Festival finds a permanent home
Community policing or neighborhood policing is not a new concept - having successfully been implemented across the world. The concept sees police too as members of the community and aims at creating a relationship of trust between community members and the police department. The philosophy is based on the concept that police and citizens working together can help solve community problems and can create safer neighbourhoods. Principally, it requires dedicated teams permanently deployed at specific locations to serve area people and establish conatcts with them. Another important prerequisite is to use communtiy intelligence to identify the problems in the area. Lastly, it requires collaboration of neighbourhood teams with local authorities, voluntary groups, businesses, criminal justice agencies, other partners and the public to tackle these issues
In Pakistan however it was not until very recently when the government passed the Police Order 2002 and started talking about a joint venture between police and citizens against crime, never practically implementing it though. "Involving community in to policing has always been restricted to getting funds from community or occasionally having meetings with them," says Naeem Sheikh, TPO North Nazimabad, lamenting on the absence of community police. "Other than the community members no one can truly identify the needs of a particular area," he stresses on the need of community participation against crime and adds that apart from police who is exclusively paid for the security of people, the citizens themselves abide by the constitution to ensure security in the area, " This calls for a practical involvement of the area people against crime."
However, making people realize their responsibility and making them participate in neighborhood security was not an easy task for the TPO. "When I asked people why they won't come down to the station for meetings, they bluntly replied that it's not a place worth visiting," Naeem laments that though none of these people had had bad experiences with the police they still held a very negative opinion about the organization. "I wanted to eradicate misconceptions about the department, so brought the station to them instead," he says.
According to Naeem public police interaction is a must for implementation of the community policing concept in the area and as people were reluctant to come to the police station, therefore, he bifurcated the station in to small units formulating a single-roomed basic command unit in the area, with an aim to "bridge the gap between police and community, take care of security issues and solve petty issues of the area people." This resulted in the practical implementation of the community-policing phenomenon for the first time in Pakistan and that too only in Block A. The area was deliberately chosen for the purpose. Why? "Only after thoroughly studying the area," says Salman Naveed SHO North Nazimabad, "the said block was chosen."
North Nazimabad is the most literate town in the city with 86 per cent literacy rate, where the said block is relatively the most affluent one. "We assumed that if the system fails in this area then it cannot be successful anywhere in Pakistan," he adds that strategically too the area was ideal for a pilot project.
The block makes a neat square with four roundabouts surrounding it namely Pahar Ganj Chowrangi, Abdullah College Chowrangi, Board Office Chowrangi and KDA Chowrangi. Surrounded by katchi abadi, the area on a daily basis is flooded by the labour class and thus becomes a haven for robbers and mobile snatchers. "Therefore, there was a dire need for a foolproof security system in the area," says Salman.
To provide such security, the Basic Command Unit (BCU) was provided with a team of 16 constables, 2 motorbikes for patrolling the peripheries of the area, a mobile, and an ASI to look after the issues of the Unit. The community has been asked to station their hired security guards on strategic locations, identified by the police, and will be duly monitored by the patrolling team.
Moreover, the data of the working class serving the residents in the area have been maintained in a data bank by the police and identity cards to those workers have been issued accordingly. Special stickers have been issued for the residents' transportation and passes will be given to their visitors.
The formulation of BCU alone, however, couldn't bring people onboard with the police to fight crime, Naeem acknowledges and adds that an adhoc committee comprising area people has been formulated in this regard. The committee, termed as Neighbourhood Support Society, comprises 15 members of the community, patronized by six more members including TPO, SHO, Town Nazim, UC Nazim of the concerned area and the in charge of BCU. The adhoc committee has formulized a constitution and aims at meeting every 15 days to review the performance of the unit and sent recommendations to the TPO in this regard. "The recommendations will be pasted on the file of the ASI and three consecutive poor recommendations will lead to the removal of the ASI from the post," declares TPO.
The current committee has been selected for a period of six months and is supposed to handover operations to the committee of people being selected by the area people.
