KARACHI: “Will I ever return home?” asks Fatima Bhai, just moments before she bursts into tears. “Why are they fighting and killing innocent people? We are poor people – just check our houses. How is any of this our fault?”
To Fatima, Rahimabad in Lyari – a place she had to flee early Thursday morning, just two hours before the first sehri – is home. She hardly remembers her arrival into the city from Kutch Bhuj in India at the time of partition. Lyari is the only world she has known.
And yet, despite all this, she became one of approximately 1,500 people who packed their belongings and left for Badin and Thatta the previous day.
Today, dozens of streets are empty.
After sunset, a tangible fear can be felt in the air – fear of gangsters, of unprovoked, unpredictable violence, of lack of effective law enforcement agencies.
Although displacement of Lyari residents actually started on July 4, hundreds of families left the area last Friday when the situation became more critical. Pickets were not established, and rumours circulated that gangsters were kidnapping individuals from different parts of the area.
So far, major displacement has been reported from I-Road, Market Road, Kutchi Society, Al Fallah Road, Mandra Mohalla, Rahimanabad, Haji Hussain Bachal Road, Hingora Mohalla and other adjacent streets to rural areas, including Thatta, Badin, Umerkot and Tando Muhammad Khan.
Those who moved earlier reportedly got place at their relatives’ homes adjacent to Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai Road, but those who moved later have had to take shelter at jamaat khanas.
The lost people
It seems that the ill-fated residents of Lyari have simply left one type of misery for another. Displacement seems to have made their lives even more problematic than the gun battle they endured for a week, or the terrifying, pin-drop silence that reigned after the ‘patch up’ between the two sparring groups in Lyari.
Many families left their homes hurriedly, without money and necessary luggage. Thousands are staying in different areas of the city, or outside Karachi, in serious conditions. Children and women are among those facing mental and physical trauma.
“My relative, who is living in Badin, has informed us that they are in a miserable condition,” says Saleh Muhammad. “Yes, they do have the semblance of peace – there is no firing. However, fear prevails in the area, and the night time is especially dangerous.”
Praying for peace
“The government has failed to provide us with even drinking water. We are living under the open sky and our children are hungry,” says Muhammad Yousuf, a Mandra Mohalla resident now living at the Shah Gurio shrine near Badin. “There is nothing for us. We cannot stay here anymore. It seems that ultimately we will have to go back and face bullets.”
Saleem Kutchi, another displaced person, agrees with Yousuf.
“We just brought bottles of water and biscuits for our children and hoped the government would provide us with something. Are we refugees?” he asks, his voice raised. “We are staying at the shrine during this holy month. We will continue to pray for peace in Karachi.”
According to Kutchi, scores of residents from his area are planning to assemble at the shrine in the coming days.
“The cries of our children and tears of our sisters and mothers will bring the peace,” exclaims Kalsoom Bano, also displaced. “Our rulers are blind – they cannot see our condition. They are also deaf and dumb – they cannot hear the cries of these minors.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2013.
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