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Letter from Karachi

A new Pakistani everyman—Mehran man—is increasingly defining the country’s identity

By Jason Burke   April 2010

Mehrans for sale: their drivers are key to understanding contemporary Pakistan

Stand on the corner of a Karachi street and the key to understanding contemporary Pakistan passes you every few seconds. It’s a small, 796cc car made by Suzuki. Once known as the Alto, the name was “localised” in 1992 to Mehran, after an ancient Persian deity and an alternative name for the nearby Indus river.

The Mehran is Pakistan’s most popular car. It costs £4,000 in a country where the average per capita income is £550. Most of those in use were bought secondhand. A trader in the…

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