The adhoc committee was selected by the TPO himself who identifies four criterion for this selection. "I selected the people who were non-political, volunteers, were committed to the cause and above all had the trust of the community," he adds that the committee includes doctors, professionals, educationalists and other prominent people of the area who were contacted by the police itself. "We did not go to the police, they themselves asked us for our cooperation," says Prof Haroon Rashid, former Directorate Colleges Karachi who, like other area people, initially had apprehensions about police intentions but now is totally satisfied with their working. "I see a bright future for them," he claims. The project that started on 15 March 2007 has completed almost two months and so far the crime rate in the area has dropped considerably. As Salman observes that earlier 50-60 incidents would be reported per month in the area. "Now it is zero beside four encounters where police's responding time was 5 minutes."
The situation has helped revive citizens' faith in the police and now they are more than eager to support this project. They have themselves deployed security guards and are paying 8ooo rupees to them, says Salman. Given the low salaries of Police officers, residents have offered to pay 6000 rupees to the in-charge of the unit and 3000 to the constable. "This was suggested by the residents themselves and the Police did not ask for it," he adds. The in-charge Unit, ASI Navid says, "I too have heard that I will be paid an extra amount," he says. "But haven't got anything yet," he adds cheerfully.
The contribution of public in community affairs, either with the collaboration of government authorities or on a self-help basis, is direly needed for the progress of the city.
The launching of the Pilot Community Project in this regard is one step in the right direction and the progress of the project in two months is an indication that like every civilized country of the world, in Pakistan too, community and Police can work together to fight crime.
– Photos by : M. Farooq Khan
Colours of Lyari – The Sheedi dhamaal
Every year the Sheedis of Karachi organise a ritual Dhamaal to please the Spirits. Kolachi pays a visit
By Hina Mahgul Rind
Lyari is one of the oldest and densely populated neighbourhoods of Karachi with one million people. A multitude of different ethnicities give the area great character. It would not be wrong to call Lyari a mini sub-continent where almost all ethinic groups from all parts of the sub-continent are settled - some even before partition. There are Punjabis, Sindhis, Kashmiris, Hazaras, Pakhtuns, Balochs, Sheedis (a local term used for the Afro-Asians in Pakistan), Seraikis, Memons, Katchis, Bengalis, Kathiawaris, Bohras and Ismailis settled here.
Despite being the most underdeveloped and crime ridden town in the city, Lyari has its own charm and colours, which make it a very vibrant place. The cultural mix here has much to offer and the place is always bustling with activity.
The Sheedi community and their festivities are the most eminent ones in Lyari. The concept of Spirits and Djinn is extremely prominent in their culture. They staunchly believe that to keep Djinn or Spirits happy they must perform certain rituals, very similar to their ancestral African tribes where sacrifising a goat or giving blood to the spirits or Djinn to keep them happy is widely accepted as a norm. So the people of Lyari might not be very happy with life but they do make efforts to keep super natural elements happy.
Living in this part of the world for centuries now and mingling with various communities, Sheedis have adapted the Sub-continental life style. Brought here as slaves, they didn't have much choice but to adapt. And like their brethren who retained their African roots far away from home in the Carribean and the Americas, the Inidan sheedis retained much of their culture. Their masters could never chain their festivities which still takes them back to their roots in Africa.
One such tradition, which has become one of the most fascinating event in the Lyari calender is the annual Sheedi Dhamaal. Every year the Sheedis of Karachi celebrate the Urs of Sheedi Mukhata, Dada Maqbool, Mai Misra - their ancestrol saints - on the 11, 12 and 13 of the Muslim month of Rabi-Ul-Sani. The Al Muslim Sheedi Jamat holds the dhamaal at Al-Farid Compound near the Tonga Stand in Lea Market.
"Al-Farid Compound is the Astana (residing place) of our ancestrol saints Baba Gaur's brother Sheedi Mukhta and a lady saint Mai Misra and Mai Parsa," says Ghulam Akbar Sheedi General Secretery of Combined Sheedi Community, Karachi. He traces their clan back to India where Baba Gaur and Mai Misra's tombs are situated at Ratanpur, Gujrat. "Even the Sheedi community in India celeberates the Urs of Mai Misra and this Dhamal is a traditional chain of those saints and the Sheedi clan in the sub continenet celebrates these festivities," he elaborates.
