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Lyari: Land of Magic

Hasan Mujtaba

April 30th, 2012

5 / 5 (8 Votes)



(Published in 'Newsline,' Karachi, in July1997)

What is Lyari? The kick of a footballer, the fist of a boxer, the clip-clop of a Tonga, the braying of donkey, the smell of fish and hashish. Dry water taps and tearful eyes, a police beating (perhaps, even a killing), a looting at dagger or gunpoint in a dark alley. A labyrinth of narrow alleys, streaming gutters and broken roads. Journalist Nadir Ali Shah Adil says about his native Lyari, “It’s a land of magic, a zoo of hundreds of thousands of human beings”. Some think of it as a sort of Harlem at the rib cosmopolitan Karachi. Lyarities mourned the death of the Bhuttos, but mourned equally when Brazil lost the soccer World Cup.

Baloch tribes that migrated from present day Pakistani Balochistan and Iranian Balochistan due to tribal wars and droughts originally inhabited the oldest settlement in Karachi, Lyari. “Till the 18th century, the city of Karachi was the only abode of the Baloch population alongwith Lyari, river”, says Yousif Naskandi, a living encyclopedia of Baloch folklore. The word Lyari is derived from the word ‘Lyar’, the name of a tree “that blooms in graveyards”, says a Baloch at Mewa Shah. “The word ‘Lyar’ means the deadly silence of the graveyard”, says Nadir Shah Adil.

Old-timers at Lyari claim the place where they live today was the original Karachi – a fishing village named after a sage fishing women, Mai Kola chi. Mai Kola chi had seven sons, heroes of the famous myth of Mororo. Six of the seven sons, the myth goes, were hardworking fishermen who would go out to fish in the open sea. The seventh, Mororo, would stay at home with his moth, as he was handicapped and unable to walk. The brothers ventured forth to earn their livelihood even when the sea was dangerously rough, even when a huge, bloodthirsty crocodile – the much – threatened them. Once the six brothers did not return from their fishing trip for several weeks and it was thought that they had been killed by the much. The handicapped Mororo then decided to go to sea, not only to search for his brothers but also to seek revenge on the crocodile. He prepared an iron-cage, the story continues, connected to miles long ropes, drawn by bulls. Arming himself with the sharpest blades, Mororo locked himself into the cage and had himself thrown into the open sea. From the protection of his cage, the disabled hero finally succeeded in killing the bloodthirsty much when it tried to attack him in the deep sea. Mororo and his trophy, concludes the story, were triumphantly pulled out of the sea by the bulls. Since then, the fishing people of Lyari have sung of Mai Kola chi and Mororo, and the story has been a popular theme of Sindhi and Balochi plays and poetry. Many Sindhi nationalists term Lyari Mororo jo maag or the place of Mororo.

The fishing village of Mai Kola chi was surrounded by Lyar trees on the banks of the doaba (literally, ‘twin waters’) along the present Lyari River. In 1725, families of pawans (nomads) from Balochistan pitched their tents along the waters of Lyari River. The second major influx came in 1770 when the Kalhora rulers of Sindh gave Karachi in lieu of blood money to the Khan of Kalat. Under the Khan of Kalat, the area saw the arrival and settlement of Baloch racers of Boris and Gabols.

In 1795, the Talpur rulers of Sindh retrieved Karachi from the Khan of Kalat. At this time, Baloch tribesman from the interior of Sindh and Seraiki belt were brought in as guards to protect the Manhora fort.

In 1847, after the British conquest of Sindh, Karachi attracted migrants from the Baloch tribes of what are now the Iranian and Pakistani parts of Balochistan, providing the British with a basic labor force and military manpower. Baloch and Kuchhi laborers came in from the coast of Makran and Kuchh to help with the laying of railway lines, construction of the sea port, the export of fish and the import of dates from Basra. Old times at Lyari reminisce about Lea market being a great date market. A large number of Baloch families made their livelihood from fashioning packages from date palm leaves, called peesh paat. “The women would stay home to make different things like packages and matting from date palm leaves, while the men would go to the port to work”, says Khadija, an old Baloch women.

The second largest basti at Lyari was a fishing settlement called Khadda. The third was Shidi Village, inhabited by the dark-skinned, curly-haired Shidis, and said to be the descendants of African slaves brought from Zanzibar. Present day Lyari, one end beginning at Lea Marked and the other stretching to Garden East, is seen by many as Karachi’s ‘Little Africa’. In older times, Baghdadi, and area in Lyari, functioned as a slave market where African slaves were brought and sold.

