Hundreds of people from Lyari held one of the first protests outside the US consulate ever since it moved from Abdullah Haroon Road to Mai Kolachi. The rally was organised to express their disappointment over the US allegation that Pakistan was backing the Haqqani network.
“I belong to Lyari and I am here to show my solidarity with our country’s army,” declared one of the participants, Shahbaz, while talking to The Express Tribune. “America should respect Pakistan as an ally in the war against terrorism and should not blame Pakistan for its defeat in Afghanistan. The US should keep Pakistan as its ally or fight its war on its own.”
The rally emerged from the football ground in Chakiwara and passed Native Jetty Bridge before reaching the consulate, which is a newly built compound on a heavily guarded strip. Women, children, the elderly and young stood on the roofs of their vehicles, banners aloft and shouted slogans against the US and for the Pakistan army. Some of them danced to national songs.
“We are here to present a memorandum to the US consulate,” said Uzair Baloch, who led the rally. He is the head of the now defunct Peoples Amn Committee that was allied with the Pakistan Peoples Party. “Today people from every race, ethnicity and nation are here with me. These people are not only Baloch, they are the people of Lyari belonging to all communities.”
“Pakistan was a partner of America in the war against terrorism and during the last ten years, Pakistan lost 35,000 of its civilians, more than 6,000 security personnel were martyred and the economic loss came to over Rs60 billion,” said Baloch. “And now they are saying that Pakistan is not a loyal ally?”
Baloch went on to condemn the US allegations against Pakistan, its army and spy agency, the ISI. “Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism should not be seen with suspicion. We are here to give that message.”
He argued that the US should reconsider its policies because it was losing allies because of them. “The people of Pakistan and the United States want to be close but people like Mike Mullen, whose policies have failed in Afghanistan, are blaming Pakistan for their own failures,” said Uzair Baloch.
According to the former Amn Committee’s Zafar Baloch, Tuesday’s protest was a “show of support” for the ISI, armed forces and the government that Lyari’s residents feel are being unfairly singled out in the foreign press and by the US as allegedly supporting terrorism.
“Balochistan has separatists, Sindh has target killers, Punjab has dengue, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has terrorism. They may think that these things are hurting us but the entire country is united and we wanted to express our support for the military, ISI, President Zardari and the government.”
Baloch said the world - specifically the US - should recognise Pakistan’s sacrifices. “It’s like the propaganda about Lyari - people will believe anything. No one has suffered more or understands this more than us. Like the media trial of Lyari, there’s now a media trial of Pakistan with all these allegations!”
The defunct Peoples Amn Committee’s protests have mostly been centred on city-specific issues, be it in support of former Sindh minister Zulfiqar Mirza or against MNA Nabeel Gabol or the law enforcement agencies. The group’s major rival is the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and while the two rarely agree on issues, both groups have expressed their support to the government and believe it should take a strong stance.
When asked about PAC’s apparent shift to national issues, Baloch said that had there not been a major incident they would not have felt the need to protest. He said there was no communication from the PPP on protesting and that the government was dealing with the issue best by bringing all parties and parliament on board.
The rally lasted about an hour. It was not the only one in the city.
Members of the provincial Youth Assembly and Pakistan Association for Young Leaders Development and Training held their protest in front of the Karachi Press Club for the same reason.
Abdullah Jamal, a member of the youth assembly, told The Express Tribune that they condemned the statements the US had made against Pakistan. He used much the same argument: “Pakistan has helped the United States in the war against terrorism for 11 years and now it is blaming Pakistan for the war?”
A charged Muhammad Anas Rehman of the youth assembly went into historical detail by saying that it was “crystal clear” that the US had won the war against the Soviet Union because of Pakistan’s help. “But now we are fighting a war in our own country because of the US.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2011.