There is something that Lyari residents and its gangsters have in common - piercing walls to find their way. The residents broke their walls to escape the violence and the gangsters dug holes to penetrate into Kutchi neighbourhoods.
The gangsters started entering these areas from a white building that was adjacent to the neighbourhood in which they had support. They dug holes in the walls to let themselves in, and one-by-one took control of the houses. A resident showed how some houses had locks on their front doors but there were tunnels passing through them. Several people who returned on Tuesday were afraid to go inside their homes, fearing they might find gangsters inside.
For the residents, digging holes in the walls was also the only option to escape. There was a hail of bullets at her house. That’s when Khadija Bibi left her tea simmering on the stove, grabbed a hammer and started helping her husband dig a hole in a wall. Since the houses are connected wall-to-wall, they pierced a passage into their neighbour’s house and eventually dug their way out of the neighbourhood.
On Tuesday, four days after they abandoned their house for Thatta, Khadija returned to find the once pink-coloured walls of her house bullet-riddled. “Look at the houses in this area,” she pointed out. “Doesn’t Lyari look like a battlefield?” The white-haired woman cried as she glanced around the neighbourhood, which is now home to empty buildings and eerie silence.
In the past week, members of the Kutchi community come under a barrage of bullets and rocket launchers by gang war criminals. To escape the attacks, the residents of Mandra Mohalla did what people in Qasba Colony did two years ago - build tunnels in their houses.
“They were attacking us from the front,” said a young man, who wished not to be named. “Who likes to destroy his own house but we had no other choice than to drill holes into our walls and run away.” This young man is living with his in-laws at the moment in the peaceful side of Lyari and is worried about protecting his family, even though he is a security guard by profession. “I haven’t been able to go to work for so many days,” he said. “I fear I will be killed if I step out of my area. But then for how long will I be living on the support of my relatives. How will I feed my family? How will I rebuild my house which is in shambles?”
Walking around the narrow lanes with gutters flowing and garbage strewn all over, Marium recalled how four armed gangsters had forcibly occupied the house in front of her own at five in the morning last week. “It took five hours for me and my sons to make a passage to my neighbours as we had no tools.”
For Marium, those moments were perhaps the most terrifying in her life, listening to her grandchildren crying, and then to the gunfire echoing in the area. “Every other minute I thought a bullet would come and pierce through me but I just kept praying and tearing down the wall.”
On Tuesday, as things seemingly settled down for a while, the residents started returning in broad daylight to see the damages since power supply was still out. Khadija screamed when she saw that the Rs25,000 she had saved for her granddaughter’s wedding was now gone. Others complained of missing jewellery and other possessions.
The return of the residents also marked the return of the crackle of gunfire, the sounds of the rocket launcher, and the gangsters forming pickets all over. The residents were forced to rush out again. As traditional supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party in its stronghold, Kutchi Rabita Committee’s Hussain Kutchi felt they were treated unfairly. “Around 5,000 people have migrated,” he pointed out. “Our men are being picked up and their tortured bodies are found. Where is the government?”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2013.