way we were
Pakistan has its fair share of criminals and in some cases, the hand that rocks the cradle can also hold the gun or the knife. Kolachi explores the criminal cases of two women who are currently serving time in prison.
By Sabeen Jamil
When slim, doe eyed
Nisha, 20, performs on stage no one in the captivated audience would ever
believe that this beautiful diva is a dacoit, or that her henna adorned
hands have held a 9mm Russian Makarov and fired two pistols at the same
Nisha (alias Hina
alias Rahila) was caught by the police in an encounter in North Nazimabad on
April 19, 2007. She had, with her gang of three men, broken into a retired
banker's house with the intention of robbing him. Observing her mannerisms
during the encounter, and the way she twirled her gun before firing it, the
police are convinced that she is a trained dacoit.Nisha denies the charge.
"I don't know how
to use a gun and I have not committed the robbery," she says, in pain
from the injuries she sustained during the encounter.
According to the
police Nisha tried to climb a
9-foot wall nearly twice her height when they were chasing her. However she
not only successfully scaled the wall but shot at the police while sitting
on it. "She couldn't keep her balance on the wall and fell," says
Naeem Sheikh, area TPO (Town Police Officer).
Nisha was severely
injured when she fell but amazingly tried climbing back up the wall. She
fell again as her hand got grazed by one of the bullets the police fired at
her and was caught. The police discovered her to be in possession of two TT
pistols and a Makarov.They were not too surprised by her weapons, or her
skill at using them though, as she is the wife of famous dacoit Muhammad Ali
aka Babu Sindhi.
"Muhammad Ali had
forced me to help him with the robberies," says Nisha.
One of her eyes is
swollen shut and she says it is her husband's doing for refusing to be a
part of his illicit activities. She denies knowing Muhammad Ali before her
"I didn't know
that he was a dacoit when I married him." Nisha was living with her
cousin at her Orangi Town home when her cousin married her off without her
consent." She forced me to marry him at the age of 14," and didn't
even inform Nisha's parents who lived in Kohat.
Soon after their
marriage, Nisha discovered that her husband was not only a dacoit but
already married as well. He was also violent, routinely beating Nisha to a
"With the help of a police officer in the area, I got him
imprisoned after four months of marriage." According to Nisha he remained in prison for four years and
she started working as a stage performer to earn a living. "I would
dance and model on stage at events organized by Mumtaz Kureshi."
However after four
years her husband returned and once again resorted to beating her for not
being his partner in crime.
she tells Kolachi, "he took me to Mumtaz's house and got me to get the
doors opened for him." Muhammad
Ali and his friends robbed the stage organizer of 2000,000 rupees and
"I kept pleading
with him to not do so but he didn't pay my pleas any heed." Nisha
claims that she was involved with both robberies only to extent of getting
the doors opened. The police however do not believe her. They say that she
confessed in front of them.
"When Mumtaz came
to my office she identified the jewelry Nisha was wearing as hers and do you
know what she said?" recounts Naeem Sheikh " 'I have a lot of
stolen jewelry at home so I don't remember if this is yours or someone
The weapons in her
possession, Nisha says, were forcibly put in her bag by Muhammad Ali.
"There is a
possibility that she was forced in to robbery but according to the banker at
whose house she was arrested, her male counterparts didn't treat him as
badly as she did. She beat him brutally and carried a gun throughout,"
claims Naeem Sheikh. He is unconvinced by Nisha's claims of innocence. Nisha
on the other hand maintains she was forced into crime. The police say that
there was no one at the scene of crime who could have forced Nisha to commit
the violent acts that she did.
Rubbing her hands
together nervously, Asma Nawab tells Kolachi that she enjoys Faiz and
Ghalib's poetry and is a fan of Shahrukh Khan's Dilwale Dulhaniya Le
Jayenge.It is hard to believe that she is the same person who aided the
slaughtering of her family almost nine years ago.
