American homes today are triple the size they were in the 1950s. And with more space has come more stuff. But a growing number of advocates say it is time to simplify. The lure of the minimalist lifestyle – and what it could mean for our health and happiness.
The United Nations estimates that by 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities. People all over the world are migrating from the countryside to urban areas in search of better lives. Karachi, Pakistan is a case in point: its population has grown from just 400,000 people in 1941, to more than 13 million today. This rapid growth has strained government resources: millions of Karachi’s residents can’t find affordable housing. Daily power outages are the norm. Extremist groups have flourished. NPR’s Steve Inskeep on life in Karachi, Pakistan, and why it’s a microcosm of the urban developing world.
- Steve Inskeep co-host of Morning Edition on NPR
On December 28, 2009, a bomb exploded on a busy street in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 30 people, wounding hundreds of others. Most of the dead were members of a minority Muslim sect marking a day of mourning. In his first book, NPR’s “Morning Edition” co-host, Steve Inskeep explores the roots of a day’s violence in Pakistan’s largest city.
Synthesis of the Book
Inskeep says his book grew out of a 2008 NPR series that focused on Karachi as an example of growing cities. A Karachi native told Inskeep that she loved the series but that she felt it had only gotten to the “news,” and she wanted to hear more. He decided he wanted to tell some of the people’s stories. One of the main problems in the city is the lack of electricity. You go to someone’s home or office and the light goes out…and the person who’s talking to you doesn’t even skip a beat. They continue with their sentence,” Inskeep said.
Land, Housing, and Power
Some people (often members of the military) can get land below market rates which they can then re-sell. As a result, the military owns a lot of land, giving it economic as well as political power. Many people live in half-finished developments, but at the same time, there are other homes he says are quite nice, some of which look like McMansions. “It will be argued that nobody else is really providing for the poor in a city like this, and this is a circumstance where some of the most vulnerable people in society can reach out and try to buy a piece of property, can try to buy a house, provided that they’re able to hang onto it,” Inskeep said of such properites.
What is the “Instant City?”
Karachi, like other cities, has seen tremendous growth in the past few decades. “This is a type of city that has appeared all over the world, especially since World War II. We’re talking about less than the span of a single life, 60-some years since the end of World War II, and you have a city like Karachi that was about 400,000 people, and is now, by the most conservative estimate, 13 million. City officials will add several more million onto that, they just haven’t been able to prove it yet with a census. It’s huge growth,” Inskeep said.
Karachi an “Incredibly Diverse” Place
Part of the city’s growth is due to the fact that migrants from all over the world have come to live there. “There are different kinds of Muslims. There are Christians with institutions that play leading roles in the communities. There are Parsees who are Zoroastrians and ancient Persian faith. There are people of other religions as well,” Inskeep said. The great challenge of the city, Inskeep said, is how to mediate their different interests.
You can read the full transcript here.
Read an Excerpt###
Excerpted from “Instant City” by Steve Inskeep. Copyright 2011 by Steve Inskeep. Reprinted here by kind permission of Penguin Press.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. On December 28, 2009, a bomb exploded on a busy street in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 30 people, wounding hundreds of others. Most of the dead were members of a minority Muslim sect marking a day of mourning. In his first book, NPR's "Morning Edition" co-host, Steve Inskeep explores the roots of a day's violence in Pakistan's largest city.
MS. DIANE REHMInskeep has been reporting from Pakistan since 2002. He says the forces that shape Karachi are underway all over the developing world. He says the forces that shape Karachi are underway all over the developing world. His book is titled "Instant City," and Steve Inskeep joins me in the studio. I know many of you know and enjoy hearing him on NPR's "Morning Edition" each day. I thought he was going to take a bit of a rest this morning, but no, indeed, I woke to hear Steve Inskeep on the air. Welcome to you.
MR. STEVE INSKEEPThank you, Diane. Well, I had to be there for you so...
INSKEEPAnd it's a great honor to be here now, thank you.
REHMThank you. It's good to have you here. And, of course, we are going to take your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. When I first saw the cover of your book and the title "Instant City," I wasn't quite sure what you were getting at, but you're really very specific in this book.
INSKEEPThat's my goal, because I'm covering this huge, huge trend that has affected all our lives, and that underlies a lot of the news events of recent decades. The way that our economy has changed around the world is reflected in the way that cities have changed. Cities have grown enormously all through the developing world and even in some parts of the developed world, they are showcases for the new economy. They are showcases for the global economy.
INSKEEPThey are showcases for the kind of economic inequality that you were talking about in the last hour on this program. It's a huge development, and I wanted to get it down to a scale where we could understand it, so I ended up focusing on one city and then as you said, Diane, trying to focus on the really dramatic story of one day thinking that if I could understand that one day, I would understand a lot more about our lives.
REHMTake us back to that one day.
