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Sardar Uzair Jan Baloch visiting the area while the KESC workers are seen repairing the electricity lines as the life is getting back to normalcy after the Lyari Operation. - File Photo by Online

KARACHI: The growing presence of People’s Aman Committee leader Uzair Baloch in Lyari has made most political activists disappointed with the Pakistan People’s Party.

What started off as a committee to initiate peace between warring factions in Lyari has almost taken over the local politics in the area, forcing many old activists to stay in the background.

If wall chalking and graffiti in the neighborhood is anything to go by, with huge posters in every nook and cranny, Uzair Baloch seems to be the face of Lyari. While elected leaders such as Nabeel Gabol and Rafiq Engineer are not allowed to enter the area, those who actively canvassed for the party in the past think the days of political activism are over in the area. And for good.

The old cadre of the PPP’s working class are either no more, or bedridden, or surrounded by personal tragedies to continue with the activism which was synonymous with the party.

An old PPP activist and writer, Ramzan Baloch, points out that Lyari hosted many party meetings when the PPP was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1967. The slogan ‘roti, kapra aur makaan’ attracted the working class to the party. “That was a golden period for political activism,” says Ramzan. “It was okay to disagree with someone, as there was no threat to one’s life.”

The PPP emerged at a time when the National Awami Party already had a stronghold in Lyari. Founded by Abdul Wali Khan, NAP was a mix of progressive and leftist groups, followed mostly by students and nationalists. However, 10 years after NAP’s formation, the party split into two factions as differences grew between party president Maulana Bhashani and Wali Khan. Two groups then emerged, a pro-China Bhashani faction and a pro-Soviet Wali Khan faction, providing ample opportunity for the PPP to establish itself.

In subsequent months after the PPP’s foray into Lyari, a number of heavyweight political activists, including Yusuf Naskandi, Laal Bukhsh Rind, Akbar Barakzai, Raheem Baloch, Shamshad Baloch and Qadir Mutahir, came to the fore. Ramzan adds that these people were not only political activists, but also served as mentors for hundreds of students who used to visit Lyari from far and wide just to hear them talk.

Among the activists, Barakzai is the only one alive and eking out a living abroad.

Those who are still in Lyari and were brave enough to speak up in the past are either too scared to talk now, or are completely disillusioned with the political landscape in the locality.

Ramzan says the fear is justified. “Who would speak up when we know the party publicly backed such elements in the past? It makes a political worker’s standing quite an awkward one.”What brought the PAC to the limelight was the public backing by former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Ali Mirza at a press conference in March 2011. Though the group was eventually banned, it is still very much active, not only in Lyari, but other Baloch-dominated areas also.

Another old time activist, Aziz Baloch, thinks the operation in Lyari in May last year and the PAC’s open resistance to it increased its credibility in the public eye, who thought that they had someone to rely on.

“Keeping in mind the vacuum left by the PPP cadre, locally, it is no surprise that the PAC has come to represent the Lyariites. If given a chance, the people will blindly elect Uzair Baloch if he chooses to get into politics,” he explains.

That is one of the reasons, he points out, that “two months before elections, the area is adorned with posters of the PAC leader rather than that of the PPP leaders.”

Speaking about the recent tit-for-tat killings witnessed in Kharadar, Aziz says the present circumstances should not come as a surprise. He adds that he does not condone the ‘gun-culture’ but says it gradually infiltrated the area and cannot be looked at in isolation.

“The gun culture increased almost at the same time job opportunities started decreasing for youngsters. Guns were used before as well, but not to change opinions. Similarly, it affected the political ideology of the PPP, replacing it with violence. Which, in turn, is a result of sycophants surrounding leaders rather than outspoken activists,” he argues.

After being disbanded, at least in theory, the activists believe that the PAC is at present covertly being used as a tool by the party against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which is looking for a back door to get into the PPP’s vote bank.

But in spite of the acceptance that they are no longer valued, some PPP jiyalas appear to have not lost their loyalty.

One of the activists who took the mantle of introducing the party in the neighbourhood, a former president of the Pakistan International Airlines football league and PPP loyalist, Abbas Baloch, 70, and his wife Zakiya Abbas, 60, say they will vote for anyone from the party.

Sitting on a bed, in his Saifi Lane home in Baghdadi, Abbas cannot speak properly now. Due to a paralytic attack in 2006, he is confined to his home, being looked after by his youngest son, Usman Abbas.

With the death of two of their sons within a year, his wife Zakiya, a strongly built woman in her youth, looks frail and anxious. Before talking to this reporter, she was busy with the funeral of her nephew, whose body was found stuffed in a gunny bag in a ditch in Mauripur.

