Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Amidst this poverty, do we also have to face the bullets?"

A first-hand narrative of someone who lives in Lyari and has been witnessing the Lyari Operation: 

They were given weapons. They used to help rich businessmen bhathas. But they also helped us all. If I wanted to get my daughter married and didn't have enough money, they would help. But increasingly, they got more and more powerful. The government was the one who created them.
   In the middle, the rangers operation had finished them. They took away all their weapon. They used to roam around Lyari but could not do much on their own. A year back, they took my neighbour's son. They accused him of being a spy. They beat him up to the extent that when he returned, his ears swollen. It was that bad. They told him we will not leave you. We will kill you. His parents made him run away to their village because they were scared.
   On Thursday, this operation started. Today is the seventh day. There is nothing left in Lyari. It is nothing but a graveyard. There is nothing to eat. No open shops. When one store eventually opens, there is such a long queue of people trying to get something to eat, that even if you stand in line from morning till evening, your turn won't come. Mostly, there isn't even a queue. There is so much snatching and shoving; everyone is trying to get food for themselves. Whatever little you manage getting falls on the floor and is stepped on. Once I was standing in the queue under the sun, just because I had to get something to eat for my children, when we heard, "They're here, run!" and I had to run away without anything.
     There are bullets all around. Bullets like rain. Only the civilians are dying. The ordinary people are dying, that is all. You think we don't have enough to face? Amidst this poverty, do we also have to face the bullets?
Do we feed our kids or do we face the bullets?
    It's all poverty. I blame it all on poverty. Today, if I don't have a means of earning to feed my kids, I will pick up a gun. I will do whatever I have to in order to feed my children. I will also steal, if need be. It's due to poverty, that's all.
  There is no food, no water, no gas. Today is the seventh day. There is no food to eat at home. Whoever comes in the police's reach, they say,"Oh he is part of the gang, take him!". Everyone who has lost their lives thus far were all innocent. They were ordinary people. You ask what will happen? Nothing will happen. There is no solution. It will go on like this.
 Yesterday, they kidnapped my husband. He was on his way to look for work. They took him amidst other men. They said, make some noise. Protest against the Operation in Lyari. They took him to the rally. On the way, the police came across them and they fired. Two or three people got shot. People started running here and there. It was because of this that my husband got a chance to escape.
   It is so bad. Whether it is the gang or the police itself, no one lets us work. We can't leave our houses. I have to sneak out. No one listens. I don't have enough money to get a house at a safer place. I have two younger daughters. It is so unsafe to leave them there by themselves. But what do I do? We already have so much to deal with. Wasn't that enough?
Where my mother lives, it is even worse. She is stranded. She is stranded inside her home since days. If anyone gets out of their homes, the gang orders them to join them. If it's the police that spots them, they say,"Oh they must be of the gang, take them!"
    How do they have so much weapon? They must have some support. And it's not the usual weapon. It is weapon that even the police don't have. How do they have so much of it? And where is it coming from?
When they were supporting the government, they were good. Now when they are against the government, they are suddenly so bad? Look at my elbow. That day I tripped and fell and bruised my elbow. I still have not bandaged it. There is no doctor's open. Where do I go?
   If any of you could come and see how the condition is like, you would cry. But there is no solution. Our life will go on like this only. There are so many dead bodies lying around. Of ordinary people. People like you and me...or just me. We are the poor. We can only bathe the dead if we have water. There is no water to bathe the dead with. Yesterday, two little children were shot. A woman was carrying her child. Before she knew it, her child had gotten shot. He is admitted in Civil hospital as of now. I think media covered it. The mother is devastated.
    Live together. Why can't we all? We are all Pakistanis.

Me: Isn't it better if this "gang" is finished for once and for all?

No, they can never be finished. If one goes, two will get up. If two go, three will get up. There is no way that they will ever finish. They say, so many other areas are also infamous. There is Malir, there is Katti Pahari, why no operation there? Today, everyone has a gun in Lyari. Even those who keep it just to protect themselves. The police also take the innocent. The ones that the police should actually be arresting are nowhere to be found. All these dacoits are born because you when you do catch them, you don't punish. You leave them because they bribe you or give you their share. Because of that, they don't cease.
The police can't do anything. They can't even step inside Cheel Chowk which is the main area. Today, we heard that the police went a little closer to Cheel Chowk. But I am telling you, they won't let them come inside. There is no way that the police will be able to. Not possible. If the government knew them to be so dangerous, why did it support them in the first place? Sometimes, the police also used to come and take bhathas from them.
Pakistan aisey hi chalega. It is wrong to say that the gang will be finished. If one dies, two will rise.
Think about it. Where does the weapon come from? The police is guarding the area from all around. Then how does the weapon come inside? It's been seven days. How is their weapon and their bullets still not finished? Aslah kia aasman se aaraha hai? They're just scaring the ordinary man, that is all. You tell this room, right now, there are only two people, you and I. No one is coming in and no one is going out. This glass of sherbet lying next to you.. how did it get here? You have had half of it. If it refills, how did it get refilled? How is the sherbet getting here? It's very dangerous weapon also. Is it coming from the earth below us all? Or is it coming from the sky? Does some helicopter come in the middle of the night and give them more weapon? How is it that their weapon is infinite?
There is no progress since the day this operation started. Either the police will finish, or the gang will, or the people will. And it will be the people.
Now you see how much this gang will rise. Obviously they will rise. They are very powerful and they are relentless. They are not the kind of people to back down. The government should have had talks with them.
How is it that the government can't finish the gang? They say we will fight India, we will do that. They can't even finish this gang in their own country? How do they say they will fight for the country? There is no solution for Pakistan. ALLAH keh rehm-o-karam par chal raha hai.  
They are relentless. They will not back down. Lyari is in the absolute worst condition. Nothing to eat, nothing to drink. No one can go out to earn. I don't know what will happen. If they want to kill the gang, kill them. But don't kill us. Don't kill the women and the children and the innocent men. The women shout and scream in protest. The police say to them,"Shut up. You are the gang's people." So what? We are all Balochis. We are all Pakistanis.
All we want is peace. That is all we want.
Think about it. A child is born to their parents. The parents do everything for him. They do all that they can, and they fight this poverty for him. They feed him, and clothe him. Try to educate him. And when he turns twenty or so...a 50rs bullet takes him away from them. Ask us how we have suffered. You can't even imagine. How it is for a mother to lose her son like that. That's how the story of our life ends. Even I don't know whether I will reach home today or not. I could either get shot on the way or be set ablaze when they are setting everything on fire in protest. Us people will end like this. Either by hunger or by bullets. Whether we are at the police's mercy or at the gang's, either way we lose. It all starts at poverty and ends at poverty. We are the poor. Our lives are like that of insects. There is no end. It will go on like this. One day you will hear I have also died.*

*'They' refers to the people against whom the Lyari Operation is being conducted.
*'Gang' refers to the same, in the speakers' words.