Karachi is not looking so great.
For decades the Pakistani city has been plagued by crime. Last year, Tim Craig of The Washington Post wrote: “Armored car sales have soared, and some new luxury apartments feature bulletproof glass. Local police officers, slain this year at an average rate of one per day, are demoralized.”
But one tour bus company in Karachi wants to change the way its residents — and foreigners — see the metropolis.
“We want everyone to be able to exhibit globally the positive image of Pakistan, not the negativity which unfortunately we usually get,” Atif bin Arif, managing director of Super Savari Express, said in a phone interview. Atif, whose family has been in the tourism industry for years, said he had taken tours all over the world, but realized that there was nothing “flushed out” in his “homeland of Pakistan.” His company, just nine weeks old, focuses on local tourism.
“When you come to a country like Pakistan, we don’t have many tourists coming in, but we have an abundance of locals,” Atif said. “Our aim is to have the locals take a sense of pride and ownership within their own city by the means of tourism.”
For 2,000 Pakistani rupees, about $19, you can jump on a colorful Super Savari Express bus, that will take you for a guided tour through different neighborhoods showing off the city’s colonial architecture and hidden gems. Stops on the tour includes the Sobhraj Chetumal Terrace, the Merewether Clock Tower as well as markets, mosques and temples.
BBC correspondent Kim Ghattas went on one of the tours and said “Although this is not quite war zone tourism it feels a little bit like it.” A Karachi resident on one of the tours told the BBC: “In recent years because of the situation in the city, I think as a mother I’ve become more protective and I think this was like one of those, those opportunities of doing something in the safe environment.”
For the safety of the customers, the tour’s itinerary changes every day and an armed guard always comes along.
Atif believes that the neighborhoods the tours visit are safe. When asked about the crime, he said: “I’m not denying that it does happen but, like I said, it’s something beyond our control. The only thing I can do is that I want to show the good side of Pakistan that I see. So why would I want to focus on the negativity when my entire project or when our project is about the positivity?”