INSKEEPDecember 28, 2009 is a holiday in Pakistan. It's a religious holiday known as Ashura. It's celebrated principally, although not entirely, by Shiite Muslims who are a minority in Pakistan, and as they proceeded through central Karachi on a street that is named after the founder of Pakistan, the procession was bombed. What happened after that was in some ways even more dramatic and revealing about the city.
INSKEEPA number of people appeared on the streets, and there are still to this day differing opinions about who they may have been, and no proof about who exactly they were, but people appeared on the streets some distance from this deadly bombing, and set a large part of the wholesaling commercial district of the downtown on fire. Hundreds of shops were destroyed, which then led to a huge controversy over what happens to the real estate because Karachi is a growing city where real estate is constantly more valuable, and endless conversations end up turning around real estate just as they might in an American city or any place else in the world, with the difference being that it is much more wild west atmosphere.
INSKEEPAnd so you have all these different conflicts coming together in a single day, religious divisions, ethnic divisions, political divisions, and above all, this competition in a growing city for power, money and land.
REHMHow much time did you actually spend there?
INSKEEPI first went to Karachi in 2002, and I've come and went since then. This book grows out of an NPR series in 2008 in which we took Karachi as an example of growing cities, but I wanted to learn more. There actually was a native of Karachi who, during my research, said to me, I loved that series, I listened to it all of it and it was really good, but you only got the news. I want you to get more, and she was right about that.
INSKEEPI met her while I was on my return trips. In 2010, I went back and forth several times. It was after this incident in 2009 that became the central focus of the book, interviewed everybody I could find, and in between was doing research here. There is amazing resources at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. I was flipping through 60-some-year-old newspapers from Karachi.
REHMPart of the problem with the so-called instant city, and certainly with Karachi is the lack of electricity.
REHMAnd the problems that that creates in terms of trying to have a livable surrounding.
INSKEEPThink about that first in concrete terms. If I go to actually anywhere in Pakistan, and I'm covering stories about whatever I'm covering, whether it's urban growth in Karachi, whether it's the death of Osama bin Laden, whether it's other things. You go to someone's home or office and the light goes out. If it's in the evening, it'll be completely dark, and the striking thing is that you notice, your heart jumps. The power just went out. And the person who's talking to you doesn't even skip a beat. They continue with their sentence.
INSKEEPIt's normal. It's normal to continue sitting in the dark, but it is a lot more significant than that, of course. It disrupts industries, it disrupts people's lives, it makes it hard to refrigerate food, and it becomes a metaphor for the lack of organization, the lack of governance, and also the shortage of resources in a swiftly growing country. This is a country in the developing world where people have a lot more cars, they have a lot more appliances, they have a lot more TVs, and of course, everything there demands more energy.
INSKEEPAnd so the power shortage to some degree is a reflection of economic success, but it's persistence year after year after year where there's blackouts every day is a symptom of failure.
REHMIt's also a symptom of the kind of economic disparity that we see being protested here in this country and around the world. You tell a story about night golf.
INSKEEPNight golf, yes. You can go on a golf course in an area of Karachi that's been developed by the army, and that's a less-known fact about Pakistan's military which has been so much in the news this year, is the fact that, in addition to their great political power, they have economic power. They own a lot of land, including waterfront land in Karachi.
INSKEEPWell, it's -- it goes back to, oddly enough, ancient Roman times when soldiers were given land as a kind of retirement payment, and that has passed onto different armies through the world. It is true in Pakistan. But what has become the reality is that people get a bunch of land for below market rates which they can then sell. And so every retired major can become a real estate developer, and the military-at-large also controls a lot of land which they themselves develop through these housing authorities including one in Karachi.
INSKEEPAnd so you can go in this city that has millions of poor people and you can find high-rise apartments on the water that have been built by a firm in Singapore, and you can find a club that is advertised as having six-star facilities, and you can find in this city that's short of electricity, a golf course, where because it's very hot during the day very often, you can go in the evening and play golf and the lights will come on like it's a stadium.
REHMAnd the military owns it?
INSKEEPThe military owns it, and they have first call very often on any kind of resources that you want. They live -- I don't want to say that they live an easy life. This is a military that's at war that has suffered thousands of casualties, let's be fair. But it also has first call on a lot of the resources in Pakistan.
REHMSo, you've walked into some of these instant homes created within instant cities.
INSKEEPPerhaps. There may be dirt. There may be no ceiling, there may be no roof. I met with a couple of Bengali families in 2008 who were among the -- and I say Bengali, they were migrants from what is now Bangladesh. They -- in 2008, and they were living in these house that they have half built. They couldn't afford to finish them, on land that had been seized from somebody else by some developer that we couldn't quite identify, and sold to these people on a rather short-term installment plan.
