KARACHI: As the police and resistance forces in Lyari continued to face off for the fifth consecutive day in Chakiwara, members of civil society and political parties voiced their protest against the operation and sent food for the hemmed in neighbourhood.
“This operation is meant to create hurdles for the City Alliance of political and religious parties,” said Dr Hasan Raza Memon of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) at a press conference on Tuesday. “It is being conducted to make one ally happy but will lead to ethnic clashes in different parts of Pakistan.”
The joint action committee of over 20 different non-governmental organisations appealed to the government to immediately end the operation, saying that “thousands of innocent people were stuck without food, medicine, power, water and basic necessities of life”.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) youth wing, led by Asif Khan, organised a rally in which MNA Nabeel Gabol was excoriated.
The former city Nazim and president of the al-Khidmat Foundation, Niamatullah Khan, accused the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of using state-sponsored oppression to crush an uprising among its former armed loyalists. He was speaking at the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) press conference. “They can’t afford to lose Lyari’s provincial and national assembly seats so they have turned the area into a battlefield,” alleged Khan. “As long as the strife continues, more and more people will migrate.”
According to JI’s Mohammad Hussain Mehanti, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) played a role in the worsening situation. “We want to ask the MQM if they would support a similar operation in other areas of the city where the crime rate is far higher than in Lyari.”
People from different parts of Lyari, especially Chakiwara and its adjacent areas, tried to come out to hold a rally outside the Karachi Press Club but according to Sania Naz Baloch, they were not allowed by the law-enforcement agencies. “About 200 people still managed to come out,” she said. “All democratic rights are being crushed and our generation is being compelled to take up weapons instead of acquiring education.”
Sania accused the police of killing six people in a house in Mulla Hotel Gali. “No one has taken those bodies who I think belong to one family,” she told The Express Tribune. “The government has stopped Edhi ambulances from entering. The situation is deplorable and the media don’t even have access to the worst-affected areas.”
Several big and small protests were held at Maripur, Old Golimar, Pak Colony, Malir, Gadap and Baloch Colony, causing a massive traffic jam. The protesters in Baloch Colony, a majority of them women and children, blocked the road and hurled stones at passing vehicles which broke the windows. A large number of Baloch residents from Gadap, Malir and Quaidabad marched towards Lyari and set two vehicles on fire on their way.
Relief for Lyari people – or not
The police stopped workers of Saylani Welfare Trust at Cheel Chowk. “They [the police] did not allow us to provide cooked food, milk and drinking water but we reached the tense areas with local help,” said the welfare’s Amir Iqbal Madni. “Hundreds of people gathered but the police opened fire. Our workers were scared but managed to distribute food.”
The government set up relief camps in five districts to distribute 20,000 packets of rations among families which have been displaced. The rehabilitations minister, Haji Muzaffar Ali Shujra, dismissed the impression that the operation was targeted against the Baloch.
ANP jumps into the fray
A leader of Awami National Party in Qasba Colony, Badshah Khan, arranged a protest independently to support the people of Lyari. “Our leadership is silent on the operation but the residents of Katti Pahari and Qasba Colony are doing it ourselves. The Baloch people are our brothers and we are concerned about them.”
Khan told The Express Tribune that their party had always demanded an indiscriminate military operation against criminals and military trial. “We condemn the operation specifically conducted against a specific ethnicity,” he said. “Lyari is not the only place where criminals are hiding. Lalukhet No. 10, North Karachi, Orangi Town, Lines Area, Surjani and Korangi are filled with gangsters and target killers. Why can’t they conduct operations in these places?”
Scores of people of almost all ages from Katti Pahari and Qasba Colony blocked the main road on Tuesday evening to protest against the Lyari operation.
A few young men began to beat and electric pole with a stick as they shouted, “Come join us in the protest. Show your solidarity with our Baloch brothers.”
They distributed hand-written banners, placards and white flags among the people who were leaving a mosque and in the streets of MPR colony. Many people joined the protest and they marched to the Katti Pahari Road and blocked it for traffic.
“We are shouting slogans for Baloch. They too are human like the rest of the people in Karachi and they have been treated inhumanly,” said 48-year-old Mian Gul. “Hundreds of women and children are suffering because of the one-sided operation which was launched to make a certain party happy.”
The protesters were shouting slogans of ‘Baloch and Pakhtun bhai bhai’, ‘Balochoun ki Nasal Kashi Band karo’ (stop Baloch genocide). A young man, Saud, held a banner printed with slogans against the chief minister and MNA Nabeel Gabol. “We understand the pain and suffering of the people of Lyari because we face such operations at least once a month,” he said. “Our children scream of hunger and our women become mentally ill because of violence. Today police and other security forces are busy in Lyari but they will be sent to Qasba and Katti Pahari later on.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2012.