“Previously, women from these black families worked as nannies for the children of Hindu traders”, says Ahmed Baloch, a Baghdadi resident. A back settlement at Baghdadi is named after Nairobi. With a population of about two million, it has about 50,000 persons who belong to the Zikri sect. Here Mara Donna and the Bhuttos are equally revered. Lyarities are often called Makranis as many of them belong to migrant families hailing from coastal Baluchistan. They came from areas

like Dashtiyar, Chahbahar, Bander Abbas, and Sarbaz of Iranian Makran.

Within Lyari, Lyarities are divided into a strong system of caste and clan. Those of black complexion are called Shidis (blacks) or Durzadak. Those who are of Iranian origin, with fair complexions and curly blond hair are viewed as a superior race. They are called wajas (gentlemen) and their ancestors left the oases and streams of Sarbaz and Bander Abbas to settle in Lyari. Irrespective of their color, however, the inhabitants share what constitutes a common Baloch culture. “Be they black or of Irani origin with blond hair, all are thrilled by the lewa or dochaapi (Balochi dances) “says Faiz Muhammad Shidi.

The citizens of Lyari were among the first contributors to the city’s initial process of development. The majority of these migrants made up the labor force at the Karachi port. They were porters, boatmen, donkey-cart pushers, date palm packers and gatekeepers to cinema houses. Many of their women were engaged in making products from date palm leaves a home, or going door to door to sell embroideries. In pre-partition Karachi, the settlements along the Lyari River were the only population with a Muslim majority. In those days, Baloch and Indian nationalism went hand-in-hand in Lyari. Madressah Mazhar-al-Uloom, a religious school run by Hafiz Muhammad Sadiq at the central location of Khadda became the center of ani-British movements like the Reshmi Roomal Tehrik and the Khilafat Movement. In the former, secret messages about moves made against British were written on silken handkerchiefs and smuggled across India. A number of religious and political leaders were jailed and punished for their involvement.

Graduates from the madrassa became die-hard anti-British rule activists. Residents of Khadda also witnessed the rise of the scion of an obscure Katchhi Memon family who went on to become Sir Haji Abdullah Haroon. For over 30 years, until the advent of the Bhuttos into politics, the Haroons dominated politics in Lyari.

The residents of Khadda saw how a boy named Abdullah began a profitable business by investing an in just one bag of sugar. As World War I reached its peak and sugar rationing was implemented, the young businessman became a big Seth, reaping huge profits from the sugar business. Haji Abdullah Haroon played an active role in pro-British politics and the British bestowed a knighthood on him. But according to veteran peasant leader Mir Muhammad Talpur, “The British asked Abdullah Haroon to return his title as he had given shelter to then underground Congress leader, Aruna Asif Ali, during the Quit India movement against the British”. Abdullah Haroon made a major contribution to the fields of education and social welfare in Lyari and was buried in the premises of a college both founded by and named after him. Faiz Ahmed Faiz headed the college for a number of years. During his tenure, leftist teachers like R. R. Hasaan groomed a generation of radicals in Lyari.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, radical politics flourished in Lyari as workers were organized by union leaders like Narayan Das Anand. Nationalist notions such as those of Mir Ghous Bux Bizenjo began to influence the Baloch mind. Social workers like Ghulam Muhammad Nooruddin and Mehrab Khan Isa Khan were the first to be elected to the Karachi Municipality as representatives of the Lyarities. If Lyari is a book, the central Hasht Chowk with eight roads traveling off it, is its preface. On the walls of a café serving Balochi Sajji (roasted lamb) hang paintings depicting scenes from nomadic Balochi life and nationalist heroes – right from Nauroz Khan and his siblings (hanged during Ayub Khan’s regime) to young Hamid Baloch (sentenced to death by a military court during Zia’s martial law). The café is a hang out for the area’s bookish youth, intelligentsia and social workers. Outside the dimly-lit café, the eight roads lead to the inner world of Lyari. Crowded bus company offices, parked buses ready to ferry men out to coastal Balochistan, a market called ‘Jhat Pat’, littered with Iranian goods, donkey cart sands, video games, snooker and carom board shops crowded with youth (many covering their heads in style with Palestine scarves) – these are just some of the features of the Hasht Chowk landscape that draw you into the labyrinth of Lyari.

