KARACHI: One of the young men had the good sense to say he was Katchchi when they asked if they were Baloch. Suleman did not. All that remains of him today is a baseball cap.
His mother Pareeda, who has lived in Lyari since 1949, cannot help but unknowingly lie to herself. “Lyari is a peaceful place. What was my son’s crime for ending up in a gunny bag?”
Someone who saw the abduction three months ago told the seamstress that men came up to the mechanic’s workshop and asked, ‘Are you Baloch?’ Twenty-five-year-old Suleman and a co-worker innocently answered yes, only to be bound, gagged, beaten and spirited off. Their bodies were discovered in sacks in Nazimabad.
The government has banned pillion riding or double-sawari, ordered a swoop in Orangi Town and politicians and coalition partners have held countless meetings to stem the haemorrhage. For the most part, young political activists from the Pakistan Peoples Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party, Karachi three main parties, have been paying the price. But an ethnic war simmers too as Suleman’s case proves. News of a planned operation by the Rangers is just ‘talk’ for the families of those who have been killed. “If they can actually capture someone who was involved, it would be useful. But this doesn’t happen,” says Syed Qamruddin, whose eyes well up when he is asked about his 29-year-old son Bashiruddin who met the same fate.
Syed Qamruddin, who works at the Edhi Centre in Kharadar, is no stranger to death. “You only realise the pain of losing someone when it comes to needle you,” he sighs. His son was standing near the Peoples Aman Committee office in Lyari Town when he was shot seven times. “My daughter has not gone to school since the conditions of the city have worsened,” says Qamruddin.
Imran’s was another life that was snuffed out. The 22-year-old had just married the girl he loved. He was shot dead a month later during the violence that followed Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Raza Haider’s assassination.
“We used to call him baghicha (garden) because he sold fruit,” recalls his brother-in-law Abdul Qadir. “I cannot even imagine that he is dead. It is not something you can prepare yourself for like when people are hospitalised.”
But while workers of political parties have their leaders to campaign on their behalf and highlight the target killings, Lyari’s residents feel ignored. They complain that no government official has visited to condole, let alone announce any compensation.
Lyari Town has been a stronghold for the PPP since its inception. Despite winning a seat comfortably from this constituency for decades, representatives who make it the National Assembly have done little. Allegiance to the Bhuttos is strong here but the PPP’s profile has taken a hit since Nabeel Gabol was elected MNA in 2008. “What has Nabeel Gabol done for us? Where is the Lyari development package? Why can’t he come here to meet the families?” asks Rizwan Baloch, a member of the Peoples Aman Committee. “He hasn’t been seen in Lyari in two years. We may have to issue ‘missing person’ notices for him.”
“There was a time when every child here said, ‘daal roti khayeinge, Bhutto ko layeinge’. Now they say, ‘Tere bhai, mera bhai, Khan bhai,’” says Shakeeb Baloch of the committee’s central secretariat about support for Sardar Abdul Rehman Baloch, the reformed name of Rehman Dakait, who was killed in 2009. What better measure of the state of a bloodied neighbourhood, than the fact that its residents harken back to a dead man’s spirit?
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2011.