Showing pictures of the time she was the PPP secretary of district south in 1974, Zakiya says back then a PPP worker was worth something.

“Nobody cares about us now,” she says, referring to the party’s top cadre. “If they did, Lyari would have been completely different, politically at least.”

Going through the pictures, Zakiya reminisces about a party meeting in Lyari with Benazir Bhutto in 1988. Zakiya was trying to ask something but was interrupted by others in the group. “BB saw that and asked me to speak up. At present, we are shouting for attention –– but nobody is willing to listen.”

However, in a slurred speech, Abbas agrees that political activism “is not easy in today’s Lyari”. He adds: “But that is true of any other area in Karachi. I’m the product of the party. And I will support them no matter what.”

Other old die-hard loyalists, meanwhile, are not willing to provide this blind support.

Ramzan Baloch says there is nothing political about activism in Lyari any longer. “It is more violent, as people just don’t have a say anymore. And that’s because our votes are not based on manifestos, but rather on personalities.”

Agreeing Ramzan, Aziz says that if manifestos were a priority, the PPP would not have been elected so many times from Lyari.

The PPP general secretary in Sindh, Taj Haider, denies the party having any link with the PAC and says mistakes were made in the past. “Among those mistakes, the operation in Lyari was the final one causing a lot of damage. But the PPP’s vote bank remains intact.”

Speaking about the PAC, he says that in the past, too, the party faced a similar problem when criminal elements, supposed to be on the sidelines, tried to get into the mainstream politics.

”They were not tackled properly and that’s why most old stalwarts remain disappointed. But the fact is militancy and politics cannot go together,” he adds. A similar situation is returning, Mr Haider says, adding: “This group was patronised by a former minister. If they (PAC) claim to be social workers, they should stick to it. You don’t enter an assembly holding a gun.”

About the anger and disappointment of party activists, Mr Haider says: “There is an ideological divide in Sindh at the moment, which is also influencing Lyari.”

Political situation cannot be the same as in the 1970s, says Mr Haider, adding: “But we are identifying our mistakes. Because the sooner you do, the better off you are.”

In the midst of the disillusionment, however, a tiny seed of hope remains – Ramzan says the future is not dark, it is just cloudy: “There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, which we don’t see yet.”

