Back to begging.

RETURNING from Karachi to Lahore this week was like sliding down a thermometer from cool to freezing. One had forgotten how delicious the enervating sunshine of Karachi could be, or how within a fortnight Lahore could descend into a misty, bone-chilling Antarctica.

The Superhighway connecting Karachi and Hyderabad remained underutilised after it opened in the 1970s. Soon, overladen trucks discovered its utility. After that, the heavy traffic resulted in deep ruts in the road, like those caused by chariot wheels in ancient Pompeii. Today, its surface is again serviceable.

En route to Hyderabad, if you want a visAion of the future, take the turning into BahAria Town 1. You cannot miss it. It is marAked by an empty, idol-less temple whose sandy columns copy those of Luxor in Egypt.

Bahria Town, like Islamabad, is not designed for pedestrians. Well-maintained avenues sweep through caverns of innumerable flats, some complete and others under construction, all speaking of quality. One hill is crowned by the sprawling private villa of Bahria Town's prime mover - Malik Riaz. Its green lawns cascade down the hillside. On the crest of the second proAmontory is the majestic white mosque which, when complete, will rival the BadAshahi mosque in Lahore, without its history.

Nothing remains beyond the third generation.

From Hyderabad, the route to Sehwan passes along the spine of Pakistan's agronomy. Some fields are still inundated with floodwater, their hapless tillers sheltering under makeshift tents, waiting for a hollow future.

Sehwan still retains its sanctity - if you can find it. In 1846, Lt William Edwards wrote of it: 'In its environs are many fine mosques and tombs, and within the city is a remarkably splendid masjid, built in honour of the celebrated Muslim saint, Lal Shahbaz.'

Considering it was a Thursday, the gold-domed shrine had fewer devotees within its precincts than the beggars cadging for a living outside. Here, belief is forced to ignore hygiene.

Previous travellers had spoken of the hazards along the Sehwan-Sukkur route. It proved remarkably clear and comfortable. Date palm orchards gradually gave way to sugar cane plantations that feed sugar mills which in turn feed the Zardari family.

One does not stay in Sukkur for its nightlife. It has neons but no entertainment. One stays overnight out of necessity. If you find the right room in a hotel on Military Road, you are insulated from the noise of a constant convoy of traffic, day and...

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