‘I am a Baloch from Lyari and I am not a gangster’

By Daneen Baloch

SINDH – KARACHI: On a seemingly calm Sunday, when the Rangers’ operation in the city’s oldest quarter was on and Zulfiqar Mirza was making headlines with his diatribe, many in Lyari felt that their voices were not being heard by the politicians and the media.

“Our locality and its inhabitants are being singled out as being part of a gang war that is sabotaging peace in the city,” said Mohammad. A driver by profession, Mohammad, 33, belongs to the Katchi community and is a resident of Old Kumhar wara. “Despite the hype we see about Lyari’s gangs and goons, I was never hurt or threatened by any Baloch in Lyari. For me, the town is my second home.”

Visibly frustrated at the way things were going on in the city, he said, “If the Rangers operation is necessary it has to be across the board. Why is it that it’s only Lyari that is being targeted and termed as a ‘gangsters’ town?”

Living in abject poverty with little means to sustain their day to day existence, the locals feel that broken promises of their elected representatives and the media are responsible for the crisis that this area faces.

“I’m a Baloch from Lyari and I’m not a gangster. Please stop Lyari’s media trail,” said Raza (not his real name), a 23 years old student who runs a net café in the area.

Talking about the recent turn of events that have once again shoved Lyari into the limelight for all the wrong reasons, he says, “The media is very biased and polarised. Lyari was never a ‘No Go’ area for anyone. We have all kinds of ethnic groups living in the same neighborhood; we share each other’s sorrows and happiness together. However, the media is hell bent on creating a hostile picture and there is no one willing to share our stories.”

Of the ethnic violence and gang war in the area, he says its “political in nature with extortionists calling the shots.”

“But it’s not only the killings that are worrying us. After the brutal killing of five men from Lyari, many employers have asked their Baloch workforce not to come to work as security cannot be guaranteed. As it is, poverty and lack of employment opportunities has been frustrating the residents of Lyari for years. Now, this will allow more youngsters to go for the guns and drugs.”

With its narrow interlinked lanes that are no less a maze, a trip to the area is an eye opener. With many communities living side by side, the place once known for its late night rendezvous and football crazy locals is now a shadow of its former self.

Shahid Husain, a senior Journalist and former activist, termed Lyari the most vibrant place in Karachi with its unique sub-culture. “I have never seen such a lively place. I use to go to Lyari everyday when I was a student. I never felt threatened because the people there were so friendly and loving.” But that was over three decades ago and then the downfall of this peaceful locality began. “Considered a stronghold of the Pakistan People’s Party, Lyari was transformed when heroine and Kalashnikov were introduced during the Afghan War. That was a dictator’s gift.” ….

Read more → DAWN.COM

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