The left wing is damaged, not from the fighting last week, but from as far back as the Baloch-Mohajir clashes two decades ago. But despite the drooping feather, Cheel Chowk’s cheel or eagle still guards the entrance to the heart of Lyari.
Actually, its proper name is Ibrahim Chowk, named after Ibrahim Hussain Baloch, a prominent social worker of Nawa Lane, who died shortly after Partition.
“Khan bhai (the slain Rehman alias Dakait) and my martyred brother Zahid Hussain Baloch decided on it as a decoration,” explained Ibrahim Hussain Baloch’s grandson Shahid.
The people decided on an eagle after some discussion. “The Baloch are like the Arabs, who like the falcon and are fond of hunting,” Shahid said. “Then my cousin Abdul Sattar Baloch was killed alongside Shaheed Murtaza Bhutto in those days. And he was proud and beautiful like a falcon, so we were inspired by that.” The bird went up during the last tenure of the Pakistan Peoples Party.
“After that people just started calling it Cheel Chowk.” He thinks people have been calling it a vulture but stresses that they take it as a falcon. The monument looks more like an eagle, however.
Shahid Baloch is unhappy that the media has kept calling it Cheel Chowk instead of Ibrahim Chowk. “The media should first know the history,” he said.
The chowk or intersection has a 20-foot pillar decorated half-way up by stones. It has fish at the base and used to have coloured lights and a fountain but neglect set in and repairs have not been ever undertaken.
“The broken wing has been like that since the 1990s,” said Ishaq Baloch, a shopkeeper nearby. “The government sadly never paid attention.”
According to Shahid Baloch, the bird’s metallic body weighs more than 100 kilogrammes and a crane placed it on top of the pillar. “It’s difficult to say how much it cost but perhaps it was around Rs500,000,” he guessed. “And this isn’t the only one. There are other ones in Lyari that were similarly decorated, like Kashti Chowk, Teen Talwar Chowk and Gabol Chowk.”
Residents are now quick to grandly stress that they plan an even bigger and better replacement. “Even its colour has faded,” said Akhtar Baloch. “It was also hit by bullets. But now we’ll gather funds to resurrect it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012.