INSKEEPThey bought the houses, they couldn't afford to finish them, and you just hoped to get some roofing up by monsoon season. The rest of the year it doesn't rain. And so you're living there in what looks like a desert, nothing is growing, very little is growing, surrounded by these cinderblock walls with nothing. But at the same time, there are illegal homes or unauthorized homes, whatever you want to call them, that are quite pleasant that are quite nice, in some cases quite huge. In some cases they look like McMansions.
INSKEEPAnd there are all kinds of people living this way, and in fact, these developments, illicit as they are, and fueled by bribes, greased by bribes, have their defenders in that they -- it will be argued that nobody else is really providing for the poor in a city like this, and this is a circumstance where some of the most vulnerable people in society can reach out and try to buy a piece of property, can try to buy a house, provided that they're able to hang onto it.
REHMBut what you're also touching on there is the effects of migration.
REHMAnd the fact that you you've got people pouring into these cities with no place to live.
INSKEEPAnd that is what I mean by instant city. This is a type of city that has appeared all over the world, especially since World War II. We're talking about less than the span of a single life, 60-some years since the end of World War II, and you have a city like Karachi that was about 400,000 people, and is now, by the most conservative estimate, 13 million. City officials will add several more million onto that, they just haven't been able to prove it yet with a census. It's huge growth.
INSKEEPThere are at least 30 people there for every one person who was there at the end of World War II. Now, that is on the high end of growth, but it's not the fastest growing city in the world by any means, and there are a lot of other cities that are 10 times bigger or 20 times bigger. There's been tremendous growth. It's fueled by a lot of things, but yes, one of them is migration, and some of that is negative in that people are fleeing catastrophes, whether it was the partition of India in 1947, or the war that is going on in the border with Afghanistan right now.
INSKEEPBut part of it also is positive migration. People want to get a better education, find a better paying job, have a better life, and you realize that as difficult -- as challenging as life is in a city like Karachi, it is better than wherever people came from.
REHMSteve Inskeep, he's co-host of NPR's "Morning Edition" and author of new book. It's titled, "Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi."
REHMWelcome back. Steve Inskeep is with me. You know him as the co-host of NPR's Morning Edition. He's also the author of his first book titled "Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi." He spent a lot of time reporting from Pakistan. And this is the result of that reporting.
REHMHere's an email from Jonathan who says, "While the developing world modernizes its infrastructure, changing mindset happens at a much slower pace. It seems unfair to expect people who lived under almost futile circumstances to suddenly become a democratic society as seen in more advanced societies. How is Pakistan's government addressing the gap in modernizing societal norms?"
INSKEEPJonathan, I think you make an excellent point in that culture changes more slowly than building a new building or building a new roadway. And when new technology has come in, it has had to coexist and sometimes clash with those older cultures. And that has been a problem in Pakistan.
INSKEEPHe used the word -- Jonathan used the word futile and that's a word that is used in Pakistan to describe the arrangements in the countryside from which many people come. There are large landowners who are almost like the futiles of old Europe that we think about who dominated society in every way and dominated the peasants who lived under them and under their protection, but also under their dominance.
INSKEEPIt's a lot of those poor people who come to a city like Karachi where they find that a lot of those old elites still have an awful lot of the money and power. And that is a tremendous struggle. The government has had problems with that. It is one of many reasons why it's difficult to have a fully free and fair democracy in Pakistan.
INSKEEPOne of the things that would improve it, I suppose, would be a better education system. But unfortunately that is an area where the state has, in many instances and with some exceptions, fallen down. And this is a country where the literacy rate -- the illiteracy rate rather, illiteracy is over 40 percent, which is shocking and it's a great loss. And it's high, high compared to even other developing countries. It's a serious problem.
REHMWhat do you see here in the United States that might compare to Karachi as an instant city?
INSKEEPWell, if we talk about cities that have swiftly grown and changed to the point where people struggle to deal with them, I think of a city like Houston where a lot of these bumps have been made smoother by the fact that it's a capitol of the oil industry. There's a lot of money in Houston, a lot of enterprise, a lot of ingenuity in Houston. But it's an incredible place from which I've also reported.
INSKEEPAnd it's exciting to be there and to look around and to realize that you have a large Anglo community, you have a large Hispanic community. You have a large Asian community. You have a Chinatown, not only in downtown Houston, but in the suburbs that goes as kind of strip mall for miles and miles. A Chinatown with Chinese signs far out into the Houston suburbs. And you also have, incidentally, a south Asian community that's pretty large. Now long ago, they had a Pakistani American city councilman.
INSKEEPSo you had all kinds of people coming together and trying to figure out how they coexist in a landscape that is really unfamiliar to them all. Even the longtime residents, the lifelong residents of Houston are surely living in a city that looks dramatically different than what they remember from when they were young.
REHMYou know, it's interesting. You go back in history, the modern history of Pakistan starting with its leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah who apparently felt that the more diverse the belief system of the population the better it was.
