Byline: Habib Khan Ghori and Shazia Hasan
KARACHI -- Following the Chief Minister's orders about keeping the Seaview Beach open on New Year's, the situation there was changing with the passing of every minute on Tuesday evening. The vacant beach and empty Abdul Sattar Edhi Road of early evening were fast filling up with people in four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles and cars and on motorbikes as midnight drew near.
Earlier, there were the roasted corn on the cob sellers with their carts, the papadum sellers carrying huge packets of padadums, the ice cream vendors on their bikes and tea sellers with their huge kettles were all gearing up to deal with a huge crowd.
'In just a little while I know there will be so many people gathering here that there won't be room to stand even,' predicted Zainab Bibi who was killing time by warming her hands on the fire prepared for roasting corn on the cob on an exceptionally cold breeze.
With her was Abdullah, the ice cream vendor. 'It is so cold and still there will be people demanding ice cream, I'm sure. So here I am,' he smiled.
There was also Saleem, the popadum seller. 'I made more popadums today, around 150 actually, because I know they will be consumed in no time once the beach fills up with people.
In one corner, on a little coal fire, resting on bricks was a huge big kettle with tea brewing but no one there with it. 'Don't worry, the seller will also manifest when the tea is ready,' laughed the ice cream vendor.
Seemi Ishtiaq was there with her husband and children Iman and Azaan. 'Me and my husband would have been happy spending a quiet New Year's eve in front of the television but my daughter Iman here wanted to ring in 2020 at the beach and she is the one who dragged all of us out,' said the mother.
The family of four were braving the beach on their motorcycle. 'It is great there there are also no restrictions or bans on pillion riding this year,' she added.
In the background a car FM radio could be heard tuned to the Police station with warnings being aired about reporting any unnamed package anywhere and about aerial firing being illegal.
Despite the beach being kept open, the law enforcement agencies were not willing to take any chances and remained vigilant. There were emergency camps set up at short distances. There were several lady police officers too as some of them. 'We are prepared for all emergencies here,' said Lady Police Constable Rida Shakoor as she exchanged a look with her...