"Though we have acclimatized ourselves to the sub continent tradition, our ancestral culture which is there in our genes has a prominent impact on our life styles," says Ghulam Akbar.
The Sheedis believe that Dhamaal is one way to keep the Spirits happy. The Spirits, they believe, can capture or become trapped inside a human. So to save the human, the Spirit must be pleased. And not just the spirit but also their ancestral saints. The dhamaal is but one way of the pleasing process - there are several other rituals involved.
Previously devotees would also "walk on fire" - on live coals with bare feet in an acrobatic dance with fierce facial expressions. But that has been done away with now. Another traditional dance is "lewa" one of the many outstanding dances that have been retained for generations by the Sheedis.
On the three days of Rabi-Ul-Sani, the entire community, neighbours and others who share their beliefs visit the place and actively participate in the Dhamaal. On the 11, clay pots are brought in and the first day of dhamaal begins. On the third and the last day the clay pot are filled with water and decorated with flowers to be carried by women on their heads while they dance.
The drums start slow and build up a beat gradually as people start getting into a trance. As the drums fasten the dance heats up. The dhamaal carnival comes out on the Chakiwara Road from Al-Faird Compound and takes a round, all the while dancing to the beat of African drums, to the Sheedi Village Road and returns back to the Al-Farid Compound. After this food, sweets and fruits are "offered" to the Spirits and the "question and answer" session begins. In the Question session, people ask the Djinn or Spirits solutions to their problems.
Devotees bring goats, fruits, dry fruits, sweetmeat, Chadars for the shrine, flowers, loban to contribute to the process of keeping the saints and the Spirits happy. The goats are slaughtered and then cooked in huge degs.
A special drink is also prepared before the celebration with various dry fruits and rosewater which is meant to be drunk slowly. As the music on the Mogarman (African Drums), Musida, Jarapa, Thapi and Misrahn and Jhunjhuna begins, the devotees sing 'Sath Zikar' in Swahili and Urdu. According to some Sheedis, over the centuries they have lost their language, now mixed with Urdu and Sindhi. "One can't be sure if the song is exactly in Swahili or not. It is possible the pronunciation might have changed. Some words must still be in Swahili because even we don't know what they mean," says Akbar.
All the senses are pleased in those evenings, taste, hearing and even the sense of smell. Every where the loban is burnt so its fragrant smoke mesmerizes the Spirits and a smoky enviornment is created, scented with flowers. According to the devotees it is important to create a special mystical enviornment for the Dhamaal so people can easily get into a trance and "Spirits can come and enjoy the enviornment".
The dhamaal is open for men and women - the women wear a red Chundri dupatta and the the young ladies have to cover their faces. The Head or Khalifa of the Shrine ties a piece of cloth on the devotees' heads and gives them the special drink in a clay bowl to drink. The women also get a Peacock broom while the men get a baton.
Interestingly, the Sheedi Dhamaal is not just for their community but open for all - and the other communities take active part in it. A Hindu lady from the neighbourhood, Man Bai visits the shrine everyday and lights an Agarbatti - incense. According to her she does this to offer her thanks because she was "healed" by the Dhamaal. "I had lost my mind had gone completely crazy. There was no medical treatment which could have cured me but the shrine of Sheedi Mukhta and Mai Misra treated my mental sickness. Since then I regularly visit this place."
Sufi Festival finds a
permanent home in Karachi
The Peerzadas decided to hold the 6th International Mystic Music Sufi Festival in Karachi this year and this is where this 5 day event will make its permanent home. This was announced by Usman Peerzada at a press conference the day before it began. And on the opening night, Governor Sindh Ishrat ul Ibad came and consolidated this with a promise that his government was happy to see it become an annual event. Looking at the way the APMC has become an event very close to the hearts of the city's music listeners, it is hoped that the International Mystic Music Sufi Festival also becomes a must attend event.
So Karachi - enjoy the ecstasy of the music of saints from all over the world, including that which comes from the shrines of our country.
The world of sufism comes to town. (clockwise from left) a dance duo from Australia use dance with a lot of fabric to portray ecstasy; music troupes from Iran have women as members who play musical instruments with their heads covered; and Sheema Kirmani pays a classical ode to Hazrat Amir Khusro.