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Karachi Elite Too Scared to Drive Flashy Cars

17 Avril 2013 - Wall Street Journal

Karachi Elite Too Scared to Drive Flashy Cars

KARACHI, Pakistan –Karachi’s elite are trying to lower their profile as the city’s law and order situation has deteriorated.

“People who used to flash around in big cars, Mercedes and Cadillacs, are now choosing Civics and Corollas,” says Khalid ur Rehman, general manager of Car Deals, Karachi’s largest luxury car dealer.

Mr. Rehman says he first noticed that Karachi’s wealthy residents were opting for more modest cars about two years ago.

The trend has gathered momentum in the last six months as militant groups, including the Taliban, have increased their grip on parts of Karachi. They have added to the mix of gangs who jostle for control in Pakistan’s commercial hub.

One resident of Defence, a wealthy Karachi neighborhood, said he swapped his Toyota Land Cruiser for a Corolla in December. The resident, an industrialist, said that it just seemed prudent to drive something less ostentatious given the uncertain security situation.

But even in his Corolla, he says he’s always alert. “You keep your eyes on the mirrors,” he says.

Another resident of Defence said his wife now uses the Mercedes but only to run errands within Defence during the day. He has now opted for a Corolla to drive himself to work in Saddar, Karachi’s central business district.

Mr. Rehman notes that the feudal landowners, or “waderas,” of Sindh province still buy the flash cars. “They have sizzling hot pockets,” he says, and are prepared to pay protection money demanded by the armed groups.

The practice of paying protection money is not new to Karachi. It started about three years ago, according to Anjum Nisar, former president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries, and it mostly targets business owners.

 

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