Lyari’s story is richer than its conflicts
Karachi: Lyari is often spoken and written about as synonymous with violence, conflict, and gang-wars. It has also been in the news for its recent shift in political favour towards Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and also right-wing parties such as the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and Jamaat-e-Islami, as opposed to the previously-favoured Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Sometimes you also hear about Lyari in association with sports. More commonly though, Lyari remains known as an area strife with conflict, a ‘no-go area’, if you will.
“The life of a Pakistani journalist is very dangerous, sometimes we have to go to conflict areas such as Lyari and Waziristan,” said Umair Razzaq, quoting from an article, published in Herald in November 2016, while speaking at a session, titled ‘Lyari Revisited’ on the final day of the Sixth International Karachi Conference held at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA).
Razzaq went on to quote reports from prominent media channels. He recalled one anchor speaking of his district as, ‘ye Lyari, tango tarri galiyaan, aur harso, jahalat ke ghiray’ [This is Lyari, congested streets surrounded by illiteracy].
Razzaq’s major frustration is that despite the significant improvements in Lyari and the several positive experiences of its residents, Lyari continues to be perceived under the singular banner of violence. “You know who Uzair Baloch is but do you know who Salman boxer is?” he asked, lamenting on how Lyari’s, filmmakers, artists, writers, poets and others, are ignored.
“Lyari is much more than just violence and conflict. Wherever we go, we are asked either about violence and politics, at most we may be asked about sports. What we need instead is a platform that allows us to share ideas and our work,” said Razzaq.
His book, Lyari On The Rise (March 2018), is an act of resistance against this predominant narrative. It is his way of giving space to the community’s creative individuals and memorialising their works in history, as the current discourse constantly chooses to ignore their efforts. In Lyari, Razzaq, a recent graduate of Benazir Bhutto Shaheed University, is known as a citizen journalist.