and Talibanisation: a timeline
dumping used as a front for illegal reclamation
In the absence of an empowering education system, sporting activities football in particular were, in the past, a method used by residents of Lyari to gain fruitful employment in government organisations.
By Ahmed Yusuf
Whether or not the two occurrences can be directly correlated, the downfall of Lyari's football clubs does historically correspond with the rise of the gang-wars that have crippled the area today. In the absence of an empowering education system, sporting activities football in particular were, in the past, a method used by residents of Lyari to gain fruitful employment in government organisations. Now, however, the grounds are bare, footballers have disappeared and the crowds that once were, are no more. The beautiful game has been replaced with an ugly helplessness.
Over time, the privatisation of various banks and the subsequent urge to cut operational costs kick-started a trend to cease association with and sponsorship of sporting activities. The funds dried up. Football in particular suffered, and many departmental teams were disbanded. Talking to The News, Ali Nawaz Baloch, who won the President's Pride of Performance for his services to football and is a former captain of the Pakistan national football team, explains that football has always remained a sport of the masses, not of the elite. "It was through football that we made ends meet. We cannot compare ourselves with sports such as cricket that get government and corporate patronage. Despite our meagre resources however, we always exceeded expectations", Baloch says.
The state of football in the country was not always apathetic. Before the creation of Bangladesh, many footballers from Lyari would get enlisted as part of the league in the former eastern wing of the country. After the western wing gained exclusive rights to being called Pakistan, footballers were picked on merit as part of the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) team. The KMC team in turn served as a feeder team to various departmental teams.
Lyari has the distinction of producing a footballer by the name of Abdul Ghafoor, who, in his prime back in the 60s, was called 'the Pele of Pakistan.' He was seen as hero and exemplar, especially in Lyari, and young fans flocked around him to get a glimpse of the man. However, there are no longer such role models. The best-known name in Lyari today is not Abdul Ghafoor; it is Rehman Dakait or Arshad Papu.
With the collapse of departmental teams, official patronage also seems to have eroded. "The municipal corporation is supposed to provide opportunities for entertainment to people. Most football facilities in the area, however, seem to have been ignored and left to rot", complains Ali Nawaz Baloch. "When elders don't play, how will the young generation gain inspiration? Most of the clubs have been closed down due to a lack of resources. How can we keep football alive in Lyari without government patronage?"
Lamenting the state of grounds in Lyari, Ali Nawaz Baloch states that the playing fields are such that, "only donkeys sleep there". Other established facilities have been taken over by the Rangers and converted into their workplaces. The most well-known case is that of the People's Stadium, described by residents of Lyari as Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's gift to the people of Lyari. However, even the Football House of the District Football Association (DFA) has been occupied by the Rangers. "The Kakri Ground is perhaps the only facility with a semblance of being a playground. While some children train at the ground, it also serves as a meeting point of all the old captains and players to congregate and talk about football", Baloch remarked.
There remains a sentiment, however, that it was not just football that was being cheated; there is a conspiracy to destroy Lyari. The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) invested in the FIFA Goal Project (FGP) and the FIFA Youth Development Project in Pakistan. In March 2002, The Goal Bureau approved a project according to which a technical centre and headquarters for the association were to be built in Lahore as part of the Goal Programme. In December 2006, the Goal Bureau approved the construction of a training centre in Karachi, the second venture of the FGP project in Pakistan.
The second FGP project, however, fell prey to bureaucratic red-tape under the previous regime. The provision of land was made the primary issue, and requests to grant space in Lyari fell upon deaf ears. Requests were made by various individuals to the Sindh Chief Minister as well as the city Nazim to allot the Trans Lyari Park, better known as Gutter Bagheecha, towards the construction of the training facility under the auspices of FIFA. The Sindh and city governments were, however, unable to give the 10 acres being demanded for the football facility. It is only recently that the government has taken measures to let the project go ahead, though the land given is in Hawksbay as opposed to the Gutter Bagheecha.
The enthusiasm for football in Lyari is well-known. Every time the World Cup comes around, the area is beset with excitement, even though Pakistan is not playing. In fact, reports from the last World Cup show that the crime rate in the area dropped for the duration of the 2006 event.
