“I feel at home!” exclaimed former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza as he sat next to Uzair Jan Baloch, known as the head of the defunct Peoples Amn Committee at the Baloch Cultural Day celebrations on Friday night.
Lyari knows how to party, and on Friday, it sparkled with excitement.
Mirza was swept into the celebrations with people showering rose petals on him. When asked why he chose the event to make a public appearance after a considerable period, Mirza said, “I was abroad on a mission and then I had some private visits. I was in the field for my son’s by-election for a month and just got free two days ago.”
The relaxed Mirza soaked up the atmosphere and met people being introduced to him by the Pakistan Peoples Party’s long-time worker, Habib Jan Baloch.
He said he expected his son, the newly elected MPA Hasnain Mirza, would take a principled stand on issues. “He’s a bright, young, educated man,” he told The Express Tribune. “He’s seen the world and he’s more educated than I was… or am.” When asked if people expected Hasnain to be as vocal as his father on issues he felt strongly about, Zulfiqar Mirza said, “His way might be different than mine. Mai hathoray maarta tha, woh shayad hathorian maare.” (I would throw hammers, he might throw lighter punches.”
Uzair Jan said that the event showed that Lyari and the Baloch were peaceful. “All ethnic groups and communities should do these events. We are all united for peace.”
He smiled as he looked at Zulfiqar Mirza. “He’s our brother, the one who stands up for us.”
But while the former home minister was the star attraction for the cameras and the guests from other political parties, the crowds had their eyes set on others.
“This is Balochistan’s number one star,” a young volunteer offered, pointing to Shahjahan Dawoodi, before he took the stage.
When he began to sing “Nazenah Balochana”, the thousands gathered at Lyari Football Stadium erupted into spontaneous dancing and applause. “It’s a song calling out to the Baloch,” another man said. The stadium was full of men, women, children – with the men in turbans and the baggy shalwar kameez. No one could resist the call of the music – old bearded men broke out into dancing and the women clapped in beat with the music.
A rousing performance of “Dane pe Dana” by Akhtar Channal was part of the event – which began gathering steam around 7 pm. Bedecked camels with sword-wielding men strutted around the ground and dancers whirled in a circle.
Mahnoor, 10, wore a black dress with traditional embroidery. “It’s a really nice event, I like everything. I’m going to go sit on the camel too! All my friends are here.”
A beaming Zafar Baloch from the defunct Peoples Amn Committee, hobbling around on crutches, introduced the area police officer to their guest of honour, Zulfiqar Mirza. “People should come here and see how wrong they were about us,” Zafar said.
“Today is a historical day for the Baloch nation,” added Uzair Baloch. “We believe in peace. I appeal to the president, chief justice and Kayani to readdress the issue of Balochistan. Karachi’s Baloch population has been ignored for years.”
Among the attendees at the event were Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Malik Riaz, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Sindh General Secretary Dr Hasan Raza Memon, Sindh National Party’s Ameer Bhambro and Sindh United Party’s Sain Ghulam Shah as well as Sindh Human Rights Minister Nadia Gabol’s father Mama Latif.
There were fireworks for 15 minutes before Uzair Jan stepped up to the stage for his speech.
But even at 10 pm, the night was young for many, who expected the party would carry on till the early hours of the morning.
(with additional reporting by Sameer Mandhro)
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2012.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of the article stated that Ameer Bhambro was from Jeay Sindh Tehreek instead of Sindh National Party. The error has been rectified.