Interview: Steve Inskeep – Author of Instant City

The NPR Morning Edition host talks about Pakistan, the subject of his new book, Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi, and why some people might find him annoying.

What drew you to Pakistan and Karachi, the countrys booming city of 13 million? It began as a place that I was assigned to go, but I began thinking that Karachi was a place where I could see the future. Because it is this unbelievably quickly growing city—and there are cities like that all around the world. This urban landscape is being created before our eyes, and it feeds on itself.

How stable is the political situation in Pakistan?It is stable in a massively unstable way, if that makes any sense. Obviously it’s a gravely serious political situation, and it’s a country where you think things can’t get any worse, and then there’s a giant flood. And yet there is a resilience in the people. When I’ve been in Karachi, there have been weeks when the entire city will shut down because there’s a massive gunfight, assassinations, people driving around on motorcycles with weapons and killing people. Businesses close, kids can’t get to school. Then the violence abates, and the city just comes to life again.

How is Karachi different from the area where Osama bin Laden was hiding? One remarkable difference is the role of women and the visibility of women. If you go to the far northwest, women almost universally have to cover their hair, and they will not be in positions of authority. In Karachi, there will be women who dress conservatively, but there will also be women who have been allowed to go get an education themselves. Women can make a wider range of choices about their lives.


One thought on “Interview: Steve Inskeep – Author of Instant City

  1. vince December 22, 2011 / 1:50 am

    I just finished Instant City. Steve Inskeep has done such a good job of making it clear that there are more people involved in Pakistan’s survival than just the leadership and military. The various ethnic groups have much influence and such factions have been the cause of violence on one hand and on the other also for spurts of progress. I wondered why Steve did not mention other groups such as the Catholics,who have two “Catholic Colony” areas and churches, including one constructed in 2009 and seats 5,000. What effect has the movement to ban the bible have on these citizens?I read Cowasjee’s columns in Dawn newspaper; like him, are there many zorastrians ( Parsis) left?
    Do these minorities have any influence at all? I am recommending Steve’s book to friends.


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