A second factor that contributes much to the sentiment of being cheated is that of gerrymandering. In an irony of sorts, the buildings adjacent to the town government's office were no longer part of Lyari Town but part of Saddar Town. Incidentally, areas given to Saddar Town were perhaps the few that could generate some revenue for the town government to act upon. Many residents of Lyari feel that such measures are an act of ethnically targeting the Baloch, given that Lyari has traditionally been an area where the Baloch settled.
"It's simple. When football declined, the gang activities increased. The youth moved from the fields towards gangs because they needed some sort of livelihood," says Rahim Baloch, a young mechanic at a garage in Lyari. All his friends, he says, have joined gangs and are involved in drug pushing and other criminal activities. He was the only one from his group of friends who decided to toil away at a garage instead, he says. But Rahim is a small island of exception in an ocean of norms.
DIG South Zone Iqbal Mehmood, under whose jurisdiction the Lyari area falls, says that while the disappearance of recreational activities, such as football, is not the only issue that led to the movement of local youth towards crime, the absence of the sport is certainly part of a greater social issue confronted by the area. "When you have nothing to do you move towards such [crime] activities."
Lyari, he says, is suffering from a, "sense of belonging." "The feeling that 'yes, I am a part of this country' is needed not that 'everyone discards me'," he says.
"The city government made it an objective to convert Karachi into a mega-city. But where does Lyari figure into this equation? Can the city turn into a mega city without the inclusion of a large ethnic group or sportspersons?" asks a resident of Lyari, Farooq Baloch. "When our educated youth seek jobs, they are often refused. Some come back and get hired as peons, or apprentices in local workshops. In the face of distress and disenchantment, it is easy to discern where the rest go", he says.
Another resident, Ali Mohammed Baloch, sums up the feeling: "Democracy must restore Lyari's soul, and it must start with restoring football in Lyari."
By Shahid Husain
Karachi is an amazing city. With a population of over 16 million, the port city has provided refuge to people hailing from many nationalities and ethnic groups
Seen in historical perspective, Karachi has been the "City of Opposition" because it spearheaded student movements in 1953, 1962, 1964 and 1968-69 against civilian and dictatorial regimes and forced military dictator General Ayub Khan to announce he would not participate in the next national elections. The city also witnessed trade union movements and protests from professionals such as doctors, teachers and lawyers. In 1964 elections, held under the notorious "Basic Democracy" system where only 80,000 people had the right to vote, opposition candidate Mohtarama Fatima Jinnah emerged victorious from Karachi and Dhaka despite manipulation by the government.
No wonder then that the vested interest and the bureaucracy made it a point to divide Karachi's population on ethnic and religious lines as sectarian and ethnic organizations cropped up in the 1980s when military dictator General Zia ul Haq ruled the roost. Zia was eager to weaken the populist party, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), as ethnic and religious divide suited him.
In the wake of Afghan War, Pakistan in general, and Karachi in particular, became brutalized because of easy availability of deadly weapons and Kalashnikov and drug culture took the city by storm.
Afghan war brought the Taliban on world map, essentially a product of madrassahs in Pakistan who were very cleverly used by Pakistani intelligence agencies to grab power in Afghanistan where warlords had destroyed the very social fabric of Afghan society. "The Taliban's first defeat, in May 1997, when they were driven out of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif with huge losses, convinced many Afghans that the group was just one more warlord faction. By now the Taliban had dispensed with the idea of calling a Loya Jirga and determined that they alone would rule the country and enforce Sharia. Their definition of Sharia-influenced by extremist Islamic teachings in Pakistan and a perversion of Pashtunwali, or the Pushtun code of behavior- and its harsh enforcement across the country were utterly alien to Afghan culture and tradition," writes prominent Pakistani journalist and author Ahmed Rashid in his remarkable book "Descent into Chaos."
He further writes: "In his strategic alliance with the Taliban, Bin Laden received an entire country as a base of operations. He was able to gather around him thousands of Islamic extremists and extend his operations around the world. His main logistical support came from Pakistani extremist groups, who could provide the kinds of supplies and means of communication with the outside world not available in Afghanistan. This support base in Pakistan was to prove critical to Al Qaeda's survival after 9/11. Between 1996 and 2001, Al Qaeda trained an estimated thirty thousand militants from around the world."
