Tag Archives: Lyari

Dancing in the streets: Lyari celebrates as Germans triumph over Brazil’s bitter rival Argentina


In almost 15 days’ time, they would be gathered here to pray on Eid. Today, they were here at the Eidgah to celebrate something just as important to them – the World Cup final.

Famous for supporting Brazil, and considering the bitter rivalry between Brazil and Argentina, it was no surprise that almost all who were gathered inside the Eidgah in Lyari were supporting Germany; the enemy of their enemy. The 7-1 loss at the hands of the Germans was forgotten and forgiven, all that mattered was that Argentina should not win.

A roar went up when an Argentine striker missed early on and all present at the ground gasped collectively as the Argentinians threatened to break the German defence.

There were no goals forthcoming in the first half though, and at half-time, the ground started to empty slowly as people went out to buy refreshments. On the other side of the world, in Rio de Janeiro, the World Cup had caused the world to stand still. Here in Lyari, it had sparked it into life.

Those who remained inside the ground talked of how they were sure that the Brazil defeat was fixed; still unable to grasp the reality that their beloved team had been knocked out. They refused to accept that there could be a better team than the Brazilians, insisting on coming up with all kinds of excuses, from political espionage to divine interference, to justify the inexplicable loss.

The second half soon began and the longer it went without a goal, the more restless they became. They feared the worst; that Argentina would conquer Brazil, that it would be their bitter rivals that would lift the World Cup. And then it happened, Mario Gotze scored, and just as the Maracana erupted in relief thousands of miles away, the Eidgah roared with joy.

When the final whistle blew, a loud cheer went up. It was over, Brazil had not won but neither had Argentina – Lyari was happy. And soon, gunshots echoed in celebration through the narrow alleyways and the ground.

The Eidgah, once a graveyard according to the residents, came alive. A few danced, another few shouted ‘Germany, Germany’, others formed a train and walked around the ground shouting whatever gibberish came to their exultant minds, and the Eidgah’ fervent celebrations culminated with German flags being waved around as the supporters slowly left the ground, one by one.

Only a few of them went home though as most went straight to the Cheel Chowk, where a large crowd had gathered. Under the large sculpture of the hunting eagle, they hoisted flags of Germany and Brazil, side by side, it was a victory for both of them as far as they were concerned, and along with it, a victory for Lyari.

In every street of Germany, from Munich to Dortmund, the football-crazy nation celebrated their triumph. Here in this small quaint neighbourhood of Karachi, so did the Baloch.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2014.


Three Lyari gangsters killed in 2 encounters

KARACHI: Three alleged gang members of Lyari were killed in two separate encounters with the police and Rangers in Lyari and Old City areas on Thursday.

The two gang members of the Sheraz Comrade group of the Lyari gangsters were killed during a joint raid conducted by the police and Rangers in the Saifi Lane area of Baghdadi, Lyari. The gangsters killed in an encounter were later identified as 30-year-old Majeed aka Steel, and 28-year-old Akhtar.

SHO Khalid Abbasi said that the raid was conducted after they received a tip-off about the presence of some members of the gang in the area. They fired at the law enforcers, who retaliated and killed two of the suspects. Two other suspects escaped under the cover of firing.

According to the police, the deceased gangsters were involved in various cases of target killings, kidnappings and extortion.

Similarly, another alleged gang member of Lyari was killed in an encounter with the police on Mehmood Shah Road within the limits of Napier police station. The deceased was identified as Kashif aka Mota. During routine patrolling in the area, the police received a tip-off about the presence of some suspects on Mehmood Shah Road. The police reached the spot and killed the suspect after an exchange of fire. However, his accomplice escaped.

SP Sheraz Nazeer said that Kashif was a member of the Sohail Dada group of the Lyari gangsters. The gang leader, Dada, used to operate his gang from Malir and was allegedly involved in more than 100 cases of crime. He was killed recently killed in the Old City area by the Anti-Extremist Cell of the Crime Investigation Department. The police said that Kashif was considered a close aide of Dada and was wanted by the police in a number of cases.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2014.