Comments (25) Closed

Observer Mar 12, 2013 02:58am
They are all butchers, killers of innocent people
LOL Mar 12, 2013 03:33am
And Zardari is running the country? Is there much left of Pakistan to destroy? The Great Khan will put back the pieces and bring back peace and justice for all. Including the audit accounting for the Bribe Fort of Lahore given to Zardari, for what? A gift given to President belongs to the people. Read the Constitution of Pakistan and the know the depth of this crime.
anony Mar 11, 2013 05:51am
The light at the end of the tunnel is 'Imran Khan'.
rich Mar 11, 2013 10:27am
imran will destroy pakistn a saying goes, an enemy is better then a foolish friend imran will not know how to run a country, and he is arrogant so will not listen to others as he did when he was the captian of cricket team, then it was ok bec he know cricket but ruling a country is different
Yawar Mar 11, 2013 02:59pm
Widespread possession of weapons, a weak police force, and general elections do not mix. Especially in hotbeds like Lyari. Over the next several months, may Allah have mercy on the residents of Lyari and other similar areas under the control of armed warlords and banned organizations.
Nasir Mar 11, 2013 02:55pm
The best way in Liyari to come into mainstream politics is to hold party elections and demilitarizing among the former criminals who turned politicians. Just like MQM's leadership they were former criminals including current Governer Ishrat-ul-Ibad Khan, Marhoom Imran Farooq, Farooq Sattar and many others. If they can be brought up and demilitarize why cannot Liyari criminals can get a fair share? I think everyone should get equal and justifiable second chance to ensure Liyar is not a slum rather a flourishing and given time, perhaps, the posh neighborhood.
ad. Mar 12, 2013 04:09pm
well done Uzair Baloch as we need more options
SHAYAN Mar 11, 2013 09:58am
only Mr. IK all other politicans pack your bags, your time is up NOW
wasim muhammad Mar 11, 2013 11:41pm
Thank u Mr. Ramzan u have highlighted oldgaurd, I was friend of Late Shamsad, u forget two names, Ahmed Ali Soomro and Imdad Husain Shah, both elected MPAs, but ZAB has illegally appointed labour minister Sattar Gaboal MAN ( uncle of Nabil Gabol) when hard time came to ZAB, Sattar runaway and collobrated with Gen. Zia, (Imdad keep quite) only Ahmed Ali Soomro, fight back to MLA and went to jail, no body help ZAB and he has been hanged. BB tenure came Nabeel emerged, he has been kicked out from Lyari, since 2008 before he cheated poor people since two or three times, Nabil did not delivered anything to Lyari, he eat in Lyari and give gold to Defence society, he did not know abt lyari, I was pooling Agent for Sattar and Ahmed ali soomaro, I am presently in UK, and watching Pakistan, Sattar Gabool and Nabeel Gabool total incompetent and undelivered. Mr. Ramzan u have given lot of history and u forget to high light corruption of Gabool families. God save Layari further problem.
talaljan Mar 11, 2013 02:06pm
for countering the mqm a new powerfull group is emerging in shap of Apc
Thinkingcreature Mar 12, 2013 05:59am
I have no affiliation with any political party at all, but having said that, your comment shocked me to the core. Is there any thing left to be destroyed in Pakistan??? Imran khan might be a fool -because he is honest man- and as you said he is arrogant because he stressed on merit. You are right ruling a country is different then Cricket or managing the state of art charitable hospital and university. In other words, only running a cinema or steel factory can provide valuable knowledge to run a country? If so, I assume you believe ZARDARI or NAWAZ are the saviours of nation? and they will serve nation as a visionary leaders? Honestly dude! I have a real concern for your mental health. Get well soon.
saj Mar 11, 2013 08:29pm
good point zardari whose family ran a cinema proves the point so someone like bilawal who has hardly been in the country and has only just learnt the language is a complete no hope
IBN-E-ASHFAQUE Mar 11, 2013 10:46am
Imran Khan at least has done elections in his own party. That is promising.
Krishna Mar 12, 2013 05:49am
The same phenomenon of Lyari with Uzair baloch, we find in Hyderabad - old city, India.. which is has become like a stronghold of Majlis ittehadul muslimeen, Asaduddine Owasi.. This fellow doesn't beleive in the constitution of India though he is an elected MP.. He goes on giving hate speeches on the majority community and is anti-national... strange how democracy is faulted..
sam Mar 11, 2013 05:43pm
There is something called political wisdom which is present in IK. Governing a country requires objectively driven individual who has the power to impose policies across the country. That Objectively driven individual is IK. As for your current leaders whether it be PML (N) (the Lahore road constructors) and PPP ( the Shaheed-e-party), no one is running the country like it should be, so why give chance to rusted bullets when we have hope in terms of IK and his policies. The line "vote sensibly or suffer" applies to people with the mentality that you showed in this message. :) peace and vote for change hah?
zohra Mar 11, 2013 03:19pm
Bit worried if there is any link between Army and Imran Khan. If there is no link very good if there is, then it is IJI of eighties.
Nasir Mar 11, 2013 03:32pm
And all those elected people, except Musharraf, so far have made it heaven?
Aamir Mar 11, 2013 03:40pm
Once you close your eyes and ears then this is what happens. You may be hard fan of PPP, MQM, ANP or any other party - what have you or any one else achieved till now? Did you see any progress till now, except corruption and no law around? Law of jungle. If that is what you want then please keeping supporting your party. Good Luck.
Syed Imran Ali Mar 12, 2013 07:13am
Sweet Dreams!
Cyrus Howell Mar 12, 2013 09:42am
"In the past, too, the party faced a similar problem when criminal elements, supposed to be on the sidelines, tried to get into the mainstream politics"...
Cyrus Howell Mar 12, 2013 09:45am
Once a man has money, then he wants power and influence. When he becomes the king he wants to be God.
Cyrus Howell Mar 12, 2013 09:59am
Imran Khan has to have a power base of some kind. He can become useful to the real business powers behind the scenes like any masthead. At the same time Pakistan represents a new idealistic generation of young people who want change. In politics however one has to give something to get something. Barack Obama was the Imran Khan of America, but we all must face reality sometime. Rightly or wrongly those who finance your election expect favors in return. Growing up is a process. What we find is that other people are not really like us. We all are more dissimilar than we are similar. In government and bureaucracies we have to join the whole school of fish. Politics is not a matter of trust. It is more a matter of the mongoose guarding the hen house.
Cyrus Howell Mar 12, 2013 10:08am
"When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes not that you won or lost but how you played the game." Grantland Rice
Syed Imran Ali Mar 12, 2013 10:21am
Ahmed Jumma Mar 12, 2013 11:58am
Only Imran Khan is at least practising democracy in his party, the others are silent. The tax thieves and fake degree holders, feudals etc. are playing their games to avoid Election Commission through conditionalities.