INSKEEPThis is a strange thing that we should keep in mind as we consider the disturbing news that comes out of Pakistan these days. That upon independence in 1947, even though Pakistan was created to be a homeland -- a majority Muslim homeland and Jinnah was its leader, it was a very diverse place then. It was only about 70 percent Muslim. The rest were Hindus and some other people of other religions.
INSKEEPJinnah embraced that. He was a member of a minority Muslim sect, the Shiites, the same ones I described as being bombed in the beginning of "Instant City." He gave a dramatic speech just before independence in 1947 in which he told his people, urged his people to live as equal citizens regardless of color, cast or creed. You read it you almost get choked up. He says he's just speaking off the cuff. Whether he was or not it is a dramatic speech. It's one of the founding documents of Pakistan.
INSKEEPIt remains -- even though the vast majority of the Hindus were killed or expelled in 1947 and soon after, it remains a strikingly diverse place. And Karachi, this great "Instant City" is by far the most diverse place of all. It's taken in migrants from everywhere. There are different kinds of Muslims. There are Christians with institutions that play leading roles in the communities. There are Parsees who are Zoroastrians and ancient Persian faith. There are people of other religions as well.
INSKEEPIt's an incredibly diverse place in so many different ways. And the great challenge of that city, which I explore through this one deadly day, is how does everybody mediate their different interests? How does everybody figure out a way to work together so that everybody feels included and fairly treated? And more than that how everyone is, in fact, treated fairly. How do you do that?
REHMHow do you do that, indeed? He perhaps saw his dream realized but only briefly. He died, what, a year after...
REHM...Pakistan was created and India took in this whole group. So that then what you have is almost a purification of the entire country.
INSKEEPYou know, I mean, the phrase ethnic cleansing comes to mind, doesn't it? I mean, that would be one way to describe what happened in 1947. And it's one -- it's a reminder really. It's a great catastrophic reminder of the dangers of identity politics. Hindus and Muslims had worked together in the movement for independence in British India for decades. Jinnah was a leader, by the way, of working together. But in the end they drifted apart for a lot of reasons we could get into here. Having to do with the difficulty of conflicting -- fighting the British and so forth.
INSKEEPBut in any case, they ended up being divided into two countries but you could not divide them cleanly because you were going to have Hindus on the wrong side of the line. You were going to have Muslims on the wrong side of the line. You were going to have hundreds of thousands of people, although it wasn't anticipated, who would end up either being attacked or trying to flee to the other side with catastrophic consequences.
INSKEEPAnd when you look at Karachi you've seen continuing divisions between people. And what you do discover, as you alluded to earlier, is that when the city became less diverse on paper most of the Hindus were driven away. It became a 90 something percent Muslim city. It actually became less stable rather than more. They lost the resources that the Hindus represented. They lost the intellectual capital that the Hindus represented. And people who remained found new divisions among themselves. There is never a shortage of a minority to turn against no matter how homogonous you think you are.
REHMDo you think there are lessons for those of us here in this country?
INSKEEPOh, I think there are and I'd really -- I do -- I want to tell a very concrete story of a very specific day and a specific place. But as I explored this book, as I wrote this book I kept thinking of it as a metaphor for other situations and other times. And I kept being reminded of my own country in positive and in negative ways.
INSKEEPThere are references in the book, as a matter of fact, to Chicago which has had in history, especially when it was growing very rapidly in the 19th Century, its own immigrant neighborhoods, its own migrant neighborhood, its own ethnic neighborhoods, its own divisions along railroad tracks and streetcar tracks and particular streets and parks. And you could not go beyond your group's enclave or you could face physical danger.
INSKEEPNow Chicago, I would not say, has become as chaotic as Karachi but nevertheless there are parallels that you can find there. There are parallels that you can draw in the way that people struggle to work together or fail to work together.
REHMWhat about the police? What about the authorities and how they deal -- well, you talk about Chicago, you talk about New York, you talk about (laugh) Karachi.
REHMI'm laughing because I was just thinking that the police actually in Karachi have become very efficient, very businesslike. There are these illegal neighborhoods that we mentioned where people will seize developers say, will seize a chunk of what appears to be government land or someone else's land and slice it up, subdivide it into thousands of houses.
INSKEEPFor a while there was a period where the police would come and arrest the construction crews building houses until they were paid a bribe to let the guys out. But it's become much more orderly and businesslike now. Now there's a standard bribe. Last year at least there was a standard bribe of something in -- it was around 57 U.S. dollars when you converted it from rupees per home lot. Go to the guy at the nearest police station, pay him the standard bribe per home lot that you were developing and everything is fine. And it becomes as if it's legal until that guy is transferred and then you have to go pay his replacement.
INSKEEPSo, I mean, that to me shows a lot about the way that Pakistan is operating right now, in that you have a government that is corrupt, that is not really functioning. And yet you also have people that are practical and find a way to just deal with it. People go into the police station, they pay their bribe, they go on, they do their business, they build a home.
