Lyari's racing donkey: ‘Panna died in front of my eyes’

Published: May 9, 2012

In Lyari, the labourers save up for months in order to own a donkey that usually costs them Rs100,000, with an additional Rs12,000 maintenance per month. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD AZEEM/EXPRESS


The loss of life in Lyari was not restricted just to humans.

“It killed me to have to choose between Panna and myself,” said Ashiq Balouch, the owner of a racing donkey that was shot during the Lyari violence.

For Ashiq, his donkey was like his child — he fed her peanuts, conserving her energy for the weekly races that took place. Losing Panna meant that Ashiq had lost a way to make his livelihood.

Four racing donkeys were shot in Lyari last week, forcing the Lyari Donkey Cart Association (LDCA) to cancel the Hamara Karachi race that carried a prize-money of Rs50,000.

And according to Shabbir Balouch, the second of the affected owners, it was not the donkeys that died, ‘it was a funeral for four families’.

In Lyari, the labourers save up for months in order to own a donkey that usually costs them Rs100,000, with an additional Rs12,000 maintenance per month.

“I had to make a choice, my house is not big enough to shelter six children and a donkey as well,” Ashiq told The Express Tribune. “Panna was tied in front of my house in Warah when the shooting started. I really couldn’t go outside to bring Panna in. She died in front of me, taking 10 bullets.

I couldn’t even move her body because the shooting did not stop. Her body lay there for three days, in front of my house.

“It was painful. My emotional and monetary investment went down just like that. I don’t know how I’ll make a living now.”

Meanwhile, according to the LDCA Secretary Faiz Muhammad Balouch, who also organises the weekly and monthly races, the event was cancelled to pay respect to the dead donkeys and a way of telling the Sindh Sports Board (SSB), who collaborate with the LDCA, that the deaths of those donkeys also seal the fate of those families’ livelihood.

“We need support and the SSB President Muhammad Ali Shah has promised us that but nothing is happening at the moment,” said Faiz.

“There won’t be any races until June because the situation in Lyari has affected us in the worst possible way. It has taken away the livelihood of 12 labourers who relied on their donkeys for work. Now their children are starving because they are out of work.”

Faiz added that the LDCA’s only demand was funds and support to the affected families. He also wants donkey-cart racing to be pat of next year’s Sindh Games.

“It’s a good time to make these racers feel part of the sports community. Besides the financial support, the SSB should make it a part of the Sindh Games. It’s a very local sport but is very popular and Sindh Games is all about promoting regional games.”

However, an SSB spokesperson ruled that out straightaway and added that compensation for the affected labourers will only be announced after the government announces the budget next month.

While the SSB ponders over its next move, Shabbir feels that the damage was beyond repair.

“It’ll take me at least two years to get another donkey. How will I save Rs 100,000 besides taking care of my daily expenses? I’m now looking or a job. My donkey-cart racing days are over.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2012.

The Most Popular News of the day in your Inbox daily.

Reader Comments (17)

  • Ali tanoli
    May 9, 2012 - 1:31AM

    what a shame they did not spare the donkey


  • Ali
    May 9, 2012 - 9:00AM

    “I had to make a choice, my house is not big enough to shelter six children and a donkey as well,” Ashiq told The Express Tribune.
    Well you shouldnt have had six children in the first place. Large number of children continue to keep the poor, poor.


  • IZ
    May 9, 2012 - 1:39PM

    Does anyone else see a disturbing parallel between the ET’s reporting on Lyari and the American press’ reporting on Pakistan in general – where in-depth stories of the actual human effect of state coercive action is ignored in favour of attention-grabbing “human interest” curios designed to pique the curiosity of jaded readers who really couldn’t care less about the place and its people?


  • anon
    May 9, 2012 - 2:54PM

    seriously – at this point is that all u can say – where are ur feelings for the poor man? Shameful !!!


  • S Khan
    May 9, 2012 - 7:14PM

    It is very sad indeed, but Ali does have a point. The poor must realise the importance of family planning. How else does one make them understand that by producing less children, they can live a better life, not only for themselves but for their children as well.


  • May 9, 2012 - 7:17PM

    Sad :( :’(


  • Baba Ji
    May 9, 2012 - 7:33PM

    Alas … in is life he entertained Karachiites with his racing skills … and in his death too he will be of service for so many as food …


  • A. Khan
    May 9, 2012 - 9:56PM

    @S Khan

    It is easy to pontificate on what the poor should do or not do from the comfort of your home and the security of your dad or your own job. Pakistan has a severe overpopulation problem. One of the prime reasons is lack of a social security net to provide for people once they become old, forcing them to have large families in the belief that they will provide security once they become old. Problem is compounded with illiteracy and religious tenets propagated by mullahs that birth control is not allowed in Islam.

    Its a sad fact but entirely true.


  • Saad K
    May 9, 2012 - 11:03PM

    Should’nt donkey cart racing be considered as cruelty towards those animals. Poor donkeys are already being abused by our people by having them drag heavy weights, not to mention the food and shelter situation. Why would anyone want to race them anyways. I feel bad for the donkeys, but innocent humans are being killed in Lyari and like someone else said, if you are basing your livelihood on a race than you have bigger issues. If donkey cart racing is so desired, it should only be done by people who are making a comfortable living and are able to indulge themselves in these trivial events. I must be sounding insensitive here but I feel this part of the story should be highlighted too.


  • Yusuf
    May 9, 2012 - 11:17PM

    Betting on donkey racing is ok? And not ok on horse racing? Something not quite right here. I agree with Saad K. Its cruel to the donkey, and should be banned! So many issues all twisted up together here.


  • vigilant
    May 10, 2012 - 12:47PM

    Sad :(Recommend

  • May 10, 2012 - 10:23PM

    I feel sorry for the donkey!


  • Irfan
    May 10, 2012 - 10:55PM

    So much hate for poor in these comments, such insensitive attitude towards a population, prejudice, discrimination. U can go to your gymkhanas, ur clubs, u can play ur master’s game of cricket but these poor folks cannot indulge themselves in any activity cause they r poor. Recommend

  • May 11, 2012 - 2:47AM

    sad story… but donkey are very expensive


  • Visibly Invisible
    May 11, 2012 - 9:47AM

    He has a right to have as many children as he wants, you have no business in his bedroom. I understand the importance of family planning but I don’t judge those who don’t agree with me. Little tolerance goes a long way.


  • Coco
    May 11, 2012 - 9:50AM

    @Ali: Your attitude is exactly the reason why I think that Pakistan is not going to ever become a better place. Very ignorant and tragic


  • smj
    May 14, 2012 - 7:21PM

    @Ali: people born with silver spoon in their mouth should know that the kids are the only “investments” of poor men. A bigger family means more bread earners in family.


More in Pakistan