On the morning of
December 31, 1998, the bodies of Nawab Ahmed, 50, his wife Azra Nawab, 45
and their son Asif Ahmed, 21 were found with their mouths taped shut, their
hands and feet tied back with ropes and their throats slit. Asma had gone to
college and when she returned at around 9.35 am she found the door ajar and
her father's body lying in drawing room. Her mother and brother's bodies lay
in another room; one on a charpoy and the other on the floor in their house
Nawab Ahmed was
unemployed while Azra had recently retired from a multinational company with
a golden handshake of nine lakh rupees. According to news reports Asma
"rejected the possibility of enmity resulting in this incident."
The sympathies of the
entire city were with the young girl who had lost her family at the age of
20. However, the very next day, on January 1,1999, the police found that she
not only knew the culprits, but was herself party to the homicide.
Asma revealed to the
press that she wanted to marry Farhan, a boy she had met on her way to
college and had fallen for. They started meeting and having phone
conversations. Her family soon discovered their relationship and Asma was
barred from meeting Farhan. Eventually the couple decided to get rid of the
Asma admitted that she
had opened the gallery door for Farhan and his accomplices to enter her
house. Farhan held Asma's mother at gunpoint with a fake gun and after
taking the cupboard keys from her, dragged her into another room and killed
her. On Farhan's suggestion Asma then called her brother in the room and he
too was killed in the same manner. After killing her father in the drawing
room Farhan stole seven thousand rupees and jewelry from the cupboards and
left. He had asked Asma to leave the house and spend some time in college so
that nobody would suspect her of being involved. The police soon caught
Farhan and his accomplices.
Soon after she was
caught, Asma went back on her earlier statement to the press and said that
she was too nervous to figure out what was happening to her. Since then she
has gone back on her statements several times. She says she had not gone
anywhere that morning and was at home. Even though she had accepted her
relations with Farhan earlier, she now denies even knowing him.
While speaking to
Kolachi she says that she doesn't know Farhan and the murders and her
indictment in them had been planned by her maternal aunt in a ploy to get
her mother's money.
According to Asma the
entire family was sleeping after having sehri that morning. There was a
knock on the door at around 8 am and when she opened the door three men
holding guns barged in. They asked her for the cupboard keys and then locked
her in the bathroom.
"I don't know
what happened afterwards," she says claiming that that after some time
they let her out and threatened her with dire consequences if she told
anyone about them. When she saw her parents' bodies she screamed and
fainted. "Later the police arrested me for nothing," she tells
Asma and Farhan got
death sentences from the anti-terrorism court on July 6, 1999.According to
the media reports, Asma and Farhan were not only smiling after the verdict
but Farhan was quoted thanking God that the couple would die together.
Asma Nawab has
appealed for concession and her case is pending in court. She misses the way
her life used to be. Her college friends haven't stayed in touch. She dreams
of going back home. Meanwhile, she spends her time watching television,
reading books and teaching students in prison.
Short-sightedness in Sindh:
Chopping trees and lives
As the world buzzes with problems created by global warming and the G8 devise environment friendly strategies to preserve resources for future generations, trees are being chopped down in this part of the world aggravating an already huge predicament
By Adeel Pathan
along with other natural resources, was also rich in forests that helped
keep the region cool. But a deforestation drive has wiped out scores of
trees. Authorities it seems are not mindful of
the practice and its adverse effects on environment
most distressing example of this is Matiari, which was part of the Hyderabad
district until two years ago. It was famous for its riverine forest belts,
but so intensive was the deforestation drive here that as many as a 170
million trees were chopped down in three years.
of 1.126 hectares or eight percent of Sindh comes under the control of the
Sindh Forest Department, of which forests and irrigation plantations cover a
mere 2.29 percent. This is a clear indication, according to a report by the
International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), that the province is
seriously deficient in forests.
representatives of the Save Forest Committee says that the influential
people of the area in collusion with district forest officials have cut down
80 million of 90.5 million trees in the Raees Mureed Belo (forest),
shrinking the forested area to just 2,000 acres from 12,000 acres in space
of three years.