REHMSteve, how did you manage? Do you speak any of the languages?
INSKEEPI have studied Urdu especially for this project. And I have in past years studied Arabic, which is relevant in a Muslim country. I can say that I'm literate. I cannot say that I speak very well at all and my Urdu tutor would attest to that. But I studied all that I could because the more you learn the more cultural clues you get. English is also a huge language of course in Pakistan. It is the language that people define as the language of the global economy. It's a passkey to the global economy and so many people know it very fluently and many other people are striving to speak it.
INSKEEPBut I want to say one other thing. Even if I spoke fluently English, Urdu and even Arabic say, I would not be prepared to talk to everybody that I need to in this city. That's another fact about it. There are about half a dozen significant languages because people have come from all over Pakistan and different languages are predominant in different parts of Pakistan. And you even have migrants who come to that city from some remote village, or not so remote village, where they speak a local language, a regional dialect and they don't know any of those major languages.
REHMSteve Inskeep and his new book, his first is titled "Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And we have some callers waiting. If you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Join us on Facebook or send us a Tweet. First to Indianapolis. Good morning, Kevin, you're on the air.
KEVINHi, good morning, Diane.
REHMGood morning, sir.
INSKEEPI love your show.
KEVINHey, I just wanted to say thanks to Mr. Inskeep for that comment about Chicago. I used to live in Chicago and that was also true the neighborhoods are divided by the railroad tracks, which we used to call them viaducts. And you didn't -- you can cross over and I just wanted to say thanks. That's the first time I've heard somebody mention that outside of Chicago.
INSKEEPWell, it's continued, Kevin, until the present day or relatively recent anyway. In the late '90s I did some reporting in the Chicago suburbs and discovered that if you followed Interstate 57 in the southwestern suburbs you would find far more white people on one side and far more minorities on the other side. It wasn't universal but it was significant. I'd hope that if I go back today I'd find that was less true, but it was certainly true pretty recently.
REHMThanks for calling, Kevin.
REHMYou know, I just finished David Ignatius' new novel "Blood Money."
INSKEEPOh, it's great, yeah.
REHMAll about Pakistan, the ISI, the CIA, how they interwove their activities. And I find myself wondering how Pakistanis feel about Americans, about you in particular and about us in general.
INSKEEPYou know, Pakistanis are very frustrated with the U.S. government but I have found them to be almost universally hospitable and incredibly generous with their time. Even people whose behavior you might find to be awful will be very kind to you. And a lot of people you find their behavior to be quite heroic.
INSKEEPIn fact, that's one of the reasons that I wanted to focus on this particularly deadly chain of events that I lay out in the book, this bombing followed by the arson, followed by more bombings that take place over a number of days. You find incredible stories of people who survived those events and who go on and stand up for values that they believe in, stand up for the values that we talked about in that speech about treating everyone the same. And so that to me was wonderful.
INSKEEPAnd just on an individual level, I mean, I was -- I even went to Pakistan immediately after the killing of Osama bin Laden and spent a couple of weeks there. And there were strange jokes that were told, especially in Lahore where that American Raymond Davis had been arrested and accused of spying, accused of killing a couple of Pakistanis. People would say, oh you look like Raymond Davis. You look like Raymond Davis. Are you -- I'm not sure I want to let you in here, you look like Raymond Davis.
INSKEEPBut by and large people are incredibly hospitable. In fact, my mom in Carmel, Ind. has told my brother after reading this book, she said, you know, I wish that I'd been able to read your book before you went over there to report it because I would've worried about you an awful lot less. You know, it's okay. I mean, people are -- in Pakistan I found them to be generous and they're also -- they're eager to tell their story to Americans. And they're interested in what Americans think of them.
REHMBut do they see, for example, the ISI in the same way we do?
INSKEEPOh, you mean -- oh, far more complicated picture. I think that the person on the street is at least as suspicious and resentful of Pakistan's main intelligence agency as Americans are. There's a widespread feeling that the ISI has interfered in domestic politics to the detriment of the country for a decade. There's a widespread understanding. It's not really denied by anyone that the ISI has been involved in supporting or setting up militant groups that have now become, as it's commonly called there, a Frankenstein monster threatening the future of that country. There's tremendous resentment.
INSKEEPAt the same time when Admiral Mike Mullen, just before his retirement from his post as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made his statement accusing the ISI of directly supporting a militant group that had attacked the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. There was a somewhat more complicated and different reaction. Some people -- a lot of people really in Pakistan rallied to the cause of the Pakistani army. In the end it is their country. In the end, there is a degree of pride in the army despite their resentment about -- people's resentment about their involvement in politics. And people in that instance seemed to stand behind their army.
REHMStand behind them and yet fear them at the same time.
