Parveen Rehman on Land, Politics and Violence in Karachi

Photo source:

Photo source:

The assassination of social development worker Parveen Rehman is tragic. It is of course a huge loss for the communities that the Orangi Pilot Project serves. But it is also huge loss for journalists like myself and other researchers whom she was always too happy to help. Her years of experience, made her a treasure of information about the development of Karachi and the problems it is facing.

I recorded one of our interviews in 2011 that I used in this radio report about land and violence in Karachi. I have uploaded the full unedited 47-minute interview, which you can find below. She discusses how conflicts between illegal suppliers of land, patronised by mainstream political parties, are the source of what is often labelled as “ethnic violence”, that has plagued the city. She also discusses a number of personal encounters in the past with these party-backed-thugs because of the location of her office in one of the most volatile neighbourhoods of Karachi.

In her view, it was important not to show the thugs that you were afraid. In one of the encounters, a group of thugs sought to occupy the OPP office compound where she worked. She recalled in the interview:

We said, “All that you can do is kill us. What else can you do? We’re not afraid of you.”

After her murder, all of the main political parties in the city — the MQM, ANP and PPP included — publicly condemned the killing and were quick to hail her as a hero and martyr of Karachi. Ironically, if you listen to the interview below, Parveen Rehman explicitly named these parties as being patrons of the “land mafia” thugs that are the source of so much violence in the city.


The unedited audio of my interview is below, along with a transcription graciously provided by Fizzah Sajjad.

To view the transcription in a separate window, click on this link.


Water Kit


By now, most readers in Pakistan will have heard about ridiculous water-fuelled engine “invention” by a man named Agha Waqar. If you haven’t, the basic gist of it is that the man is claiming to have invented an engine that uses water as fuel (called a “water kit”), which the local media (and govemment) briefly went crazy about, hailing it as an amazing discovery. Read more in this New York Times article.

After the idea was thankfully trashed by one of the country’s most eminent physicists, one would have thought that would be the end of the story. Yet somehow, the story persists.

Yesterday, Agha Waqar was back again as a guest on Geo TV‘s Capital Talk, one of Pakistan’s most watched political talk shows. This time he faced his biggest critic, nucelar physicist Professor Pervez Hoodhboy.

The pseudo-scientific gibberish that came out of Waqar’s mouth was more ridiculous than on any previous encounter with the media, as he attempted to defend the theoretical basis of his imaginary invention. In particluar, he cites Max Plank’s research into black-body radiation which proves that resonance and free enegy can be applied to give motion to hydrogen, or any other force.

It was so ridiculous that I just had to translate some of it so that non-Urdu speakers can enjoy it also.

I can’t embed the video in this post so you will have to click on this link, and then select “English” from the “Select Language” tab below the video get the subtitles.

The video is too long to translate entirely, so I’ve just translated the five minutes of it that are the most ridiculous.

It is so silly, that I want to believe that it is part of an amazing prank to demonstrate the extreme gullibility of the Pakistani media, along the lines of the 1996 Sokal Hoax. It’s unlikely, but clearly it would not be difficult to pull it off if one wanted to.