KARACHI: Only hours after an anti-terrorism court declared him a proclaimed offender facing Arshad Pappu’s murder trial, Lyari’s Uzair Jan Baloch opened his arms wide for the journalists he invited to his house for iftar.
On Tuesday, nearly 500 journalists, from both print and electronic media, made their way to Lyari to break their fast with the chief of Karachi City Alliance - previously known as the defunct Peoples Amn Committee (PAC).
The recent spate of violence in Lyari had painted a negative picture of Uzair Baloch and his alleged support for the Lyari gangsters. The media also criticised the massive displacement of the Kutchis, who were up against the PAC.
Perhaps to overcome these grudges, Uzair invited journalists, who seemed more than eager to patch up. As they eagerly lined up to sit next to Uzair, a large number of them tried their best to hug PAC leader Zafar Baloch as well.
“It is time to make new relations,” whispered a journalist. “Everyone here came to convince that they reported harshly under compulsion or because their desk ordered so.”
The absence of VIPs or any political leader was noticeable. There were speculations that chief minister Qaim Ali Shah would attend the iftar, but he was a no-show. “He made a mistake once when he visited Lyari right after his oath-taking ceremony,” commented a senior reporter. “I don’t think he will repeat that.”
Compared to the iftars arranged by Sindh ministers, Uzair’s event was simpler. The seats were placed in an open space and there was a small stage where Uzair had his iftar with some senior journalists. The ones who managed to secure seats next to him grinned as the remaining journalists adjusted on the chairs.
After the food, several journalists crowded around Uzair, requesting pictures with him - the individual photo shoot lasted over 20 minutes. “They want to make their presence felt before Uzair and Zafar,” a journalist noted. “No, they want to prove they didn’t report against them,” another replied. “I think the PAC men know very well who favoured them and who reported against them,” another interrupted. “You’ll see all these photos on Facebook within the next couple of hours.”
Avoiding direct questions
Most reporters avoided asking harsh questions on the Lyari situation. A senior reporter, on behalf of all the journalists, instead paid thanks to Uzair and Zafar for inviting them.
“Lyari was famous for its sports but now it is famous for its negative image,” said Zafar Baloch. “The media should also highlight positive things in Lyari, such as the education and health facilities.” Zafar appeared upset with media reports on Lyari violence and requested the journalists to avoid being biased.
“It is a conspiracy against the people of Lyari,” said Uzair. “We are peaceful people and want to disseminate the message of peace and love.”
On the massive displacement of Kutchis in the past few weeks, Uzair called it all a “drama”. “It is the same sort of drama that was held in 1992.
The Kutchi people are being used,” he insisted. According to Uzair, there were no clashes between the Baloch and Kutchis as they have been interlinked for years. “The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is dividing us,” he claimed. “The Kutchi Rabita Committee is being supported by the MQM and the conflict is just in one union council, Agra Taj.”
For Uzair, the ongoing conflict was just a means to occupy Lyari. “If Lyari is occupied, it means Keamari and Saddar towns are also occupied.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2013.