Football fever: Brazil’s defeat upsets Lyari

KARACHI: Naseem knew it in his bones that Brazil might not win but he kept his fingers crossed. He wanted Brazil to win with or without Neymar da Silva.

“It just has to happen,” said the 14-year-old student. “I’m going to stay up to watch the entire match. They will win. I know it.” He had done everything to ensure that nothing, and he meant nothing, would jinx the team or their expected victory – he wore green, he was carrying a Brazilian flag and had a small wooden bench kept at a prime location to watch the match at the Eid Gah park in Lyari. Naseem and his friends were there at 12:10am getting hot channa and prepping firecrackers which they would light as soon as Brazil scored a goal or more.

His friend Bilal kept telling him that it was not going to happen. “Koi chance hee nahi hai [There’s no way that’s going to happen],” he said. “Brazil cannot win. Inka scene off hai.”

In case you’re wondering, Naseem isn’t a diehard Brazil fan. He supports Argentina. He wanted Brazil to play against Argentina in the final. That, he said, was his dream game. Two of his favourite teams of the FIFA tournament battling it out for the world cup.

Eleven minutes into the match, however, Naseem got up and walked up to the screen. Germany had scored. He couldn’t believe it. Thomas Muller managed to make it past the goalie. Twenty-three minutes into the match and Germany scored another goal. Naseem, now restless could not sit still. “This can’t be happening,” he said rubbing his forehead. “This is like a nightmare.”

Around him, the adults and other children seemed to be falling to pieces. Many of them got on their motorcycles and rode off. Abid Bhai and his friends had a bet going on for Rs5,000, he was sure Brazil would win. After the Germans scored the second goal, he quietly made his way home.

Some residents of the area who were supporting Germany became excited. They knew that if Germany scored another goal, their team would win. Less than seven minutes later the Germans had scored three more goals. Around 29 minutes into the match and the deal seemed to be sealed. The German supporters started making a lot of noise. Some even started lighting firecrackers and dancing. Things became so tense between both teams’ supporters that a fight also broke out. A punch for Brazil and a kick for Germany, it went on for a couple of minutes till people pulled the boys apart.

By half-time, the park which was overcrowded by 1am started looking quite empty.

Naseem sat on his wooden bench contemplating if he should hang around till the end of the match. He was upset as the team he was rooting for had lost before the match was even over. Bilal came around to his friend, put an arm around his shoulders and said: “It’s ok. They didn’t have Neymar but you still have Argentina!”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2014.


Floodlights light up Lyari


Keeping up with the Fifa World Cup fever, youngster Junaid Tariq and his Azad Baloch FC teammates are participating in the Play for Peace Football Tournament with seven other teams at the dimly lit Gabol Park at the edge of Lyari’s Union Council (UC) 10 and UC 11.

They defeated Lyari Central FC 3-0 to reach the final, while Idea FC beat Lyari United 2-0 to book a 40-minute faceoff against Azad Baloch.

Young footballers like Tariq and Nuzair Ali are undeterred by the late timings of the matches, saying that even their mothers encouraged them to play football.

“It isn’t a problem, my mother wants me to play football,” Nuzair told The Express Tribune.

“We are the best team, and others are a little jealous of us. So we need to win this tournament.”

Meanwhile, event organiser Jihand Shaukat Ali said that local tournaments in Lyari have not been the same since last year, when there was a bomb blast at a street football tournament.

“Mostly it’s just the children or us, the volunteers,” said Shaukat. “Others don’t want to come because they fear a repetition of last year’s bomb blast.”

According to Shaukat, all the club players are under the age of 16 and all of them aim to change their lives. When these children leave the football field, they take away lessons for life.

“It’s not about winning and losing,” explained Shaukat. “Our aim is to teach the importance of teamwork to these children.”

