thought.

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.

Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com