survey of the Indus Development Organization (IDO) working on the forest
issue under the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) GEF Small Grants
Program with special focus on Matiari district reveals that it is left with
just a few thousand acres of forest out of the 28 thousand estimated only
three years back. The riverine forests of Matiari known as Matiarco,
Khyberani, Raees Munir, Salaro, Khando and Bhanote forests had years old
trees cut down, the Sindh Forest Department however remained almost
criminally silent on the matter.
representatives of the Save Forest Committee say that influential people of
the area in collusion with district forest officials have cut down 80
million of 90.5 million trees in the Raees Mureed Belo (forest), shrinking
the forested area to just 2,000 acres from 12,000 acres in just three years.
only were these forests a source of livelihood for the villagers but also
served as armour for floods when the Indus River peaked. With barely any
forest cover now, chances of flooding have increased.
loss of forests has resulted in depleting the supply of honey and milk.
Tahir Qureshi, Forest Expert for IUCN noted that poverty is increasing in
the area, which was previously affluent, and consequently suicides are
becoming a regular feature. However, according to the IDO representatives,
the district government of Matiari is taking no notice of the situation and
seems to be busy running other government affairs.
happened after the government adopted a policy to lease the forest land for
plantation campaign," Zain Daudpoto, the executive director of IDO told
Kolachi. He added that influential people involved in policy making went
against it when they stared cutting down trees in order to clear the land
and acquire the lease. He said that clearing the land of trees and using it
for agricultural purposes was a preplanned move and was taken in alliance
with forest officials. Daudpoto elaborates that the survey revealed that
more than 170 million trees were chopped after this agro forestry policy was
passed in 2004 and said that the loss of trees for the local communities was
tragic as their livelihood depends on livestock rearing. "Not only is
it costing locals their livelihood, but is posing a great threat to the
environment" he said.
to a report by the IUCN, Sindh was abundant in forests prior to the Second
World War. Though this resource was completely exhausted over a period of
time, the excessive felling of mature trees to meet fuel requirements for
defense installations and railways intensified loss of forest cover during
the war. While the reasons stated in the report for the felling of trees are
appropriate, currently trees are simply being cut down excessively for
monetary gain, with the consent of concerned authorities.
Qureshi said that riverine forests are the mainstay of Sindh and supply raw
material to wood based industries such as the mining and furniture
industries etc. Unfortunately, he points out, due to the diversion of the
Indus River to agriculture lands, these forests including irrigation
plantations and mangrove forests are facing scarcity of water. If the
sanctioned water for all types of forests is not restored, the forest area
will be further reduced and forests will completely disappear in Sindh.
IUCN report further says that it is evident from the situation that
sustainability of forests in Sindh is threatened. This situation had been
brought about by mismanagement, social policy and climate change. The
present management system doesn't allow for independent and professionally
sound work in the interest of forest and communities as it is centralized
and the revenue generated is not reinvested in the harvested forest area.
factors that have resulted in forest mismanagement include a high level of
landlessness among households, a deplorable law and order situation, lack of
basic facilities like health, education, employment and transport to local
Pakistan is running a forestry rehabilitation program on a long term basis
in Sindh and Balochistan and mass scale plantations under the social
forestry program have been raised with the participation of local
communities," Qureshi informed Kolachi.
go into the affected communities and form save forest organizations. Twenty
such organizations have been formed to provide grants to the locals for
Junejo, project manager of the UNDP GEF program told Kolachi that two
nurseries are also being established in the area to provide saplings to
plant and bring green back into the area again.
UNPD project being carried out by IDO was initiated in December 2006 and
more than 3,000 locals have been recruited. Small grants are being given to
those who used to cut the trees as source of income as an alternative.
the first of its kind project to be launched in Sindh to save forests in
district Matiari and will also be useful in keeping the community involved.
