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.