A fleet of colorful rickshaws attracts the eye of everyone on the roads of Pakistan's most populous city Karachi. These rickshaws are spreading peace and love in the city known as being a center for violence and killings.
These rickshaws are decorated with colorful designs similar to those found on many trucks and buses in the country. However, the difference is the peace slogans painted on these.
Colorful designs with variegated motifs are common on trucks and buses in Pakistan.
Radical Islamists have long used the rickshaws as an instrument for hate-mongering with violent slogans. Now a group of youngsters called the Pakistan Youth Alliance (PYA) is using the same technique, with rickshaws to spread messages of peace and love.
PYA chose to begin its "Peace rickshaw" project initially in Karachi, a swirling cauldron of 18 million people wracked by ethnic, political and sectarian violence.
These pimped-up rickshaws are decorated in truck art style. They are not adorned with the usual poetry about love, women and flowers but instead bear a message of peace.
W-11 is one of the busiest routes in Karachi and it is known for having the most decorated mini buses in the city. A bus in London and a tram in Sydney have also been decorated and called W-11.
PYA held special workshops with over 200 students in some of Karachi's most conflict-prone areas to come up with creative designs and slogans for the rickshaws.
Some take common Urdu street expressions, such as "Hey dude, don't tease," and give them a peaceful twist - "Hey dude, don't fight." Others cite snippets of Sufi poems, phrases from Islam's holy book, the Quran, or messages of interfaith harmony.
Some bear potent slogans such as "Rickshaw chala raha hoon, goli to nahin!" ("I'm driving a rickshaw, not firing a bullet."). Another rickshaw cover has been replaced with a print of an Urdu newspaper's editorial page; with headlines such as "deen mai jabar nahi" ("There is no oppression in religion").
To produce eye-catching designs for the rickshaws, PYA enlisted the help of truck artist Nusrat Iqbal - he is a celebrity in his field because he has decorated a bus in London and a tram in Sydney.
The pictures and slogans painted on the trucks often depict the psyche or the culture of the area the owners or drivers are from.
Though the jazzed up rickshaws have only been on the road for a few weeks, people are already showing interest. Passengers prefer to hire colorful peace rickshaws if they can.
With initial funding of nearly $25,000 from a donor who prefers to remain anonymous, the group has decorated five rickshaws so far and has plans for 50 more.
PYA are in discussions with Pakistan's ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman about possibly putting a peace rickshaw in front of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington.Pictures: Ali Rizvi, M.Ali
Eye-catching rickshaws promote peace in Pakistan