Project Supervisor Fahim bin Tariq further explained the nature of the ‘lessons’ in detail, “When each child passes a ball to another, they are told that it is an equivalent of respecting the other player.

“When they dribble in the field, it stands for improving the self-esteem and when they aim for a goal, it is a lesson for them that in life they need to set a goal for themselves in order to survive.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2014.

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A turn for festivity: Lyari forgets violence in wake of World Cup

KARACHI: For the last few years, Lyari has been termed one of the most dangerous places for anyone to travel due to gang wars, infighting among local Balochs and Kachis and encounters between police and gangsters.

However, these days the congested area with some of the oldest buildings in the city sports colours of the World Cup, complete with flags of different countries hoisted on rooftops and overhead water storage tanks painted and shaped like footballs.

Even the Cheel Chowk – one of the most feared places of Karachi – has a Brazil flag fluttering above the stone bust of an eagle, summing up the love of football for the locals in Lyari.

“Football is the heartbeat of Lyari, and the beat increases every time there is a World Cup,” local football coach Basheer Baloch told The Express Tribune.

“It’s like a festival where we get together to enjoy the matches of the world on screens placed in streets and local grounds. If a favourite team wins, wild celebrations accompanied by bursting crackers ensue; but if they lose, flags are burned with the same intensity.”

Lyari, which has only four football grounds but 172 registered football clubs, is known for its love of Brazil, and the only country that comes close to beating it is Argentina.

During a visit to the area, it was learnt that whenever there is a match of Brazil, a massive rally is taken out on hundreds of bikes and Suzukis carrying flags of Brazil, where fans chant slogans to raise the tempo before the kick-off.

“Carrying out a rally for Brazil is one of the most special things in Lyari whenever there is a World Cup. The locals cannot become part of the rally stand on their roofs and celebrate with youngsters.”

This time, the World Cup has seen a slight shift in the usual suspects, with fans supporting teams like England, Germany, Spain and France. Astonishingly, there are plenty of supporters of Ghana and Belgium as well.

“As long as Ghana were in the tournament, they had a big fan pool in Lyari,” said one of the fans. “I can’t really tell why; maybe the fact that they are Muslims or that the people here think they resemble us.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2014.

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Learning initiative: After English language course, Lyari youth ready to take on the world

KARACHI: When Adeel Hayat, a 22-year-old resident of Aath Chowk, Lyari, was offered an opportunity to participate in an English language and peace-building training initiative, he did not really believe it would serve to be a life-changing event.

On Saturday, after a span of six months of participation, the ambitious graduate was, however, able to articulate his ideas before an audience of several hundred at the Pak-American Cultural Center (PACC). He now believed that through better employment opportunities and community service, the youth have the power to bring a real change in the impoverished and strife-hit neighbourhood of Lyari. The speech was a part of the graduation ceremony comprising 175 young boys and girls who had completed the rigorous six-month ‘English Learning Programme for Peace’, especially designed for the youth of Lyari by the PACC in collaboration with the Karachi Youth Initiative (KYI). The programme was free-of-charge and the participants were provided a transportation facility by the KYI.

“The 150-hour programme was not only about teaching them English, it was also about helping them grow as potential leaders and contributors in the social and economic development of Lyari,” said the PACC English Language Programme director Madiha Rehman. She added that the programme was designed to help develop a sense of pride and self-confidence in the students so that they can achieve their life goals. “I believe that we have achieved the objective of equipping the students with good communication and leadership skills that will enable them to serve their communities.”

Another participant, a 19-year-old Zamzam Saeed, who also bagged the ‘top student’ award agreed to participate in the programme as she genuinely felt it would be a good learning experience. “The purpose of education is to refine an individual and these six months were all about that,” she said.

The participants, aged between 16 and 25, were inducted in the programme through KYI recruitment camps that were arranged in all the 11 union councils of Lyari. “Of around 1,000 applications that we received, we chose those girls and boys who we felt displayed the will to do something for themselves and their community but had just not been provided with the necessary opportunities to do so before this,” said the KYI spokesperson Farhan Iqbal.

