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Karachi festival wants diversity but on its own terms

‘All children’ are welcome at Shehr-e-Fun but not their parents

SAMAA | and - Posted: Sep 27, 2019 | Last Updated: 2 years ago
Posted: Sep 27, 2019 | Last Updated: 2 years ago

Photo: Facebook/Pursukoon

The Sheher-e-Fun Children’s Festival aims to promote inclusivity and wants to provide a platform where young children can learn how to interact with people of all social classes and ethnicities.

However, there are conditions on who can attend the festival. The event is being held at Governor House Karachi where people without CNICs cannot enter.

The restriction becomes a hindrance for children whose parents do not have CNICs. While “all children” are allowed to attend, most need parental supervision. And because their parents don’t have ID cards, they’ll have to miss out on the festival.

The issue was first highlighted by the Imkaan Welfare Organisation on Twitter. “To go to Sheher-e-Funn, adults need to have CNICs that excludes families who are stateless, Bengali and Burmese,” it wrote.

“Recreation is a basic human right,” it added. Mandatory CNICs to attend a children’s event is discrimination, it said, adding that all children should mean all children.

But Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Ali Shallwani, the patron of the event, told SAMAA Digital that the CNIC condition was imposed for “security reasons”. He said security is on high alert in the city because of the series of One Day International matches and “the safety of our guests [the Sri Lankan players]”.

It may have been 10 years ago, but the 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team are still fresh in everyone’s minds.
Shallwani clarified that no children will be barred from entering the event and it is undoubtedly for “all children”.

When asked how the children whose parents do not have ID cards can attend the event, he said that is the responsibility of the NGOS and organisers. He suggested volunteers be engaged to take care of the kids.

He added that he is only a patron and not the one arranging the event. The event organizers are only following “security protocols”, he said, adding that letting adults enter Governor House  without CNICs is like letting someone travel abroad without a passport.

“Everyone has to follow the security protocol and they [parents] should cooperate and fulfill the demands in order to make it a safe and successful event.”

Tahera Hasan, founder and director of the Imkaan Welfare Organisation, told SAMAA Digital she understands the security concerns but said these things need to be discussed and a mechanism that includes every single parent and child in the city should be put into place for events like this in the future.

“If we cannot open our spaces to everyone in our city we should use venues that can be inclusive,” she suggested.
There are many people who don’t have identity cards and their participation will be restricted. The city needs events like this one where all classes can meet at the same place.

SAMAA Digital reached out to one of the event organizers, Abdul Jabbar Gul, who agreed with the commissioner’s statement and said there is nothing they can do about the security issues. He did, however, suggest that the NGO can arrange volunteers for the children if they can’t attend without their parents.

People without documentation cannot obtain higher education, open bank accounts, hold government jobs or travel in Pakistan. The main obstacle between them and an identity is – arguably — their ethnicity, which puts them at a disadvantage.

Restricting people from entering a public event because they don’t have a CNIC isolates “stateless” children and makes them feel unwelcome in a country that is the only home they have ever known.

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