Interestingly, the locals whose main source of income was their livestock
have started working for the project, as they have no other option to
reviewing the Sindh Agro Forestry Policy of 2004, the provincial government
should take the local communities on board who are living the situation and
have a personal stake in the matter. The devolution plan of 2000 advocates
the assignment of forest extension to the district as part of the
agriculture department. Tasks allocated to district governments include
maximization of forestation, the creation and maintenance of new resources
including amenity forests and recreational parks and farming and enforcing
Ali Panhwar, of IUCN Sindh told Kolachi that his organization provides
incentives and technical help to farmers to raise windbreaks and
shelterbelts on their lands. He was of the view that revenue generated
should be reinvested to increase the forest coverage and a capacity building
program should be introduced for the local communities specially women to
involve them in social forestry projects.
says that building capacity and provision of training to forest rangers is
imperative to ensure effective monitoring, management and conservation of
forests particularly to curtail illegal felling and smuggling.
Environment Day is celebrated in Pakistan as enthusiastically as anywhere
else in the world, but that's the extent of our zeal for nature and natural
resources. Plantation campaigns and ceremonies also take place here as they
do globally, but after the official ceremonies are over, no one really
bothers to see that the plant actually grows into a tree. Deforestation has
not only had damaging effects on the local source of livelihood but it has
also been destructive to the environment. Action should be taken against
land-grabbers and the Forest Department should be directed to plant more
trees instead of allying with those who stand to gain from the cutting down
of existing trees, and tree-less 'forests'.
temperature in Matiari district is escalating gradually. This is the time to
take steps to ensure that the forests and future generations of the area are
preserved and protected.
The way we were
Games we used to play
By Kaleem Omar
range from 'A' for archery to 'G' for gravity speed biking and gulli danda
to 'T' for trampolining. And if one were to think about it long enough, one
could probably also come up with the name of a sport beginning with the
old days, some of the best and most colourful writing in newspapers was to
be found on the sports pages. Sad to say, that is not the case anymore. Even
so, one occasionally still comes across memorable pieces on the sports
pages. Back in 1988, for instance, when the drop-dead gorgeous Gabriella
Sabatini first appeared at the French tennis open, a sports reporter who was
covering the tournament for the Chicago Tribune began one of his pieces
thus: "I was going to write about Gabriella Sabitini again, but I
received a phone call from my editor in Chicago last night saying, 'Stop
drooling over Sabatini.' So I'm going to write about some of the other
to say, however, only a couple of paragraphs later his resolve failed him
and he was drooling over Sabatini again.
brings me to the subject of this piece: great sportswriters and their
writings. One of the best of them is the American writer, Roger Kahn. His
book "Games We Used to Play", a collection of his sports pieces
written over a period of 37 years (1955 -1992), provides a marvelous
reminder of just how good he really is.
his perceptions and his mastery of the language, Kahn gives us new insights
into some of the best-known names in the sports world - boxing legends
Mohammed Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson , 1970s basketball superstar Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar, American football star "Broadway Joe" Namath, and
baseball legends Mickey Mantle, Stan "The Man" Musial and Jackie
Robinson (the first black American to play for the majors).
lifts Kahn's writing far above the ordinary is his egalitarianism, his
unhappiness that the world has not behaved itself better, his contempt for
frauds and fakes, his admiration for athletes who are generous as well as
aggressive, his genuine appreciation for the good guys. He draws portraits
of his subjects, never charts of their statistics. In short, he is a deep
and clever fellow with his writing machine.
the expression "writing machine" advisedly, because Kahn - like
all the great sportswriters of the past - worked on a battered Remington
typewriter, pounding away at the keys like a man possessed.
We Used to Play" covers a big canvas and does it with style and grace.
For those who like their sports described with wit and in high style, Kahn's
collection makes a delightful read.
emerges in his writing is the passion, grace, exuberant energy and intense
concentration involved in swinging a baseball bat, dancing around in a
boxing ring, or passing a football across an open field. Equally present,
however, is the human element, the joy but also the cost of giving your life
to that demanding mistress, professional sports.
elegiac tone is set in the very first paragraph of Kahn's introduction to
his book. He writes: "In 1965, when all men were lean and the women in
bikinis stirred, to say the least, the heart, we used to play Sunday
softball beside a sun-bright white-sand beach."