Real life in Lyari begins and ends in its short and narrow alleys – some run into a dead end in just a few feet. “Lyari’s problem is the lack of land”, says Rafique Engineer, a PPP veteran. “If we measure the whole land area of Lyari and distribute it among its inhabitants, it will hardly give each a space for his/her grave.” At many places in Lyari, there is no water supply. In other places, the water supply and sewage lines are intermingled. “To live in Lyari means to be looted at dagger-point in a dark alley”, says Allah Bux , a resident. But Nasir Karim, an old Balochi resident, differ. He says, “Only a handful of youths are responsible for such acts. They can not represent the whole of Lyari.”

With the advent of the PPP, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto not only created his own personality cult in Lyari, but also effectively neutralized the political clout of the Haroons. Lyarities, who are fair game for any entertaining spectacle, thronged around Buttto in his massive public rallies held at Kakri ground. “If my party comes to power, my ministers will clean the dirty roads of Lyari, “Bhutto promised the Lyarities on one of his famous speeches at Kakri ground, a promise that was not be realized. After coming to power, the Bhutto government did, however, give Lyarities an entitlement to lease land. Bhutto also provided water supply schemes, sewerage systems, and Lyari General Hospital. Through relaxing bureaucratic procedures and providing easy access to passports, the Bhutto government enabled thousands of Lyarities to benefit from the economic boom in the Gulf. Balochis from Makran were not unfamiliar with the Gulf some had been recruited to the army of the Sultan of Oman; others had left before Partition for the Bahrain oil fields.

Not only did the Gulf boom create a newly affluent class Lyari, it also reorganized the underworld with the surfacing of a smuggling ring. Yaqoob Gung smuggled workers from Lyari into the Gulf and these gangs were only busted when a launch carrying hundreds of Balochi laborers met with an accident, drowning many.

The Lyarities’ luck declined when Bhutto was overthrown by General Zia-ul-Haq and martial law imposed. Black clad women beating their chests and agitating youth took to the streets when Bhutto was hanged. Two Lyari boys were hanged, and hundreds flogged and jailed through the years of martial law. Bhutto’s children Benazir, Murtaza and Shah Nawaz chose Lyari as their battlefield while confronting Zia.

In August of 1986, Benazir Bhutto defied government orders and dared to come out of 70 Clifton to begin her movement for the restoration of democracy, leading a procession upto Lyari amidst flying bullets and tear gas shells. Lyari was also the biggest recruitment center for the clandestine Al-Zulfikar organization led by Murtaza and Shah Nawaz, headquartered at Kabul and later, Damascus, Conscious of the roots of her popular support, Benazir Bhutto held her grand Valima reception at Kakri ground. Many Balochi children are named Benazir, Shah Nawaz and Murtaza after the Bhuttos. And many Lyarities knew Asif Ali Zardari before his marriage to Benazir Bhutto as the son of a cinema owner, sometimes seen leading the dadas of Lyari in armed scuffles across the city.

During Zia’s era, thousands of Baloch expatriate returned from the Gulf. At the same time, large numbers of immigrants from Iran and Afghanistan settled at Lyari, bringing the drugs and arms trade with them. The international drug cartels had links with the underworld in Lyari through the ‘Alexandrian route’ – along the waters of coastal Balochistan and into European and African markets. Meanwhile, hardened criminals Hussain Irani, and local outlaw Baboo Diket (dacoit), made Lyari hell for its residents with the connivance of local police and some politicians. Educated youth and social workers eventually united against the mushrooming of drug and criminal dens and launched the Lyari Naujawan Tehrik, a movement for the eradication of drugs and crime. The Tehrik engaged in a fierce battle with the drug dealers who were patronized by the police and politicians. Tehrik activists were either killed or their families constantly harassed by drug agents. But many people took heart from the Tehrik’s example. To get the children off the streets and channelize their energies in a more positive direction, volunteer organizations set-up informal schools in Chakiwara, Baghdadi, Kalakot and other Mohallas in Lyari. “Now our children get their education at night schools in the same places where there drug dens in the past”, says a women of Singho Lane, proudly.

From the time of Zia-ul-Haq to Jam Sadiq Ali’s tenure and even upto the Benazir Bhutto’s government, the youth of Lyari and their families had been persecuted and hounded in the name of Al-Zulfikar Organization. In the murder cases of Judge Nabi Sher Junejo and CIA Police Inspector, Malik Ahsan, for example, police arrested several youths on different occasions but had to release them eventually as they could produce no evidence to back up their charges.

