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‘The daughter of Lyari’


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From giving long speeches to an imaginary audience in front of the only mirror in her home, 26-year-old Saniya Naz has come a long way. Born and raised in Lyari, Naz is the first female to contest elections on a PPP ticket for a general seat (PS-109) in the area.

Keeping in mind the culture of dynastic politics in Pakistan, Naz says, many people assumed she was the daughter of deceased Rafiq Engineer to be contesting from his seat.

Laughing it off, she says: “I told them I’m the daughter of Lyari.”

Naz’s nomination is reflective of the way Lyari has changed politically over the years. Earlier, party candidates were handpicked by the PPP top cadre, but with the recent reshuffle of seats in the area, it is evident that the outlawed People’s Amn Committee had a strong say in the selection of candidates.

After the death of Rafiq Engineer and departure of Nabeel Gabol from the area, candidates were immediately chosen for five seats in Lyari.

Javed Nagori (PS-108), Adnan Baloch (PS-111), Yusuf Naz (PS-110), Shahjahan Baloch (NA-248), and even Saniya Naz (PS-109) were handpicked by the PAC leader, Uzair Baloch, with the ‘consent’ of the PPP leadership, a senior official in the party informed Dawn.

According to senior activists in the area, the consent of the party came as a way of making up for the ill-timed operation in Lyari last year that saw the turning of public opinion against the PPP and rising support for PAC’s Baloch in the low-income neighbourhood. Even with speculation about his possible nomination, Baloch and his group of men steered clear of the upcoming elections and instead vowed to work “from the sidelines,” for the people of Lyari, according to PAC spokesperson Zafar Baloch.

There were many senior workers vying for PS-109. Naz, the youngest in the group, was selected to represent the party in the area over many other hopefuls, a fact which she clearly recognises — and thanks PAC’s Baloch for. “I’m mature enough to understand the fact that if it were not for him, I wouldn’t have got this opportunity,” Naz says. “Uzair bhai strongly supported me, overlooking my background.”

Naz’s nomination is nonetheless special, as she belongs to the working class cadre of the PPP. Her parents have no political affiliation whatsoever.

Born and raised in a two-room home near Aath Chowk, Naz saw her father running a canteen at the Karachi Port Trust during the day and making carrom boards by night to make ends meet. Despite the financial problems, her father, Mohammad Atta wanted his six daughters and a son to get a good education. “He used to force all of us to study, arguing that he’ll provide for us until we establish ourselves,” Naz recalls.

However, Naz was the only one amongst her siblings who went ahead and got an education. Being a “go-getter,” as her late father used to refer to her, Naz did her schooling from Lyari’s Mir Ayub Khan Secondary School and her intermediate from Karachi College opposite the Civil Hospital Karachi.

With Atta’s death three years back, the family went through tough times with Naz being the only one with a proper job. “But the problem was I was more engaged in voluntary work which never earned me enough. We managed anyway,” she says, smiling.

Since the age of eight, Naz has been working as a volunteer in Lyari and never held back when someone needed help. “I used to teach students my age before my shift at a street school. This was something which my father pushed me to do,” she explains. At the age of 18, she joined the Orangi Pilot Project and worked with the late Parween Rahman to financially empower the women in Lyari. She later joined the Lyari Resource Centre to work for the education of underprivileged children in the area.

But Naz is not just a volunteer. A multi-talented person, she played a lead role in Beebar-o-Granaz, a telefilm based on Balochi folklore that was aired on Vash TV. She later worked with Sheema Kermani’s troupe as a performer. When asked about that, she laughs heartily and admits with a twinkle in her eye that “it was just to try something new”.

When it comes to politics, Naz says her biggest inspiration has been Benazir Bhutto. She recalls that her early memories of Benazir were the excitement of looking at her convoy passing by. Naz never met her, but used to emulate her like every other girl in Lyari.

“I was eight then, and used to stand in front of a mirror and address an invisible audience, on what I’ll do once elected,” Naz says.

At present, addressing a real audience makes her at once excited and jittery. As she confesses: “I can’t sleep at night, because I feel responsible for the people in Lyari. I don’t want to disappoint them.”

Getting into politics completes a circle for her family. Her grandfather, Ali Mohammad, tried his luck during the 1950s but was “cheated”. Since then, nobody in their family showed ambition for politics. Naz, however, has already made a list of things she would do once elected.

Apart from education, which is her top priority, she adds: “Lack of communication is something people complain about a lot. So there’ll be lots of communication. Secondly, the development work will be done in accordance with people’s needs. Third and most important thing is to restore the image of Lyari.”