is, in a piece written in 1959, on the subject of Sugar Ray Robinson, a
gentleman of style, and reckoned, pound for pound, to be the greatest
fighter who ever lived: "On a corner (in New York) almost thirty years
ago, as a boy named Walker Smith, the man we call Sugar Ray Robinson danced
for pennies. He had a good body even then, and he knew it would bring him
more than pennies. 'Someday, Marie,' he told his sister, 'I ain't gonna be
dancing for pennies on this block. I'm gonna own it.' The corner was 124th
Street and Seventh Avenue. The champion doesn't own the whole block, just a
good part of it.
maybe it all started in a ring. One, when he was training at Greenwood Lake,
New York, I saw him walk into a ring by himself. A crowd sat around the ring
on little bridge chairs, and when he walked in through the door everybody
took off the robe, and there was the fighter's dancing body, stripped except
for royal purple trunks. He walked through the ropes and into his fighter's
dance. The left hand flicked. 'Sss,' said Ray Robinson through clenched
teeth. The right hand moved hard and straight. 'Sss,' the fighter said. The
hands were moving swiftly, first one, then the other, and each time the
hands moved, he hissed. He was alone, fighting only the air. The people
couldn't stop cheering."
here is Kahn on all-time boxing great Mohammed Ali, in a piece written in
1976 just after Ali defeated Ken Norton: "Ali is the champion and he is
locked into a style. He turned professional during the last days of Dwight
Eisenhower's administration (Eisenhower served two terms as president, from
January 1953 to January 1961), and he has fought well, sometimes brilliantly
through five presidencies. Young, he was Cassius Clay, the 'Louisville Lip,'
establishing himself with his fists, his doggerel, and his outrageous
predictions. Now, four months away from his thirty-fifth birthday, he is
Mohammed Ali…But he is also a ticket salesman. If vulgarity sells tickets,
let it be."
reference to "vulgarity" in this passage has to do with the fact
that at the public preflight physical before the Ali-Norton fight, Ali - who
prided himself on his ability to sell tickets with his theatrics - had
staged a raucous demonstration in a meeting room at Grossinger's Hotel in
New York. "You a nigger," he had screamed at Norton. "You a
yellow nigger." A yellow nigger sounds like a non sequitur, only it
isn't of course. "And your movies are bad," Ali had added for good
measure, lifting a poster displaying a photo of Norton in a movie role that
had appeared in the New York magazine, "Village Voice."
the ensuing scene, Kahn writes: "'You are a disgrace to athletics,' Ali
shouted. 'You are a disgrace to your race.' Norton ignored the champion, and
a doctor in a yellow sports jacket took pulses and blood pressures,
complaining that he could not do his work unless Ali quieted down. Ali
signaled to his retinue, and presently his seconds and Norton's seconds were
calling each other flunkies. 'Both men are in superb condition,' announced
Harry Kleinman, the doctor."
1970 piece about basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (previously known as
Lew Alcindor, Jr.), Kahn writes: "The motel was called Quality Court,
which meant this was no Plaza Suite, and the black man lying under the brown
blanket seemed endless, and you had to wonder what was going to happen when
he stood up. Would there be room for all of him under that low plasterboard
to an incident during a game in Seattle when a player named Bob Rule had got
a finger in Kareem's eye and Kareem had gone for him and given him a shove,
Kahn writes: "It is not going to add up. Of that you can be assured. In
a society that does not add up, the Lew Alcindor phenomenon, frozen in full
flow, is not going to provide one of those comfortable 'Reader's Digest'
pieces with smooth beginning, anesthetic middle, tidy end. The Alcindor
phenomenon is a mix of rough edges and incompleteness and immaturity and
wisdom and misinterpretations and rages and regrets."
there was that other great American sportswriter, Jimmy Cannon. He once
remarked: "I've had a great life. I sat at glad events. My two
favourite people in sports were Joe Louis and Joe DiMaggio. They were my
friends and I think explaining friendship is like explaining pain. It's
impossible after it's subsided."
there are great sportswriters like Roger Kahn and Jimmy Cannon, there are
also those like a man on the New York Post who drank three meals a day,
cadged money from anyone who moved and used to fall asleep while smoking.
