KARACHI: Speakers discussed the past and present of Lyari, from being cradle of the mainstream politics to turning into a crime-infested gangland at the launch of a semi-autobiographical book written by veteran journalist Latif Baloch.
Book Lyari ka muqadma sparked a thought-provoking debate on the issue of Balochistan on the larger scope in which many speakers said the persistent insurgency and fragile security situation in the country’s largest province by size had nuanced, if not visible, connection with the law and order problem in Lyari, still infamously called as ‘Columbia of Karachi’.
“These was a well-designed plot to strip Lyari of its past traditions in which it welcomed and promoted the Left-oriented politics and cherished liberal values,” said Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, former chief minister of Balochistan, in his speech as the chief guest at the programme held at the Karachi Press Club.
He said Lyari was the first area that promoted Baloch literature and culture. The reason behind the city’s old neighbourhood’s political awareness is that the National Awami Party, a predominantly Left-origin political group, launched itself from Lyari.
“The Baloch Students Organisation was established there while Lyari was the ultimate bastion for all democratic and Left-oriented parties,” added Dr Baloch.
He said the history of the Left should be written in a proper fashion as much was buried under the rubble of history. He eulogised Mr Baloch’s contribution as a political activist and journalist.
Dr Akhtar Baloch, vice chancellor of the Benazir Bhutto Shaheed University, Lyari, said Lyari had great contribution in the country’s economy, politics, history, and sports. He said politics in Lyari was divided among those who linked it with Balochistan and the ones who did not, with the latter linking it with mainstream politics.
He said the Communist Party of Pakistan was the foremost political force that manifested itself on a rather apolitical scene in Lyari after the partition in 1947. Similarly, there were visible effects of Balochistan, but the personalities, not the parties themselves, affected the neighbourhood more.
“Lyari was affected when the CPP bifurcated, and again when the ones linking their politics with Balochistan got divided.”
He said Lyari’s key asset was its political awareness that was destroyed by the creation of criminal gangs and mafias.
Dr Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a political commentator, said the book was hugely important for political and social activists. He said the author was a political worker much before he had joined journalism.
“Latif was first arrested when he was just 19 during Gen Ayub Khan’s regime.”
He said the author had described Lyari’s contribution in political and social scene and gave interesting account regarding his history that included the etymology of its name.
Dr Khan asked why the NAP got weakened in Lyari and gifted it to the Pakistan Peoples Party in a platter despite being so strong until 1971 elections. “Why the leaders like Lala Lal Bux Rind are not on the memory of the people of Lyari despite their notable contribution in creating political awareness.”
Politician Yousuf Mustikhan said Lyari pioneered many positive traditions, which were later replicated elsewhere. One of them was the launch of evening schools in streets in which hundreds of less privileged children were taught. He said the neighbourhood was punished due to its awareness on wider issues, as the children were given Kalashnikovs instead of books. A united effort was required to bring Lyari back to schools, he said.
Dr Jabbar Khattak, the owner of Daily Awami Awaz, said Lyari was the mother of Karachi and politically linked to the rest of Sindh.
He said its democratic posture led the establishment to infest it with gangs.
Latif Baloch, the author, said the writers of Balochistan did not recognise the contributions of the Baloch activists from Lyari. This prompted him to write books to inform readers about it, he said.
He said Balochistan was a political problem and should be solved through dialogue. He said the ‘directors of the project’ wanted to turn Baloch living along the coastline into a minority according to a well-written script. He said today’s Lyari, unfortunately, was not that of Bizenjo’s, Bhutto’s and Haji Abdullah Haroon’s, its culture had depreciated because of gangsters. He said he would also write a book on the gang warfare in the neighbourhood.
Akhtar Hussain Balouch, who moderated the proceedings, said the book encompassed various aspects of Lyari that had largely remained untouched so far.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2016