KARACHI: A fuming Abdul Sattar Edhi, only Pakistan’s most famous social worker, held a press conference against policemen on Thursday who were preventing him from reaching out to the people of Lyari.
“I was given protection in Gaza and Iraq but have been banned from serving my own people in my own back yard,” he told journalists at the Karachi Press Club, a venue that would guarantee him maximum publicity. “I have visited every part of Pakistan where even dacoits have helped me but the government seems unhappy with my work.”
Edhi lives in Kharadar which is a stone’s throw from Lyari. “I am under [virtual] house arrest and police have been deployed outside my house. I have been restricted from going outside,” he said. “I demand the government lift the ban and allow me to serve the people who have been in a miserable condition for the last seven days.”
Lyari has been in a lockdown for a week when a police operation was launched to ostensibly flush out criminals. But it became impossible for people to leave and many families were cut off because of the fierce exchange of gunfire.
For his part, Edhi claimed that there were no dacoits or gangsters in Lyari. He stressed that the common man was free to move around in the area.
Edhi was backed by Uzma Noorani and Amarnath Motumal of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Dr Idrees Edhi of the Pakistan Medical Association among others. “Were the people of Lyari taken into confidence before the operation? Did the police achieve its target? Were human rights not violated? The government has turned Lyari into a war zone,” alleged Noorani.
Dr Edhi said that women, children and the elderly were under immense stress. “Diseases will spread as sanitary workers have not been visiting Lyari since the start of the operation,” he said. “There has been no power, water and medicine in the area and people are not allowed to visit hospitals. The criminals should be punished and detained but not at the cost of women, children.”
It was pointed out during the press conference that only three Union Councils (UC) were directly affected – UC 9’s Singo Lane, UC 10’s Chakiwara and Kalakot, and UC 11’s Nawa Lane, Kumharwada and Bakra Piri. The total population of these three UCs is between 200,000 to 250,000.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2012.