INSKEEPYes. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
REHMSteve Inskeep. His new book, his first is titled "Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi." When we come back we'll take more of your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
REHMWelcome back. Here's a tweet from MM who identifies himself as being from Karachi. He said "Mr. Inskeep, what do you think is Karachi's biggest problem and what's the remedy?
INSKEEPThe rule of law or the lack of the rule of law seems to me like a problem that permeates everything. It's a drag on the economy, it's a drag on society, it makes it more difficult to educate people. I just finished an item for Foreign Policy that looks at schools in Karachi. People in Karachi are far better educated then outside. And people I've interviewed in Karachi have come to the city for an education.
INSKEEPIt's so important and yet there's schools that can go months or even years without even opening. And part of it is because there's violence in the neighborhood...
INSKEEP...and the teachers are from the wrong ethnic group and can't come there. And part of it, quite frankly, is just corruption. There are teachers who will pay a bribe to get a job where they know they don't really have to show up because no one is going to go and check on them.
INSKEEPAnd, you know, I actually write in the book that if I could wish one thing for my friends and my acquaintances there, it would just be a stable, respectable, boring government. They don't need any more excitement there. I mean, maybe, there -- it's like an extreme version of how we're feeling here. And maybe we don't need any more excitement in America either. We want stability and we want things to just -- the world to...
REHMOperate the way they're supposed to.
INSKEEPYeah, yeah, exactly. Want the world to stop long...
INSKEEP...enough that we can catch up and make sense of our lives.
REHMAll right. Let's go to St. Louis, Mo. Montage (sp?) , you're on the air.
MONTAGEHello, good morning. This is Montage Lillani (sp?) from Pakistan, proud American now.
MONTAGEThank you for writing the book and letting the people know what is going on. The biggest problem in Karachi -- or old Pakistan, is too much corruption is likely just past that point. I mean, government, police officers -- our president is Asif Zardari, before he was a president, then he was married to Benazir Bhutto, he was Mr. 20 percent. That means that he was charging 20 percent on any business or any licenses to be opened.
MONTAGENow, since he's the president, he's almost 75 and 100 percent. And our -- it's totally -- I mean, people are held hostages in their homes when there's no electricity. Every couple of hours, no power.
INSKEEPLet -- Montage, thanks for the comment. Let's be fair to President Asif Ali Zardari by mentioning that he contends the charges against him were politically manufactured and certainly any number of politicians have been convicted. But, yes, he was called Mr. 10 percent. And people have speculated that there's been some inflation over time.
INSKEEPI think the larger distress with Zardari, at this moment, that makes him a frustrating figure for Pakistanis is, is he able to deal with the multiple problems this country is facing, all at once, the economic crisis, the massive floods, the war going on along the border, the effort to reassert democracy and reassert military control? People are massively frustrated.
INSKEEPBut they're also -- and I was just in Karachi earlier this month and I heard people defend him, in a very specific way...
INSKEEPAnd the very specific way being that Zardari is the head of the Pakistan People's Party, the PPP. And that party won an election at the beginning of 2008 and they're still in power, they haven't been thrown out, they haven't been forced out by anybody. They haven't been forced out by the military, there hasn't been a military coup and they're getting closer and closer to simply finishing a five year term and standing for election again and then winning or losing and that alone would be a huge milestone for this country that has suffered repeated military coups every since its founding in the '40s.
REHMAll right. To Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, Prentice (sp?) .
PRENTICEGood morning, I have a very simply question. It's very complex answer, I know.
PRENTICEWho controls the Pakistani nuclear arsenal?
INSKEEPI'm going to give you the simplest answer that I can. The Pakistani military controls that arsenal. Civilian authorities have, at best, an advisory role after these elections. At the beginning of 2008, there was an effort to take a little firmer control over the military but that's largely been rebuffed.
REHMHow concerned are you about the nuclear weapon control?
INSKEEPI don’t operate with a lot of information there. You would like to think that if anything is secured in Pakistan, that the nuclear weapons are secured in Pakistan but, of course, there is the case of A.Q. Khan, the nuclear scientist who has been implicated in all sorts of trafficking of nuclear information around the world. And it raises concerns.
INSKEEPNow the other concern that is raised about the nuclear weapons is that a radical Islamist government will suddenly take control of Pakistan and be nuclear armed. I would like to think that that is still a remote possibility. There is a vast, vast -- even today, even though they're intimidated, even though they're silenced, there is a vast pool of moderation in that country.
INSKEEPIslamist parties have never done well in national elections. And the Army, although according to U.S. intelligence officials, is severely infiltrated by various Islamist's and they've, in fact, arrested people inside their own ranks from time to time. The Army, by and large, seems like a relatively modern, relatively moderate institution in the ranks. And so, there is hope that that kind of takeover of the entire country is really some distance away, if it ever happens at all.
REHMDoes that answer it, Prentice?
PRENTICEThat does, thank you.
REHMThanks for calling. To Orlando, Fla., good morning Mosen (sp?) .