“The youth of Lyari is exceptionally talented and it is the duty of the authorities and the society to guide that talent in the right direction,” said the chief guest of the ceremony and PACC president Rafiq Tabani.

Tabani also thanked the parents of the students for encouraging and supporting their children through the programme, and distributed awards and certificates to the students.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2014.

Key player of Lyari gang war killed

KARACHI: A key player of the Lyari gang war – Amjad Lashari, was shot dead in an alleged encounter with the police in the Old City area early Sunday morning.

Amjad Lashari was the younger brother of Lyari’s former union council nazim, Rauf Baloch. Both brothers were familiar with the area and its people and had recently started working with Uzair Baloch and his gang. Before this the brother held high ranks in the Ghaffar Zikri group and were working against the Uzair Baloch and Baba Ladla groups.

Lashari and his older brother were accused of masterminding the alleged encounter in which Rehman Dakait was killed. Their homes and hideouts were then allegedly attacked by members of the Peoples Amn Committee (PAC) which was being led by Uzair Baloch and Baba Ladla.

Sources claim that Rauf had assumed he would be able to replace Rehman Dakait as the head of the PAC and his brother would take Baba Ladla’s spot as chief operational commander but, after an intense tug-of-war, the brothers left Lyari.

They spent some time in Dubai but then Rauf was detained by the police and later, released in 2011. Lashari was recently active in Lyari and Old City areas. He used to threaten traders and shopkeepers by sending extortion slips and asking for nearly a million rupees.

The encounter

The alleged encounter where he was killed took place near Sindh Madresatul Islam in Mithadar around 4am in the morning. His body was taken to Civil Hospital, Karachi.

The police believe that Lashari was in the area with the intention to kidnap someone. “They [Lashari and two of his accomplices] were roaming around the area in a Corolla with a Dubai number plate,” said Mithadar SHO Tariq Baig. “He threw a hand grenade at us and tried to kill us but he failed and we succeeded.”

The two men who were with Lashari at the time of the incident managed to escape under a cover of firing. Lashari isn’t the first of his brothers to have been killed this way. So far four of his brothers have died during the Lyari gang war.

Besides being involved in kidnapping and extortion, Lashari was also wanted by the police in 35 murder cases, including the murder of SHO Nasirul Hassan, a prominent officer of the Karachi operation in the 1990s and the Lyari gang war. According to SHO Tariq Baig, they have managed to trace some members of the Lashari group and were trying to arrest them.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2014.

Feeling your words: From Lyari with love


A child asks his father why the darkness encircles him. He asks for guidance as he has lost his path. The frightened child says: “Father, I can’t sleep well.”

As Zafar Shehzad Zafari recited a child’s unease, he left an entire room full of poets speechless. “This is the pain of Lyari and its people,” he explained. “They think about it all the time.”

The continuous bloodshed and unrest in Lyari has forced its literati to think like a child. It gets their brains working and their pens writing. They can’t help but write when people in other parts of the city or country experience the violence that they have been going through for the last six years.

The audience gathered around Zafari requested him to recite his Balochi ghazal, Tu mani halla just kane che kane [What will you do by asking me how I am doing].

Zafari is in his 40s and has a great command over Urdu and Balochi. As he sat with other poets and short story writers at an event organised by Shahjahan Lovers Society at Noorani Hall, Nawa Lane, on Thursday, he held his most treasured possession in his hands – a diary. It was full of his poems which he recited one by one. He looked up at his audience, pushed his spectacles back with a finger and asked: “When will this tyranny come to an end.”

According to Shaif Hussain, a short story writer, some people carry on with their trade despite the fear. “A layman doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t matter what the oppressor is doing, he will say nothing,” he said before sharing a short story he had written with the audience on war and peace.

The story was about two women – War and Peace. Both beautiful and full of spirit but their eyes told a different tale.

