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The Other Side Of Lyari

By Zahabia Khozema
The town of Lyari is one of the most infamous towns of the countryin Pakistan.
Famous for its gang wars, the town has been plagued by violence since quite some
timeyears. Though afterFollowing Ranger's Military Operation of Lyari, things have
settledpeace prevails largely and blood is not shed the way it used to be has
diminished but , yet its the notoriety of place still stands. The thing fact is that there
is much more to Lyari than just events of brutality and savagery. This town got
poisoned by gang wars and proxy wars one and a half decade15 years ago, however
, before year 2000s Lyari was a peaceful, prospering and a very significant
influential portion part of Pakistan's mega metropolis, Karachi.
Lyari is one of the 18th constituent towns of Karachi which is theand the smallest
town by area in the city. Lyari It derives its name from the river Lyari which used to
flow through that area into the Arabian Sea. Its riverbed extended from Lalukhet
(present Liaquatabad) to the Port. There were two large watercourses for rainwater
storage which was later transformed into a river. Between the two courses there
existed twenty to twenty five fisher folks huts. The spot was then called Dirbo.
Later, this place was given another name Kalachi-jo-Goth meaning the village of
Kalachi.
Lyaris first residents were Sindhi fishermen and Baloch nomads from Makran,
Lasbela and Kalat districts, fleeing drought and tribal feuds. These people were AfroIndian/Pakistanis known as Sheedis. The Sheedis are believed to be the descendants
of slaves, sailors, servants and merchants from East Africa who arrived between
1200 and 1900 AD. These slaves largely settled in lower Sindh and along the
Makran Coast in Balochistan thus, getting the name Makranis as well.
The first wave of settlement occurred around 1725, a few years before Sindhi
banyas (the Hindu trading class) settled in Karachi and committed to expand it. A
second wave of Baloch settlers arrived around 1770, when Karachi came under the
control of the Khan of Kalat, following an accord between the Khan and the Kalhoro
rulers of Sindh. A third wave of Baloch migration took place after 1795, following the
annexation of the city by the Talpur rulers of Sindh, which attracted Baloch
tribesmen from interior Sindh and the Seraiki belt.
In the second half of the 19th century, the British occupation of Sindh and the
modernization of Karachis port, brought to Karachi a number of Baloch settlers from
the Iranian part of Balochistan, most of whom settled on the banks of the Lyari
River. Today, these Irani- Balochi constitute the largest share of Lyaris Baloch
population.

Lyari has been an important locality in the past. Today Sindhi elite traces its origin to
Lyari, all powerful and wealthy hailed from this part. Lyari has remained an
important landmark during pre-partition politics. It has been a hotbed for many
movements like Anti-imperialist campaign, Anti-colonial movement , Quit-India
Movement, The Khilafat Tehrik, and the Tehrik Reshmi Romal movement. Similarly,
many renowned political leaders of India have addressed this political constituency
quite a lot. Among those who addressed public meetings in Lyari included Pandit
Moti Lal Nehru, Gandhi Ji, Patel [Full Name of Patel?], Quaid-i-Azam, Sardar Abdulr
Rab Niashtar, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, G.M. Syed, Wali Khan, Mir Ghous Bakhsh
Bizenjo, Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Nawab Akbar Bugti, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri,
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.
Back then Lyari had the image of a tolerant society where no one was discriminated
on religious, sect or racial basis. There were offices of almost all parties , be it the
Indian National Congress, All Indian Muslim League or Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind.
The vast range of different cultures and religions has given the area a unique
identity. Majority of its residents have African lineage which they are very proud of.
This particular lineage has brought class polity [you means class politics?],
spirituality, aesthetics and a beautiful mixture of customs and traditions.
The religion which these people practice adds to the novelty of the area. A majority
of Makranis belong to the Sunni Barelvi school of faith, an indigenous subcontinental variation of folk Islam that emerged in the 18th century. Barelvi Islam
is not a religion with concrete doctrine but is highly decentralized and anti-dogma.
This particular faith is a mixture of sub-continental folk culture and Sufi Islam which
promotes the culture of devotional music, charity and festivity found around shrines
of Sufi saints across Pakistan and India.
One of the first areas other than the privileged populace of Karachi to adopt of
classical American and European disco music of the late 1970s was Lyari. Between
the late 1970s and 1990s Lyari also produced its own genre of music, popularly
known as "Lyari disco". Shazia Khushk's contribution for the development and
propagation of this genre is marvelous. The song "Bija Teer Bija", recorded at a
Lyari studio and released in 1988, was a tribute to the charismatic chairperson of
the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Benazir Bhutto. The song was first used by the PPP
during its electoral campaign for the 1988's general elections.
Moreover, Lyari has produced some international level boxers and footballers. This is
probably that part of the country where these two sports dominate cricket.
Pakistan's only boxing medal in Olympics, up till now, has been won by Hussain
Shah who grew up in the slums of Lyari during 60s and became a legend. And there
are many like Hussain who are training hard with their immensely talented
coaches , have won some international boxing competitions and aspire to bring an
Olympics medal home next year.

Football is woven in the very fabric of Lyari, some even call it mini-Brazil. It is
famous for Lyari that during FifaFifa tournament, political and gang tension cools
down in the area. Multiple football competitions and leagues are orchestrated every
year. When it comes to football, This portion of the countryLyari in way ahead in this
sporfar ahead than remaining countryt. All the international feats won by Pakistan's
football team and its individual players owe their success to Lyari only [were all
football players in Pak team from Lyari. If not, 'only' may not be factually correct ].
The arrest and encounter of Lyari's gang leaders in the beginning of this decade
marked the betterment in the affairs of Lyari. Since then Lyari seems to move
forward in the right direction. A number of NGOs and Welfare organizations are
working for the educational upliftment of its natives. Lyari's outlook has begun to
change. Different conferences are being held country-wide to promote peace and
productive activities in the area. Lyari is on its path to reclaim its lost glory, let's see
what becomes of it!