It is a misconception that the network of Al Qaeda is confined to Pakistan's tribal areas. With thousands of sympathizers among extremist religious groups, its operatives conveniently find refuge anywhere in the country, including Karachi. For instance, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of the leaders of the Hamburg cell that had planned the 9/11 attacks, was arrested in Karachi. On January 23, 2002, Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street journalist was kidnapped in Karachi and brutally murdered by Al Qaeda.
In other words, the activities of extremist elements are not confined to tribal areas and the largest city of Pakistan is also prone to violence of the highest order. On June 26, 2008, English daily reported that handbills and pamphlets were distributed by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan in Shireen Jinnah Colony and the Mauripur stand threatening truck drivers and warned them against supplying oil and goods to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops in Afghanistan.
Lately, there has been a debate in the media about the alleged Talibanisation of Karachi and keeping in view that the drugs and arms mafia and militant groups have an uninterrupted supply of deadly weapons, the emerging scenario in the financial hub of Pakistan appears to be alarming. Sadly enough, an impression is being given by some quarters as if all Pushtoons are Taliban - but that is not true. "Pushtoons are working class people and they have nothing to do with the Taliban. In fact, the Taliban were brainwashed by religious seminaries in Karachi and elsewhere that were run by non-Pushtoons," Amin Khattak, central joint secretary, Awami National Party (ANP) told Kolachi.
"We are a secular and democratic party and we would like to enter into a dialogue with other parties if there is some misunderstanding or apprehension about Pushtoons," he said.
He also mentioned that ANP stood for peace because only peace brings prosperity and was opposed to Talibanisation of Karachi. "We are witness to the plunder of Swat and other areas in Pakistan where tourist resorts and schools were destroyed by the Talibans," he said.
Parveen Rahman, an architect and director, Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) opined that the actual tussle is about land. "In the periphery of Karachi there are very old Goths but since the last three years their residents are under threat and feel they can be ejected if they don't sell their land. In a way, the city is encroaching for their land and global capital is also looking for land," she said.
Land grabbing in Karachi is also in full swing. In connivance with the officials of Board of Revenue (BoR) land grabbers in Karachi devour 1,000 acres of land valued at one billion rupees every year, according to Tasneem Siddiqui, a leading sociologist and former director general of Sindh Katchi Abadis Authority.
"Land mafia begins its activity through grabbing land around Goths and acquiring 'sanads' from the BoR. Thereafter development projects are announced," he said.
"Since many Pushtoons have money, they are purchasing these lands. The price in Gadap Town in the periphery of Karachi has shot up to Rs 2 million per acre," said Rahman.
"Talibans are the most conservative elements amongst Pukhtoons. They gained temporary ascendance in Afghanistan because in a war-torn country, they promised to bring peace. They have roots in Pakistani society as well and the process of Talibanisation continues here since 1996. But it must be clear that all Pushtoons are not Taliban. A vast majority of these Pushtoons are concentrated in Karachi and have economic and political interests. As a result other ethnic communities feel insecure," said Dr Mutahir Ahmed, professor of International Relations at the University of Karachi and an expert on Afghanistan.
The areas in question are first filled with waste, levelled and then surrounded by walls to delineate the occupied area. The walls in question are a common sight on the drive to the city's beaches
By Jan Khaskheli
Trucks with City District Government Karachi (CDGK) number plates carrying the city's solid waste are being unloaded at Korangi Fish Harbour as part of a calculated effort to fill in and then occupy areas traditionally conquered by the sea during high tides.
Environmentalists say this practice not only affects the health of local fishermen and their families but also destroys marine ecology.
The areas in question are first filled with waste, levelled and then surrounded by walls to delineate the occupied area. The walls in question are a common sight on the drive to the city's beaches.
"This practice is making the entire city's population vulnerable to natural disasters," said Mohammed Ali Shah, Chairperson, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF). Earth-filling near the Karachi coastline will definitely escalate to sea erosion in other areas, especially the Thatta and Badin districts, he added.
