Today is a day of rest after a weekend of long-distance travel, interviews and filming; I need time to digest all the information that I’m gathering. At night, Minal, Ammi and I visit Clifton Seawall, a drive that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto once wanted to create as the “Jewel of Asia” and where he supported Tufail Shaikh’s vision of building a casino by the sea. The casino, with its curling roof and welcoming doors, was scheduled to open in the late seventies but all action was stalled in 1977when General Zia ‘s coup toppled Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s popularly elected government. Long after in 1979 when General Zia executed Bhutto, the building remained part of Karachi’s southern silhouette against the Arabian Sea, a haunting reminder of how the direction of Pakistan changed when Zia, supported by the US government (led by Ronald Reagan) came to power and brought Islamization into the country.
As teenagers in the late seventies and early eighties, my friends and I used to drive along that strip and often park and sit on the wall to inhale sea spray and watch the glimmering sea. There were no steps leading down to the water or any rides on camels, scooters and horses as there are today. Nor were there restaurants, teashops or glittering nightlights—just gusty winds, the rush of waves and open space.