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At the Restaurant Baiga in a market on the southwestern fringe of this planned and gridded capital of Pakistan, the sign says "Closed for Ramadan". But there are lights on behind the lace curtains upstairs, and if you brave the smell of stale curry you will find one outpost of a quite un- Islamic import that is doing unseasonably good business.
Catarina, Vera and Sonia not their real names have not shut up shop for the holy month. And although their colleagues have been arrested, held in squalid jails for months on end and then booted out, these girls are staying put.
They are sure that prostitution has a rosy future in this stronghold of Islamic orthodoxy. Catarina, wearing a black negligee, curls up in the rumpled bed under the harsh fluorescent light in the large, bare room and smokes a Marlboro; Vera, thin and frizzy-haired, disappears into the shower; Sonia, much older and beefy, with the charm of an Aeroflot stewardess, the minder and madam in this small establishment, screws up her mean mouth and prepares to talk numbers.
Catarina, who has a fair complexion, jet-black hair, large eyes and a prominent nose - a winning combination in these parts - says that she is a Turk from Ankara, and a Muslim. But it soon emerges that all three are Russians. They may be Orthodox Christians, too, but although my visit coincided with the Orthodox Church's Christmas Day, there were no signs of festivity.
The prostitutes from Russia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and other parts of central Asia first came to the Pakistani public's attention last October, when police raided several plush guesthouses and arrested more than a dozen women.