Sufism and the art of urban healing

As sanctions start to bite, Pakistanis learn from Akhtar Hameed Khan's calls for simplicity, renunciation and self-reliance.

Every morning Akhtar Hameed Khan makes the journey to Orangi, Pakistan's largest unplanned urban settlement, or katchi abadi. Located 12 kilometres from Karachi's centre, it is a microcosm of this city of migrants, a sprawling community of mohajirs (Indian Muslim refugees from 1947), Biharis (more recent refugees from Bangladesh), Pathans, Sindhis, Punjabis and Balochs. Orangi has swallowed up 7000 acres of the barren Sindh landscape on the edge of Karachi and is still growing. Orangi is as big as Colombo or Amsterdam, a city within a city.

More than three and a half million people live in the 400 katchi abadis that surround Karachi. Being outside the official city plan, the migrants have little access to government-funded resources. Officials have traditionally ignored their squalor. Orangi itself began to be occupied in 1965 and grew rapidly after 1972 with the influx of refugees from newly independent Bangladesh.

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Himal Southasian