Though Lyari’s Walls had been inscribed with slogans of Murtaza Jaldi Aa before his return to the country, many Layri families became bitter critics of Murtaza’s politics when their youth were jailed and tortured. In the 1990 elections, Asif Zardari contested and won a seat from Lyari for the National Assembly while still in jail. Through the years of Asif Zardari, however, Lyarities went through the same ordeal as before. Soon after his release from jail, they confronted him about the unavailability of water when he visited Lyari, breaking empty matkas in front of his as symbols of protest. “He was in jail. How could he have provided you with a water?” a supporter of Asif asked a Balochi woman present at the rally. “He could produce a baby in jail. Why could he not have provided us with water!”, the Balochi woman shot back.

Throughout Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure, the fate of Lyarities remained as stagnant as the leaking sewerage water at Khadda where they had listened to her 1993 campaign speeches. The people of Lyari had again voted for PPP candidates in the 1993 elections, but their representatives were only interested in clinching kickbacks for themselves. The PPP representative’s patronized hardened criminals like Hussain Irani and Baboo Diket. “Benazir second term of power brought Lyarities nothing,” says Nasir Karim. “Instead, this time, the people of Lyari not only became harshly critical of the PPP but also of Sindhis, as they were driven from the doors of ministers in interior Sindh”. When asked about the PPP government’s establishment of the Lyari Development Authority and its proposed abolishment by the PML-MQM government, Nasir Karim said, “Only PPP ministers and leaders benefited from the establishment of the Lyari Development Authority, as they immediately began to allot land to their favorites”. “What the PPP government did for Lyari was to set-up the Riaz Centre, a dreaded CIA police centre, “says Amanullah, a resident of Khadda.

Plainclothes police would allegedly barge into houses at night, picking up youths only to torture them and release them after exorting thousands of rupees from their families. This was the CIA police center that Murtaza Bhutto raided in search of his party man, Ali Sonara. After Murtaza’s murder, the CIA staff at the Riaz Centre went on the rampage. “First, they would do a little survey on a family’s income, then break into the house to pick its young men up, “says a resident. In a double story katcha-pucca house in a narrow lane of the mohalla of Rangiwara, there is an ailing Balochi artist, Noor Muhammad Baloch,. He proudly displays a portfolio of paintings, w hich he calls his zindagi ka sarmaya. These pantings depict every aspect of Balochi Life and culture (from the birth of a child to death, scenes of war and peace, happiness and sorrow). He also has samples of rare Balochi embroidery. “I am not worried about dying but I am worried about passing on my works and rare pieces of embroidery to my qaum” he says.

The tranquil life his work depicts is very different from the way Balochis live and die in Lyari today. In his own house, a young man lies incapacitated in a room, in the terminal stages of drug addiction. A younger son is an expatriate worker in a Gulf country. The youngest is a college student and part time volunteer teacher in a nearby street school. This sad story repeats itself in every fourth or fifth house in Lyari. “Aab (water) is the biggest problem in Lyari, you hear everywhere. “Why are you guys after us? Let live us in peace. Why don’t you go and ask people about water”, said one of a group addicts sharing a syringe to inject themselves with heroin at Lea Market. To Sharif Baloch of Kalakot, the pressure of population is one reason for the water crisis at Lyari. In many cases the water is stolen and there have been water riots in the worst of the summer. “KWSB authorities demand huge bribes for water connections. The majority of Lyarities cannot afford it, “says Sharif Baloch. In areas like Shidi village, Puri Lane, Sabirabad Lane, Singho Lane, Kalri and Kalakot there has been no water for couple of years. The women and children have to walk kilometers to carry water home.

The residents of Lyari have become cynical about the promises politicians make to improve their lot. Shabir Baloch says, “We are misrepresented by outside politicians. Even if our elected representatives hail from Lyari, they live in areas like Defence and Clifton where we have no access to them and cannot get our grievances redressed. They just come to bag votes during elections and never turn back,” says Siddiq Hoat, a local of Shidi Village.