The unrest, according to poet Mussawar Ali, doesn’t start or end in Lyari. “It is the failure of the entire system. We, poets and writers, are very sensitive,” he said. “It hurts us when others are in pain and when the innocent are suffering.”

Suno ke roshnyon ka sheher bohat tareek hai [Listen, the city of lights is very dark], recited the poet.

The hall echoed with praise as he kept on reciting, mujh ko aisa Lyari nahin chahiye jis mein jungle ka qanoon chalta rahe [I don't want a Lyari where the law of the jungle prevails].

Saqib Hussain, a shy young poet, believes that if everyone starts thinking like poets then there would be no unrest anywhere in the world. “I am living in a city without peace,” he said. “The rule of law won’t be restored till the state enforces it with honesty.”

“It is also our identity,” said Mussawar as poets and writers shared their work in Urdu, Balochi and Sindhi. “Literary gatherings used to take place in Lyari quite regularly even before the ‘gangsters’ came to power.”

Haji Nasim, a writer, suggested that the youth needed to read history and explore what had happened to other nations in the past.

“History creates awareness in a man,” he said. “There won’t be any peace till the belly is empty.”

Poet Tasawar Ali read aloud from his diary as well. His poem criticised rulers who he claimed were always asleep while the thieves were always awake. He believes that someone has stolen the peace from Karachi and replaced it with fear and loathing.  “Who wants peace?” he asked. “Everyone loves it except for a few. Let us hope for a better tomorrow. Let us hope for a little bit of happiness.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2014.

Engaging the youth: Police induct 11 Lyari footballers, indict another in ‘fake’ cases


Karachi police have inducted 11 football players from various football clubs of Lyari into the police football team. These lucky players will represent the Sindh Police in inter-departmental tournaments over the next few years. They were given the appointment letters at a ceremony held at the Police Headquarters in Garden on Saturday.

“We selected the players after conducting trials for three days,” ASI Aftab Ahmed, who is managing the police football team, told The Express Tribune. “All the players were selected on merit and the police will provide them accessories and resources for training.”

The footballers were selected from among the over 140 football clubs of district South. “Such measures are needed to not only overcome unemployment in Lyari but also to rehabilitate and groom the area’s youth,” the district South football federation’s president, Gulab Baloch, told The Express Tribune. “These activities will be helpful in preventing the youngsters from falling into the lure of the gangs.”

A total of 12 footballers were selected during the trials. One of them left for abroad a couple of days before the police handed out the appointment letters. The selected footballers are aged between 18 and 28 years. “Around 150 footballers were selected for the trials but only the 12 of us were selected to represent the police team as we fulfilled all the criteria for selection,” one of the selected footballers, 26-year-old Junaid Anwar Ali, told The Express Tribune. “We have always seen the police take action against the people of Lyari. This is the first time they did something for us.”

One step forward, two steps back

While the induction of the footballers from Lyari into the police football team was seen by many as a positive step, others wondered if it would be enough to uplift the reputation of the police in the restive area. Even as the department took one step into the right direction, Lyari police arrested a young international football player and booked him in cases of police encounter, possession of illegal weapons and a stolen motorcycle.

Shahzeb Baloch, the international footballer, was arrested by district South police from Chakiwara, Lyari. He had taken a lift from someone on the road who had unfortunately been riding a stolen motorcycle. The police arrested both of them and, according to the family, charged them in false cases of police encounter and possession of illegal weapons against them and sent them to prison.

Besides taking part in local and national-level tournaments, Shahzeb Baloch has also represented Pakistan a couple of times in Japan and Iran in South Asian football tournaments.

“On the one side, the police are trying to give a message that they are doing good by recruiting Lyari’s youth in their football team but on the other hand, the same police are continuing their old practices; forcing the youth to take the law into their own hands,” said Imran Baloch, a relative of Shahzeb. He reasoned that such actions by the police will inadvertently arouse feelings of anger and hatred towards the police among the residents.

