City Nostalgia – Romanticizing Mrs. Kennedy in Karachi

This one hell of a lovely woman was in Karachi one day. The stunning non-imperial princess, a darling of American commoner, won as many hearts during her brief visit to Karachi as she did elsewhere in the world. Omar Kureishi introduced her perfectly to Karachites in his write-up for DAWN, “Jacqueline Kennedy was America’s sweetheart, not in a Betty Gable-Rita Hayworth pin-up sort of way, but like a Helen of Troy, a face that launched a thousand ships.  She was the princess of hearts”.


Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy, then The First Lady of America, visited Pakistan from 17th March, 1962 to 25th in response to an invitation from President Mohammad Ayub Khan. She visited Lahore, Taxila, Peshawar, Rawalpindi in detail while spent few hours in Karachi before flying to London.

Mrs. Kennedy arrived in Karachi from Peshawar. There was a fierce sand storm blowing in Karachi that day. However It did not deter thousands of Karachi wallas from lining up on the route and welcoming the first lady. Riding in an open car, Mrs. Kennedy had to cling to her pink beret like cap to keep it from sailing. She attended a wreath-laying ceremony at Jinnah’s tomb which was affected by the storm as one of the awnings sailed off in the wind.

Afterwards she went to presedential house where she met much celebrated Bashir sarban, a friend which Vice President Johnson made during his visit to Asia. Bashir was accompanied by his veiled wife and three children. Mrs. Kennedy was invited for a camel ride by Bashir. Her sister accompanied her on the ride. Few Pakistani officials stayed left and right of the camel, ready to catch should any of them fell off the camel.

“It makes an elephant feel like a jet plane”, said American first lady afterwards, referring to her elephant ride in India a week before. Bashir sarban gave her a camel saddle and traditional Pakistani clothes as gifts while Mrs. Kennedy gave him an autographed photo and a white scarf for his wife. She also visited a hospital before flying to London.

A lot has changed since. Mrs. Kennedy’s fairy tale came to an abrupt end. Karachi is not safe any more for a first lady. But trust that  truth and sanity shall prevail in the end. Inshallah. God willing.

Say a prayer for her please, in reverence of the sweet memories.

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Categories: City Nostalgia

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2 Comments on “City Nostalgia – Romanticizing Mrs. Kennedy in Karachi”

  1. Abdullah Mahesar
    April 12, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    If I can correctly remember, equally pleasant scene was when she had borrowed his cap (modified shape of the Jinnahcap) from the then our President Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan who very quickly and pleasingly presented her his cap and she wore on her head with some interesting remarks. She had rewarded the famous Bashir of OOntwala, but I do not remember she had rewarded Mr. Mohammad Ayub Khan.

    2. The second but completely different response to her was from the then Governor of West Pakistan ‘Nawab Amir Mohammad Khan’, when she asked for his turban, and Nawab Sahib very curtly told her that the turban is the headgear for men and not for women.

    Last but not the least, Mrs. Kennedy deserves our prayers, not only as a loving and caring woman but also for her special interest in Pakistani culture and then honoring her visit by inviting Bashir Sarban to America. Why such things do not happen these days. It is beyond comprehension that when our country was young prospering state and we the Pakistanies were equally young and strong with our devotion for our country Pakistan, no one spoke ill of America and now most have taken criticizing America as prop for his fame and pride (whether it is their sincere claim or a hypocrisy is not difficult to be deciphered).


  2. Anonymous
    November 30, 2014 at 4:31 am #

    I was stationed at the US Air Base in Peshawar from November 1967 to February 1969. Pakistanis were decent to us and I hope we returned the respect. To all of you in Pakistan: You do a disservice to your country and your religion, if you think of non-Islamic people as an enemy. You have been duped by evil people.

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