I returned to Karachi after living abroad for a few years, looking forward to immersing myself in its culture, food and interaction with my loved ones. The first object to welcome me was a 50 feet x 90 feet billboard located right at the airport exit. Then there was another, after hardly 10 meters. The billboard frequency kept increasing along with its size. Political, commercial and NGO-sponsored messages hung from every nook and cranny as I desperately tried to see how the city had changed.

Over the next few days, I found the city had become uglier by the mushrooming billboards. The green belts seem to be lost in a background of posters selling everything from biscuits to the salvation of the soul. Our public space has been severely abused and violated in the name of money and security.

The elite schools have taken over our roads. The private residence of a former president, living in Karachi has taken a dual carriage road and service lanes as his personal property. I am sure no one even remembers his name. Now the city authorities, either out of ignorance or the greed for more money, are ruining the city. Billboards, small and large on main roads such as Sharah-e-Faisal, number in hundreds obscuring the city and the sky. I want to see the sky and trees to calm my nerves during the rush hour. Instead, I get countless images of girls wearing five hundred kinds of different branded lawns, shampoos, cellular phone services and last but not the least, food. I suggest that the Karachi government should define the number and size of billboards to give this city a healthier look.


Karachi, July 23.