He started several hotel fires and became a professional joke until
he set fire to the bed in his apartment. Most of his body was charred, but
the man required no anesthetic for hours. Alcohol had immunised him from
pain, although not from death. Three days after his admission to a hospital,
the sportswriter died, stone sober for the first time in years.
A friendly doodhwala
By Sana Lakhani
Mohammad Irshad is the
proud owner of the Bismillah Milk shop in Cantt. Born and bred in Karachi,
Mohammad Irshad has been the friendly neighbourhood doodhwala for the last
18 years. Mohammad Irshad is a prominent feature of the Cantt. community and
has seen the area develop, growing along with it. A family man with three
children, this Karachi Character allowed Kolachi a peek into his life.
Kolachi: How long have you
been running this business?
Irshad: I have been
running this milk shop since the last eighteen years.
Kolachi: Is it a family
business? If not, what made you decide to enter this field?
Irshad: No, this isn't a
family business. My brother owned this store and I bought the space from
him- my decision to start a milk shop was influenced by the fact that it's a
profitable business and I have seen many people succeed at it. It seemed
like a sound investment and by the grace of God, I have been very successful
Kolachi: Why did you name
your business the Bismillah milk shop? And why do you think all milk shops
are named Mashallah Inshallah etc?
Irshad: I named it
Bismillah because all milk shops had names like this. Plus, my father
recommended the name because it has barkat.
Kolachi: What was the city
like eighteen years ago? Has it changed a lot?
Irshad: Definitely! It
used to be deserted, with a smaller population. It was like a desert and
totally different. I have witnessed its development and am proud of its
Kolachi: In what ways has
Karachi, specifically this area, developed over the years? Do you approve of
Irshad: Yes, of course!
There has been a great increase in the population and the economy of the
area, especially since the Fatima Jinnah Bridge was built. The area has
developed and it is very good for business.
Kolachi: How many members
are there in your family?
Irshad: I have a family of
five: my wife, three children and me.
Kolachi: How far have you
Irshad: I'm only non-matric
(a layman term for class IX).
Kolachi: What about your
children? Are they studying?
Irshad: Yes, of course! I
am sending all three of my children to school so that they can become
educated citizens and have the option to choose any career they want. I want
them to be able to shape their own lives.
Kolachi: Does your income
from the milk shop prove adequate for the needs of you and your family?
Irshad: Yes! By the Grace
of God, we get along quite well with my income. All three of my children
attend good schools and we live comfortable lives. That is all I ask of God.
Kolachi: So, do you dilute
your milk before selling it to customers?
Irshad: No, no! Definitely
not! I run an honest business and have never resorted to these dishonest
techniques. Allah has given my business enough barkat and I am satisfied
with my life- I don't need to employ these unlawful methods.
Kolachi: How has the ban
on plastic shopping bags affected your business?
Irshad: We have stopped
using the plastic shopping bags. Only the bags containing milk are plastic
and those too are of the prescribed weight. Even though it caused a few
problems in the beginning, I think that this is a good step taken by the
government and I'm glad they are enforcing it strictly. Health officials
periodically collect samples and examine them and my milk shop has never
been fined because I adhere to the rules.
Kolachi: What is your
opinion about the present government?
Irshad: I think that the
government is very unstable. On the one hand inflation is rising and on the
other hand they fine our Milk shops for amounts up to 20,000- 30,000 rupees
if our prices are above the government prescribed prices. The clashes and
political upsets also affect our business and the constant load shedding is
also very bad for a business that deals in perishables. I think that the
government should focus on these problems and look after the interests of
Kolachi: Have you ever
travelled outside Karachi?
Irshad: No, I have not: I
would like to if the opportunity presents itself, but I'm content in
Karachi. Business is good, my family is happy and that is all that I ask God
Mohammad Irshad came
across as a modest and unassuming man who is satisfied with his life. He is
an active member of his community and is in touch with the lives of his
customers and neighbours. A devout Muslim, he is thankful to God for his
family and prosperity and though not highly educated himself, he dreams of
educating his children and providing them a happy present and a successful
future. Such is the life of this Karachi character.
– Photos by Ather Khan