Why billboards are under attack in Pakistan’s business capital

Mar 22, 2018

The way things were

GONE are the 20ft-long bars of Dairy Milk. Gone the models with Veet-shaven legs. And gone the handsome cricketers, inviting you to open a refreshing can of Pepsi. Over the past 20 months officials have stripped Karachi, Pakistan’s throbbing business capital, of all billboards on public property. On a drive through its traffic-clogged streets, fresh views of concrete highways and pedestrian overpasses greet the eye. “The city is barren by comparison,” beams Sumaiya Zaidi, who campaigned for the purge.

The clean-up jars with Karachi’s reputation, for two reasons. First, the local government usually fumbles even basic tasks. Mafiosi sell water to many of the city’s 15m residents, driving tankers down pot-holed or unpaved roads. Second, the megacity is the heart of Pakistan’s retail market, whose latest annual growth of 8.2% is about the fastest in the world, according to Euromonitor, a market-analysis firm. Keen to hawk their wares within its bounds...

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