MOSENHello, it's a pleasure to talk to both of you.
MOSENI wondered, you spoke earlier about military coups happening in Pakistan. And in a lot of the last decade, Pakistan, you know, was seated in power with General Musharraf who came into power underneath the military coup. I wanted to see your perspective about, you know, his entire regime which, you know, came through a very difficult decade. And what sort of positive and negative impacts do you think the Musharraf regime had upon the culture and environment, political landscape you see in Karachi today?
INSKEEPYou know, that's an interesting question. It's Mosen, right? Interesting question, Mosen, because Musharraf was a liberal in the Pakistani sense, meaning that he seemed to be in favor of a freer press. He seemed to be in favor of a freer society and smarter local government and actually the very existence of local government, he was in favor of that.
INSKEEPHe was in favor of a lot of modern sounding reforms. But of course the way he was going to impose these reforms was by taking over the country and imposing them. It was liberalism with an iron fist. And a lot of those short cuts have not worked out in the end. And that is really true of the whole history of this country. You repeatedly have someone who comes and he is quite frequently very smart, very charismatic, very impressive to the West and has a very can-do spirit and he comes from this military institution.
INSKEEPSo you figure their efficient and they can get things done. And in the beginning, they get things done but as time goes on, there starts to be chaos. And there is a reason that every military dictator in Pakistan, by the end of his time in office, has been widely reviled. Because people sense the short cuts and they sense things getting worse or feeling unequal, even as they get better in some ways.
INSKEEPAnd people have not bought into the system. There's been no consensus behind the reforms that they're attempting to impose so I wouldn't dismiss everything per Pervez Musharraf ever did. The very fact that he freed up the media, that there are like a 100 cable TV channels in Pakistan, whereas when I visited in 2002, there was state TV and maybe the BBC...
REHMAnd that was it.
INSKEEP...if you could get it. And that was about it.
INSKEEPNow, there's a huge ruckus debate and you can give Musharraf credit for that reform and a number of others. But the acid tone of the news that you hear on those cable channels is also partly his responsibility.
INSKEEPHe left some problems behind.
REHMTell me about the people's attitudes, the ordinary folks that you talk with, their attitudes regarding India?
INSKEEPOh, gosh. That is a subject of great distress, of great paranoia. Musharraf's Zaidi, who's a newspaper columnist and development expert who lives in Islamabad, right now, has written a column a few months ago in which he basically compared that relationship to someone whose been through a bitter, bitter divorce and can't stop talking about it. And it is that way.
INSKEEPI haven't spent time in India, but anybody who's been in both places remarks on the similarity of culture, the similarities of the people, the similarities of the attitude. In simple, things like the food or the music and in deeper cultural things about the way the place works or the way the place doesn’t work.
REHMBut India seems to have done so much better economically.
INSKEEPYou know, it sure does. And a lot of that difference is real. But I want you to keep something in mind when you think about both India and Pakistan, Pakistan for all its phenomenal trouble, has a lot of India's advantages. India, for all of its advancement, has a lot of Pakistan's disadvantages. There in India, also, you have millions and millions of people who are illiterate or barely literate.
INSKEEPYou have millions of people who see no opportunity to get a head. You see many of the same problems which is a bad thing in India but you see some of the opportunities in Pakistan that India is now grabbing.
REHMSteve Inskeep, he's host of NPR's Morning Edition. His new book is titled "Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi." And you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And now, let's go to Richardson, Texas. Good morning Sharmena (sp?), thanks for joining us.
SHARMENAHi, good morning, Diane. Good morning, Inskeep.
SHARMENAI just wanted to share, I actually -- I was wondering, in the states and growing up in the '80s, you know, we never went to Pakistan because of the political situation and I went for the first time when I was in college and ended up going to medical school there. So I got to live there for five years and it was an experience. And I really enjoyed myself but like you said, there is, you know, corruption at every end and I saw it everywhere, you know.
SHARMENASo in college, even just to give a simple document signed by the principal, you really had to, like, you know, go through, like, 10 people just to get something signed.
SHARMENAYou know, it was unbelievable. But my question is, what do you think of right now, this whole movement with Imran Khan and the youth? Do you think it's going to go anywhere? Do you think there's a possibility that he might be able to move up in the ranks in politics?
INSKEEPOh, my goodness Sharmena, let me explain that for people. Imran Khan is a famous athlete in Pakistan. He's one of the most famous and admired people in the country but he's become a politician. And has -- is the leader or a leader of a party or the face, the front man of a political party that has tried for a number of years without a lot of success, to gain traction in Pakistan.
INSKEEPRecently, he has been dealing with Islamist parties. He's been lashing out at the United States. He's been doing a lot of populist sounding things that have gained him a fair amount of support. In the end, I don't know whether that gets him anywhere or not. I don't know whether he has the party machinery. And it's the same as the United States only far more so. You need the party machinery to get out the vote for you to be a serious player at election time.