The politicians’ false promise and their betrayal of their constituents who suffer a multitude of problems are now portrayed in videos made by local actors in the streets of Lyari, Waqar Baloch, a popular local actor and director says, “We mock the politicians and their apathy”. While the politicians have offered the people only empty slogans, a number of community organizations have done better. In the field of education, the residents of Lyari took matters into their own hands when the government system failed to function. School were set up on the street, with only durries and black-boards for equipment. The first night school at Lyari dates back to the 1950s when a man from Lyari, Hamza Rajwani, became a Session Judge and the people of the area started coming to him for tuition. He later started a night school. Ghulam Muhammad Nooruddin, a councilor to the municipality and member of the KDA board also did pioneering work in the field of education. “That is why you see more schools and educated people in a belt comprising areas like Ghulam Muhammad Lane and Rangiwara”, says Nasir Karim. There are now over a hundred NGOs functioning in Lyari, most of which are registered. Community based organizations were introduced in a big way to Lyari with the introduction of the USAID programme in the country during the Ayub Khan era, when some local social organizations began donating dowry to girls of poor families and supplying decoration services for wedding ceremonies. The Lyari Tehrik, led by a veteran politician, was a socio-political body that launched a massive movement to get the Lyarities lease entitlement to their land in the early ‘70s. But the era of the NGOs in Lyari was actually ushered in during Zia’s martial law in the early ‘80s, when the educated youth of the area launched an organized drive against drug pushers in various areas of Lyari under the banner of the Naujawan Lyari Tehrik. Kalakot and Baghdadi were major centers of the Tehrik’s activities, as these areas had become the great drug bazaar of Lyari. When drug pushers and peddlers cracked down on the volunteers, the Tehrik retaliated by organizing a danda force. Bands of teenage youths armed with sticks and hockyes in their hands would go out against the drug pushers and make them run. The people of the area supported the Tehrik activists and the pushers finally retreated. After getting rid of drug pushers from their respective areas, the Tehrik activists opened street schools where their volunteers would teach the area children, charging a nominal fee of five rupees only. The people of the area responded with tremendous interest. Since the ‘80s the street schools in many areas of Lyari like Baghdadi, Mombasa Street, Gul Muhammad Lane, Chakiwara No.1, and Kalakot have produced a generation of teachers. Former pupils of the night streets now teach there. A trend for sending girl children to the street schools also developed as the volunteers overcame initial resistance and parents now gladly send their daughters to these schools. A number of girls have also joined them as volunteer teachers. Most of these street schools are run on a self-help basis and generate their funds from within the community. The only contribution of the social welfare department of the Sindh Government to date is a grant of 25,000 rupees in 1989 to the Naujawan Tehrik’s Rangiwara branch. However, the education department has allowed these organizations to run their schools in the premises of their buildings after school hours. Though many of the former drugs dens have been replaced with night street schools, the drug pushers still operate in a clandestine way. The walls in Sabirdad lane in Kalakot continue to display graffiti demanding public hanging not only for the killers of Mir Murtaza Bhutto but also for “Drug pusher Salim Bengali”. “Having a puff of hash in seen as a macho activity”, says the head of an NGO running street night schools. “In my early youth, I was myself charas addict. I was told by my friends that puffing hash makes your eyes look more attractive”, he says. The double or multi-story buildings replacing earlier jhuggis in Lyari belong to expatriates working in the Gulf or to local drug pushers. Being a drug addict, working in a Gulf state, joining the militant wing of a political party, becoming a sportsman, working at the port or the local electronic market or being completely jobless are all typical features of Lyari youth.