Lack of communication was the main reason that created a rift between the PAC and former elected representatives Nabeel Gabol and the late Rafiq Engineer who were barred from entering the area, bringing the conflict out in the open. For this reason alone, Naz says she wants to stay in the area and be accessible to the people of Lyari.

Speaking about the emerging political dynamics of the area, Naz said: “The politics in Lyari is changing…it is no more about you know someone who knows someone powerful but about who works the most for the area.”

With the PAC holding the reigns of Lyari ahead of elections, Naz feels that “one cannot make a fool out of Lyariites anymore”.

Comments (21) Closed

Sohail Pirzada Apr 19, 2013 01:38pm
Certainly proud of you Saniya Naz! I pray and and have faith that you will win.
saqib Apr 19, 2013 08:22am
people change after they win and we have experienced it all.
Mohammed Baluch Apr 19, 2013 07:59am
Future of the country lies with people like Saniya - young, dynamic and one who works for her constituency with a smile on her face!
Stranger Apr 19, 2013 02:07pm
The girl has balls I say.
muzlee Apr 19, 2013 10:20am
good luck saniya.... this is better move by PPP.
Ahmed Apr 19, 2013 10:21am
We shall pray for Saniya Naz to become successful and achieve her bright goals for Lyariites. We also see what Uzair will do when PPP candidates will be successful. It is not possible to develop Lyari because of the fact most of the people are very poor who can not give education to their children who become drug addicts and robbers due to no employment. Although not hopeful for any improvement but let us see during the next five years as PPP has already wasted 5-years in power, when it did not deliver any logical relief to poor people instead further weaken per capita income of lower class.
logic Europe Apr 19, 2013 10:36am
A sure win for PPP
Bilal Apr 19, 2013 10:46am
Good on you Saniya, change the future of Lyari. Wish you best of luck.....
SHH Apr 19, 2013 11:29am
I am not a PPP voter but if my vote was in Lyari I would have voted for her.
Yawar Apr 19, 2013 11:30am
She looks every bit a leader. Her eyes show it. I hope she wins and gets to serve Lyari, Karachi and Sind.
KG Apr 19, 2013 12:38pm
Yes, but do you have a better idea ?
Ali Apr 19, 2013 03:11pm
This is what Imran Khan and PTI have done....other parties feeling pressure to emulate or disintegrate....jeeay Khan....Imran Khan......Isaf ka daur ab aa gaya hai....PTI ka jadu chha gaya hai :)....from a pure Nazmabadi Karachiite!!!
havi Apr 19, 2013 04:29pm
I appreciate new and young face but not the label of PPP.
WALEED FAKHAR Apr 19, 2013 06:51pm
She has done a lot as an individual but her affiliation will lead her to nowhere as her boss is Uzair jan, who is notorious for his illegal and nefarious activities in the area. Best of Luck Saniya!
Khalid Apr 19, 2013 08:54pm
Best of luck
shahid Hussain Apr 19, 2013 10:49pm
my political orentiation is on the right (IJT) but, Naz's story made me cry, and I hope she will win this election and serve her town
MOHAMMAD Apr 20, 2013 02:08am
sajjad Apr 20, 2013 03:38am
Great Saniya naaz baloch! People like you are truly the image of Pakistan and not those who play bad politics. God bless you Sister! I want to see the origins of this area non corrupt and educated leading at the front. Thank you for being the part. Good work PPP.
Mushtaq Apr 20, 2013 05:28am
What a pity she's running on a PPP ticket - a total waste of her potential in a party that only knows corruption. Now if was to join PTI - wow! then she'd really make a difference!
Gulshan Apr 20, 2013 06:12am
Win the wishes to you Saniya!
thecardinals Apr 20, 2013 07:33am
I'm a Baloch, live in Liyari and am a teacher. Although I find genuine will in this lady to bring about a change in the area, I doubt she will be able to do anything as her supreme commander is Uzair Baloch, the gangster who thrives by looting other Balochs of the area. I am saying this not because I have heard it from someone else; I have times and again seen his men looting the slightly well-off Balochs in various planned fashions. I believe that as long as the Balochs of Liyari are under such ignorant, pathetic, gun-powered leaders, they should only pray that their home is not the next one raided by this 'Bhai's' men. Development, education, justice, security etc. should remain concepts unfamiliar to them... I really feel sorry for my people in Liyari, and for the Pakistani nation at large!!!