Shah claims that the earth-filling near the seashore is the handiwork of the city's influential land mafia. Land reclamation, he says, will destroy mangrove forests which can prove to be disastrous because of the consequent climate change. He said that the authorities do not realise that in doing so, they are actually inviting natural disasters, particularly tsunamis, to hit the country's largest city.
Then there are health concerns. Local activists say that a large number of dumpers carrying solid waste from different towns of the city dump their cargo near the coastal localities of Ibrahim Hydri, Juma Goth, Jatt Goth, Chashma Goth, Rehri and others areas, which may cause eye ailments, skin problems, allergies and other health hazards. The coastal villages falling prey to these health problems comprise of a population of no less than 250,000. The sea already receives thousands of tonnes of solid waste, industrial chemicals and urban sewage, daily. Oil spillage is another problem in and around the main ports.
"I have seen more trucks coming and unloading near the localities daily. The CDGK staff burn garbage and clouds of smoke can be seen over the modest abodes of the poor fishermen," said Kamal Shah, a local activist.
Local fishermen said that marine pollution has already destroyed fish stocks, forcing the community to be jobless. The city government authorities, they say, are poisoning the sea, which is the only means of their livelihood. This practice would definitely deplete the fish stocks further, forcing the fishermen to face eventual starvation.
The entire coastal area of Bin Qasim Town was environmentally safe a few years ago but this has changed now that the CDGK authorities have targeted the seashore villages as a place to dump urban waste. As a financially-beneficial outcome of this practice, areas otherwise occupied by the sea can be reclaimed for commercial purposes.
This is no fortuitous by-product. The PFF spokesman has alleged that this is a pre-meditated ploy to occupy the land, and that the land mafia invites these trucks to unload garbage near the seashore to fill in the sites that contain sea water. He said that Jumma Goth, being located near the seashore, is the main target and the residents have become victims of smoke effluent.
Local activists say that this is a new shape of land grabbing. They say that, after the reclamation, the newly-made plots are sold to investors for building factories there.
This practice continues in broad daylight, without any fear. The CDGK staffers riding bulldozers are seen levelling the land to reclaim it.
Fishermen sitting at their boats anchored near the burning garbage said, "It is horrible and we can not narrate the situation in which we work, loading boats with ration and ice while going to open sea and landing catch after arrival."
"We fear it is not favourable for the communities living here as well as other citizens, as certain authorities are inviting disasters, making the entire city vulnerable to devastation," they said.
Meanwhile, a large number of children and women belonging to poor families of the area are pouring in, carrying iron sticks to scavenge through the solid waste to find recyclable items for their living. Some unaware children along with their parents are seen looking for recyclable items in mud, which has all sorts of contaminated substances.
Local activists say that the exercise of dumping solid waste has gathered momentum recently. However, when contacted, Bin Qasim Town officials were found hesitant to comment on the issue.
By Abdul Rafay Mahmood
Thatta is historically an important region of Sindh which has served as a centre of literature, religious ideologies and socio political clashes. The amalgamated past of this area made its geographic locations into an unforgettable scenery. Makli, the heart of interior Sindh is counted among one of the largest necropolis' in the world. Located a few kilometers away from Thatta , Makli is truly the place where history starts to speak about its immaculate past and the legends and myths it has undertaken. Makli is an unforgettable visual experience with the most vibrant archaeological sites in Pakistan; it covers about 15-1/2 square kilometers. The mausoleums and tombs in Makli are one of the greatest ruins of Sindh and also dictate a lot about Sindh's communal structure from 14 to 18th century. Apart from the mausoleums of Jam Nizam al-Din and Jan Beg Takhan, Makli has undertaken a lot of Sufis, warriors, poets, intellectuals. The artistic monuments at Makli show proof of Islamic ideologies and the Hindu mythology as well,which in itself is a great documentation of the socio cultural past of Sind.
The huge graves are made of solid rock and the mosuleums of the sun baked brick with different kinds of Quranic verses embossed on them. Another historical landmark that resides in Thatta is the Shahjehan mosque,which is one of the most beautiful gifts given to Sindh by the Mughal emperor. This mosque was built on the orders of Shahjehan for the people of Thatta because they welcomed him with open hearts when his father died.