“The police should have at least conducted a simple inquiry before leveling these charges against him. At least his career could have been saved,” said another family member. Shahzeb’s family, on receiving information of his arrest, had approached the police station and showed them the medals and certificates he had won to clarify that that he was a football player and not a street criminal. The police , however, remained unmoved and even seized his medals and certificates, added the family.

When The Express Tribune tried to contact the senior officials of the area, they refused to comment on the issue. “What do you mean they put the cases on him?” Lyari SP Shahnawaz Khan rebuffed when questioned regarding the nature of the cases registered against Shahzeb. “Go ask the SHO who has registered the cases,” he said, before cutting the call.

Chakiwara SHO Naseer Magsi admitted that the police had found no criminal record for the arrested footballer. “In Lyari, most youngsters of Shahzeb’s age are involved in criminal activities,” he tried to reason. “It is the responsibility of the investigation wing to prove the charges leveled against him,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2014. 

FIFA frenzy: Divided we fall, united we football: Lyari residents


How much happiness can a simple projector and a curtain stimulate? Add football and Lyari to the equation and the joy is unlimited.

A little before midnight on Tuesday, hundreds of residents of Kalri and its adjoining areas waited patiently for the match to start, laughing and bickering about their favourite teams. The screen was set up on the roadside, with a carpet laid down on the road for the audience to sit on and enjoy the match.

The walls on both sides of the road had been given a fresh coat of white paint, apparently to hide the graffiti. Flags of different countries were mounted on rooftops while a life-size poster of this year’s schedule of matches was pasted on one of the walls.

People sat on the road in front of the screen, stood on pavements and even watched from the rooftops. The faces of the young and old alike shone in pure ecstasy as they watched their favourite players battle it out in Brazil.

Not even the K-Electric could dampen the spirits as their generous benefactors had arranged for a generator that would ensure non-stop screening of the Brazil versus Mexico match. Most were rooting for Brazil for this particular match; others decidedly wanted Mexico to thrash the home team.

The audience, irrespective of their ages, teased each other about their favourite teams. “Argentina will surely win the World Cup this year,” smiled 50-year-old Ateeq Baloch, pointing towards an Argentinian flag that soared above a rooftop. His friend, who was supporting Brazil, scoffed. “Even our Ibrahim Hyderi team can beat Argentina.”

As the match progressed, the crowd cheered and booed players from both teams as they attempted to score. A deafening roar ensued when Brazil player, Oscar, managed to kick the ball into the net in the first few minutes but his goal was disallowed due to an offside foul. Some cussed at the referee; others booed the Brazilian; yet others playfully teased their friends, certain of a victory for their side.

One of the youngest members of the audience, nine-year-old Shaukat Ali, danced in the middle of the crowd each time Brazil were on the offensive. Ali wore a green headband, with the emblem of the Brazilian flag stitched to the centre. “My mother stitched it for me.”

Love for the game

Among the crowd were local celebrities too. Saeed Babar, 15, who plays for the Pakistan Under-16 side, is respected and revered by the whole community. They see his story as a glimmer of hope; a way to tell the world that Lyari is not all guns and gore. The teenager walks to the nearest football stadium every day for his three-hour training routines conducted by his uncle, the former Pakistan national football team player, Qasim Soomar.

“Football is my life. I can’t live without it.”

Babar’s juniors from the area look up to him. He has become a role model of sorts for his younger friends. Zameer, 14, who plays for the Hyderi United Football Club, hopes to represent Pakistan in international competitions such as the World Cup. He has a long way to go, though, as there is no funding or support from the government. “My father supports my passion,” he remarked. “I am dedicated to the game and I know I will make it one day.”

It is halftime and the crowd disperses temporarily. Somewhere from among them, 30 people carry something wrapped in a carpet that was lying on the floor. Others shout excitedly, following the entourage. Seeing the worried looks on our faces, Bux laughs as he explains: “That man is physically disabled. They are taking him home for a toilet break. This is Lyari.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2014.