Charas addicts and drunkards were converted to heroin addiction when the drug made its way into Lyari with the advent of the Afghan and Irani refugees, just after the banning of alcohol in the country. Afghan smugglers are said to have introduced heroin in some areas of Lyari and coastal Balochistan, free of cost. “Beware, they may be police agents,” whisper some youngster sitting in the narrow confines of Puri (which literally means dust) lane. In such streets, confrontation with the police has become the order of the day. Police mobiles come into the streets, cops haul the boys off, search them, in many cases beat them and take them away. “They do not even spare people coming out of their houses escape load shedding,” complain the people of Kalakot and Chakiwara. Lyari is world apart. People have been living here for generations and some families for over a century. “After leaving Sarawan, our native land in Irani Balochistan, Lyari became our second and last home,” says ageing Noor Muhammad at Rangiwara. With the exception of those who find their way to the Gulf, there are few who can be persuaded to abandon their abode at Lyari. “The Lyarities never leave their houses or neighborhoods. That’s why they seem cut off from the rest of Karachi and rest of the country”, says a Lyarities. The militant trend among Lyari youths has taken a new direction. “Young men disappear from home with religious missionaries and after some time write from battle fronts of the Jihad in Afghanistan and even Sudan”, a journalist living in Lyari claims. Electricity remains suspended in many parts of Lyari for days and even weeks. “Our share of electricity goes to the MQM areas and even Clifton and Defence, as the KESC meets shortfalls in these areas by supplying electricity out of Lyari’s share, allege the people of Lyari. Like other areas of Karachi, Lyari has fallen victim to the ravages of land speculators. “It is as if the land beneath our feet is slipping away”, says Noor Muhammad a senior Lyarite about the conversion of vast chunks of previously residential areas into workshops and warehouses. Traders, mostly from the Memon community, bought or rented these buildings, using them to store grain and other commodities. These warehouses at Chakiwara, Mewa Shah and Shidi village roads have become safe havens for black marketers. “We do not even have a piece of land left for a grave in Mewa Shah”, says Noor Muhammad. One of the major land scams in Lyari is that of the “Gutter Baghicha”. The green strips of the Balochistan or garden with date palm trees began from trans-Lyari in old Golimar and stretched upto Mewa Shah. Hundreds of acres of land of the Gutter Baghicha have now been converted into housing scheme for KMC officials. Similarly, land in neighboring Hawks bay falling within the jurisdiction of the Lyari Development Authority was allotted for political purpose by successive government. Thousands of square yards of Hawkesbay land were allotted favorites of the PPP government and journalists in the city, instead of the landless and homeless Lyarities. During the fist stint of the Bhutto government in 1988, a 800-million rupees grant was sanctioned for the development of Lyari. A massive housing scheme for the people of Lyari was proposed at Hawkesbay, but the plan remained entangled in bureaucratic bottlenecks and the greed of the PPP’s legislators and jiyalas until the dismissal of the Bhutto government. A report says an additional amount of 700 million was also sanctioned for Lyari in 1989, which was given to the KMC Zonal municipal committees after the dismissal of the Bhutto Government. A comprehensive report by Umer Lasi of the Lords Club (a joint platform of different NGOs in Lyari – the acronym stands for Leadership Organization Research Development and Service) says: “Lyari population is 1.6 million, living in an area of only 1,800 acres. This works out to be approximately 3.5 sq. meters of space per person”. Banul Dashtiyari is one woman whose name is often heard in Lyari. Banul Dashtiyari was a Balochi poet and wise woman, who recently died leaving behind her unpublished volume of ‘Bayaz’ or collection of poetry. Banul is an extremely popular poet whose verse is not only sung at weddings in Lyari but also even in coastal Balochistan. To many Block nationalists and intelligentsia, Banul (mother of journalist Nadir Shah Adil) was the first lady of Balochi poetry and folk wisdom. Banul Dashtiyari, however, is an exception to the rule. The janak, as a woman is called in Balochi, is generally under-privileged. “She and Lyari suffer together,” says Masood Ahmed, scion of an expatriate family in the Gulf. “You would have seen her, attired in a long embroidered shirt and dopatta abusing policeman in the compound of the city court. This means her sons or other men folk are in jail and the PPP is nor more in power. She jokes, curses and abuses as the mood takes her, as Baloch women had once cursed Yahya Bakhtiar for not saving ZAB’s life”. Being a member of the matriarchal Baloch society, the janak still holds away over domestic affairs. She is the bread earner of the family when the man is a drug addict, in jail, or away from the country. By making embroidery or pish paat (products from date palm leaves), selling clothes and other goods from the Gulf, she makes ends meet. The Balochi girl Child is brought up in the same way as her mother. If an older girl suffers depression or hysteria she is treated through the rituals of ‘dhamaal’ or ‘gawatia maat’. On the girl’s marriage, the parents have to come up with money or a strip of land or house in dowry, which they give here in her name. Vendors selling snacks and juice to the children in the street schools are often young girls who cannot even afford the five-rupee fee for these schools. A few women have become active in the NGO’s working in the area while political parties, specially the PPP, have produced militant cadres in their women’s wing. Rich in history and folklore, Lyari remains, however, a deprived community in every sense of the word. Khair Muhammad Baloch, a resident of Kalri, speaks out: “Be it Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif, the alienation of Lyari from the rest of Karachi and the country seems to be unending. We are living in a tumultuous populated sea where battles over who should rule Karachi continues to rage. Obviously, Lyarities stand nowhere.”

“Granted that the people of Lyari are jobless, homeless and poor. And that their youth is frustrated, but they have never scaled the houses of their neighbors holding Kalashnikovs like the rest of Karachi’s youth”, Nusrat Bhutto, whom Lyarities once called maadir or mother had said about Lyarities. But even the maadir and her family have not looked Lyari’s way for a while. Steeped in centuries of history,Lyari remains an orphan.


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