HYDERABAD: Several reasons ranging from involvement of a third force to meddling of a certain political party were ascribed to the ongoing spell of violence in Lyari at a consultative meeting, titled ‘Lyari: Crisis, Understanding and the Way Forward’.
The event was organised by the Women Action Forum.
Although the violence has been attributed to turf war between the Baloch and the Kutchi communities, speakers took exception to this misleading projection in the national media. “The Kutchis and the Baloch share a common culture and have lived with affinity for decades,” said Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Saniya Naz. “A group patronised by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was behind the violence.”
Naz maintained that the Kutchi Rabita Committee was avoiding their overtures to kick start direct talks between the two sides and went as far as to say that she would have no qualms in going to Nine Zero if that would bring peace to the area.
Naz rubbished the claims that Baloch demanded extortion from Kutchis as most of them belonged to the working class. “Kutchi community is generally poor and their women usually work as domestic workers so it is out of question that they are harassed.”
She also unequivocally rejected the reports that thousands of Kutchis have been forced to relocate from Lyari and accused the MQM for playing up the whole situation. “If you check the CNICs of those living in camps set up by the MQM in Badin, you will find very few Lyari residents.”
Ishaq Kutchi, a representative of his community, disputed Naz’ claims that they were under the influence of any political party. “The Baloch should expose those orchestrating violence in Lyari.”
Habib Hussain, a member of the government-backed peace committee, said that Lyari’s significance needs to be understood in the context of its proximity to the port but did not elaborate further. He said that criminal elements are aggravating the situation and the Urdu media is not reporting objectively as it is under the influence of MQM.
Amar Sindhu, writer, feminist, and a philosophy professor at the Sindh University, shared accounts of her interaction with people living in camps in Badin and Thatta. “The Kutchis blame Baba Ladla for the violence and not the entire Baloch community,” she said. “They said that masked men used to harass them by distributing pamphlets asking them to leave their homes.”
Sindhu said that these people want to return to their homes, currently under illegal occupation.
Prof Arfana Malla reiterated the stance that a third force was inciting violence. “They failed to crush them as both Baloch and the Kutchis remained politically united but now they are using the time tested divide and rule formula.”
She, too, said that she failed to find any reservations in both the communities against each other on her several visits to Lyari unlike what is reported in the media.
The conference passed several resolutions declaring that both Baloch and Kutchis want peace and will not let the third force bent upon creating disharmony succeed. The participants also condemned describing the situation as a ethnic conflict and criticised the provincial government for failing to maintain its writ. Furthermore, they also demanded immediate rehabilitation of the displaced people and compensation for their losses. A committee comprising civil society members was constituted to allay the concerns of both communities.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.