A Haven of Sense

Religious hordes throng Karachi, spewing intolerance, anger and ignorance. Ordinary people – far from extremists – and even supposedly educated lawyers laud an Islamist assassin. The BBC asks whether Pakistan has passed a tipping point.

But there is another Pakistan, far from the mountainous borderlands, where al-Qaeda leaders and Taliban commanders plot their next move, or the Punjab government offices where blind eyes are turned.

Step into the Second Floor coffeeshop in Karachi and you could be on another planet. The ground floor exhibition space hosts recitals and an art gallery. Upstairs, over frothy cappuccinos, regulars discuss everything from anarchism to gay rights, beneath posters of John Lennon and Mukhtar Mai. It is a haven of sense, far from the polarised pages of the nation’s newspapers or populist chat shows, where arguments are skewed or misrepresented and the sane are silenced for fear of retribution.

“There’s nowhere else where can talk like this without worrying that someone might be listening in,” as one customer said.

Pakistan’s small band of liberals, progressives or moderates (even innocuous sounding tags can be the cause of resentment) are keeping their heads down at the moment. But they haven’t gone away. More power to them.


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