The Shahjehan mosque is a great example of highly defined tile work. In total this mosque has 33 arches and 93 domes which are of different sizes which adds the flavor to its beauty. White and Blue tiles of glowing texture have been put together in such a manner that it looks like a beautiful mosaic. The most surprising fact about this mega structure is that unlike other Mughal buildings such as Badshahi Mosque, this building has negligible amount of pink sandstone in it. The characteristic that makes this mosque unique is that it has no minarets in it and it only has one dome which lies in the central prayer hall.Walking through the mosque if your eyes move towards the inside of the rooftop, then you cant' stop staring and only one thing comes to your mind that only a genius like Shahjehan can think of such a beauty , who also envisioned the Taj Mahal which is counted among the wonders of the world. Peeping through the landmarks of interior Sindh, one can only imagine the extent of beauty we have in our own motherland.
By Urooba Rasool
If you have been following this space, you will recall that last week we touched upon the merits of moving to Switzerland with reference to the results of Karachi teeming with rain.
This week, exalted readers, we will continue with the same theme, except we will replace 'rain' with 'the menace of weddings'.
I can speak with some authority on this, owing to having swatted away four weddings in the past two months. It must be said that I have never been to weddings outside Pakistan, or indeed, Karachi, so beyond what television has brought us, I remain unfamiliar with them. My fastidious research has noted, however, that none of them seem to feature people marking their attendance at four separate events, tripping over the photographer's wires, dinner being laid out at close to sunrise and a crowd of scowling guests (or at least, scowling offspring who have been bodily dragged over).
Of course, weddings per se are no bad thing. It is only when you factor in typically local traits that they become, well, *just ever so slightly repellent*. Anybody who has ever received a wedding invitation is well aware of the lateness of the hour that will be expected. Time in particular is a thorny issue, as many people here all right, most of my relatives, who number somewhere in the billions have the worrying habit of telling the time by the position of the sun. Once this sun has disappeared below the horizon, anything goes. Time is regarded as a purely abstract concept, something in the abstract, certainly nothing worth interfering in things like weddings, and bears absolutely not relation on whether governments move clocks an hour forward or not. Time-telling devices themselves are regarded as purely decorative items, but this business of moving the clocks forward actually causes people to disregard poor time with a cruel callousness.
"Oh, but it's not *really* midnight, is it? It's just eleven in real time!" an Obscenely Late Guest will tell you knowingly. It is no good pointing out through gritted teeth that there is no such thing as "real time", only "time" in general. People have reported similarly exasperating responses when they approach the hosts politely asking permission to leave, to be me with an incredulous look and the words, "Leaving so soon? But it's only one!"
Added to the lateness of the hour are the ubiquitous stray cats who gatecrash weddings. These are usually found strolling about on top of tables and casting an interested look at the Shell-oil sponsored menu as they pass. There is also the barbecue smoke, strategically aligned with the wind to crawl up everyone's nostrils, hair and clothes and settle permanently.
However, I could even bring myself to put up with all this, were it not for the appalling salami rates. Paying salami is a relatively new concept to me. I was vaguely aware that people routinely slipped money hidden in pretty, ornate envelopes to the couple, but had no idea just how much cash they contained until I was rudely pushed into having to do it myself. Not only do you have to mark your attendance, you must pay for admittance. "Why must I pay someone else to get married?" is a very good question indeed, but one no one seems to have the answer to. (For your interest, the going rate is Rs1,000. Inflation has spared nothing). It is all very distressing.
The saddest part about weddings is that you cannot even bunk them. Authorities concerned round everyone up and beat them into submission, as the scowling offspring mentioned above, as well as the scowling people emptying their wallets, can firmly attest.
As a public service, then, I strongly promote the idea of court marriages. Such a trend would neatly chop away all aforementioned woes in swift motion. There will be no wedding invitations haunting your in tray, no endless waiting about for an unappetising dinner and no payment to make. Right, now that that's over with, if you'll excuse me, I must go and look up those flights to Switzerland.