REHMWhat about young people?
INSKEEPOh, now young people, there is a lot of frustration and disillusion right now. There are people in Pakistan who have been watching the Arab Spring, the incredible events of this year, across the Middle East and they feel a little sad. Because they say "We had our revolution," which they did in 2007, they kicked out that dictator, Pervez Musharraf. And it hasn't worked out very well for them. It's been a long, long, incredibly difficult slog.
INSKEEPAnd I think that, what I have seen in my conversations with young people, most often, is a desire to get out or a desire to at least have the option to get out. Some of the elite students who can come to the United States for college or have a connection in England, will be getting that second passport or will be making sure they have the way to get a visa so that they have the option to get out of the country if things get too bad.
REHMSteve, I can't let you go without asking you about your own career, how you got to NPR and eventually became the co-host of Morning Edition.
INSKEEPOh, it's very sweet of you to ask, Diane. I'm a guy from Indiana. I started at my high school radio station in Carmel. I worked for a public radio station in Morehead, Ky. I'm a graduate of Morehead State University, a proud graduate of the Eagles, and so I worked at WMKY making minimum wage, putting Scott Simon's show on the air Sunday mornings.
REHMOh, I love that.
INSKEEPAnd doing sportscasts and so forth. And then I fell in love with a girl and she was connected to New York. And we ended up moving together, we're still married, Carolee and I. And we lived in New York for a while and I had an opportunity to work for public stations, as well as commercial stations there. And I just -- I love radio. I love journalism. I love writing. I love everything about the job that I do.
INSKEEPI mean, I grew up listening to sportscasters on AM radio and I loved that kind of live radio. And I love reading great journalists -- great investigative journalists like Seymour Hersh or great writers like David Remnick. I mean, brilliant, brilliant people. And I've just been excited to be here. And I feel like I've just, kind of, lived in a really busy time especially since 9/11. And I've just been willing to do whatever needed to be done. Somebody said "We need someone to host this program on the weekends" and so I did.
INSKEEPAnd I met a colleague after the announcement was made that I was doing a weekend, All Things Considered, and he said, congratulations, your career is advanced to the point where you get to work Saturdays and Sundays. And then my career advanced to the point to where I get to get up in the middle of the night...
INSKEEP...but I love doing it.
INSKEEPI mean, it's okay.
REHMWhat time do you get up?
INSKEEPI get up around 2:40 in the morning. Maybe I hit the snooze alarm and I'm in at work by about 3:45, give or take a few minutes. And then the show goes on the air at 5:00 a.m.
REHMHow does that affect your personal life?
INSKEEPOh, my gosh. Well, I read to my daughter right before I go to bed.
REHMHow old is she?
INSKEEPShe is six years old.
INSKEEPSo she's getting to the point where she wants to stay up later then I do. But I still read to her before I go to bed. We've been reading "Harry Potter." And then I try to go to bed and get, you know, seven hours of sleep.
INSKEEPAnd, you know...
REHMWhat does that do to the system? To your...
INSKEEP...I'll tell you when I'm done with this job. And the reason I say that, Diane, is that I worked an overnight job or an early morning job at WBGO in Newark, N.J., a public radio station there. And I didn't realize how much I had been affected by that four and a half years until I was done with it. And a few months later, I realized how much better I felt, all the time. Now, I've tried really hard to take care of myself during these last seven years on "Morning Edition" and tried to take breaks.
INSKEEPBut it's a struggle, especially in the last year. And I'm not complaining at all, it's a great job and most people have -- a lot of people have a lot more difficult things to deal with than I do. But it's just -- it's discipline. You have to discipline yourself as you do in anything in life and make sure you look after yourself as well as your job.
REHMAnd make sure that you find ways to keep up your relationship...
REHM...with your wife.
INSKEEPThat takes some work.
REHMThat's tough when your...
INSKEEPYou can have her on for another hour to discuss that.
REHMI'm sure I could. I'm sure I could. Steve Inskeep, what a pleasure to talk with you.
INSKEEPIt's an honor to be here Diane.
INSKEEPI love this show and I'm just...
INSKEEP...really honored to be invited to this table.
REHMThank you. The book is titled "Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi." Steve Inskeep has been the guest. Thanks to all of you for listening and calling. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Lisa Dunn and Nikki Jecks. The engineer is Aaron Stamper, A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com. And we are on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
Most Recent Shows
Updates from day three of the Democratic National Convention: President Obama and Vice President Biden make their case for Hillary Clinton. And the Clinton’s running mate Senator Tim Kaine debuts on the national stage.
Many parents and therapists say obsessive internet use is a very real problem for some teens and children. But the term “internet addiction” is controversial and not officially recognized as a disorder. How to help kids who compulsively use computers and mobile technology.
An update on day two of the Democratic convention: Bill Clinton takes the stage and ongoing efforts by party leaders to build unity.