The Lyari we all (don’t) know

Published: May 25, 2012

In a few minutes you may be killed or drugged or if lucky, kidnapped. Your head will be ripped off and given to the children to play football with. PHOTO: M AZEEM/EXPRESS

If you see people with curly hair, pan gutka in their mouth, speaking their own Balochi version of Urdu, then you are definitely among Lyariites.

Being someone unfamiliar with this Pandora island of Karachi, one should be worried because it is here that you are among the most dangerous creatures to be found. In a few minutes you may be killed or drugged, or if lucky, kidnapped. Your head will be ripped off and given to the children to play football. Your hands and legs will be severed and sent to your parents and so on.

Unfortunately this is the misperception that a majority of us have about Lyari.

Once called the mother of Karachi, Lyari has been in the news for quite some time now. Mafias have remained active for long and there have been many operations in the past few years including the very recent one in which many people lost their lives.

While Mr Macho Man of the police department frequently stated the varying percentages of criminals that they have eliminated, nothing seemed evident on the surface. This is because the real issue with Lyari is that there is no percentage of criminals to eliminate, there is a problem to be solved!

Historically, the inhabitants of Lyari were among the first settlers of Karachi. The town has been famous for the talented footballers that it produced. With more than 100 football clubs and two stadiums, Lyari is often referred to as ‘Little Brazil’.

The love for the game is so deep that the level of violence falls in the town during the FIFA world cup.

Lyari brought to the screen players like Hussain Jan (acclaimed and awarded football player of Pakistan). But the problem starts when a star like Hussain Jan, who was always praised for his game, ends up washing cars for a living.

In the world of football where stars receive millions a year, Hussain Jan receives just Rs20 for every car that he washes. The problem that has to be addressed starts here.

Why should a young Lyariite play football when he can project his career with certainty as something like that of Hussain Jan? What stops him from joining the active gangs around him? What is the incentive to kick the ball?

This is where these young men pick up guns, pull the trigger and kick the ball back into their own goal.

Besides playing ball, Lyariites are famous for boxing.

With over 22 boxing clubs run by private owners and former boxers, Lyari is the boxing factory of Pakistan. The craze for punching the bag is so immense that athletes (usually daily wagers) never miss training sessions even after working the whole day.

It was Lyari that gave Pakistan its national boxing champion Jan Muhammad Baloch who represented Pakistan at many international forums and won many medals in green. Idealising the great American boxer Muhammad Ali, Baloch upon taking the gloves off, realised that the world is totally different for him than what it is for his ideal.

While Ali enjoys a respectful luxurious life, the once undefeated Jan Muhammad Baloch was totally knocked down by society. He served in a private bank at a time and was thrown out from there on grounds that he was “good for nothing”.

Imagine a gold medallist boxer being considered good for nothing.

Hussain continuously received similar blows. This is the problem that needs to be addressed. Why should a young man from Lyari train in a sport like boxing? Why should he not deal in drugs instead? Why should he punch the punching bag – why not people on the open roads?

This is where these young men, leave the ring, throw off their gloves and start throwing foul punches on the streets.

Lyari besides being active in sports has also been the hub for literature. Many literary works trace their roots back to Lyari. Names like Waja Khair Mohammad (a scholar who translated the Quran into the Balochi language) and Professor Saba Dashtyari (a respected Balochi language writer and intellectual whose literary works appeared in leading journals and magazines) have their roots in Lyari.

The problem starts when intellectuals like Dashtyari are killed in broad day light and the government fails miserably in providing justice.

This is the problem that needs to be addressed.

Why should Lyariites choose to write and not fire? Why should they choose the pen and not the gun?

This is where these men break the nib of the pen, leave the blue and choose the red.

While our politicians are busy fooling people, the situation in Lyari is reaching a breaking point. The solution to the problem is very simple.

The government has to leave its cheap short-term solutions and opt for some constructive long term ones.

There has to be an ‘institutional investment’ to secure the future of talented Lyariites. Young Lyraiites have to be assured that choosing the right way will lead them to good, otherwise ‘Little Brazil’ will soon be replaced with ‘Little Gaza’ and the ‘boxing factory’ will  soon be called the ‘drug factory’.

Follow Omair on Twitter @ORBaloch

Omair Rauf

Omair Rauf

The author is a student of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan and belongs to the Mastung District in Balochistan. He is currrently based in Karachi and tweets @ORBaloch

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • fazal baloch

    One of the best articles on Lyari I have ever read. Hats of to you Umair for writing such a wonderful piece.Recommend

  • Afaaq

    The Pakistani government has single handedly failed all over Pakistan. The problem with lyari and other areas of Karachi is that past and current governments have let criminals operate their to serve their political interests. After several years of criminal enterprises running city wide areas, things have come to what they are now. The government has failed to govern this country in all aspects. Doesn’t mean people become savages and return to the stone age.Recommend

  • Niha

    well you got the part about violence etc right but i fail to understand how their suffering is any different from the rest of karachi.
    A footballer not able to acclaim his true worth? well it maybe news to you but thats the story of most in karachi. there are numerous karachites who give up sports as they’ve to work to support their families. A boxer got fired from a bank job? well unless he was qualified enough to work in a bank or he was a guard, i agree that was probably not the right thing to do, which is what any person who gets fired would tell you.

    My problem with the article is that the reasons given by the writer are by far very childish. It is true lyari people have gone through alot, infact for them violence is a part of their lives which is not what anyone deserves. But yes i do believe that what the “Macho Man” of Karachi is trying to attempt by cleansing lyari free of those gang lords, is the right thing to do. Those people living in lyari deserve a free environment where their kids have no choice but to go about find work. Where taking up guns and criminal life is not even an option. They deserve that like any other karachite. Recommend

  • Sane

    @Omair Rauf
    A good write. I am Urdu speaking, but fully understand that Lyari has a deprived populace. There were excellent foo0tballers and boxers, who diminished themselves as never was supported by our institutions, as other sports like cricket and hockey are supported. Lyarites are peace loving and friendly people. I have no doubt. They contributed in progress of this city. But, my friend this is not only with Lyrites, many sportsmen of non popular sports (in Pakistan) irrespective to where they belong were never acknowledged and had and rather having a miserable life. Deprived people. Similarly many poets and writers had same life; recently you must have read about Habib Jalib.

    While on the other hand, there are handful of people who are involved in drugs and weapons. They are hard criminals and have demonstrated their strength and might against police and rangers recently. Solution is that Lyrites must be equipped with education to which they badly lack. This will open avenue to them for prosperity. Looking at political parties that they will change of the fate of Lyari people will always be a dream. NGOs and individuals must come up for small loans for small scale business to them. Such things will certainly work and Lyari may witness changes.

    Lyari is highlighted recently, but my dear friend tell me in which part of Pakistan people do not have deprived life. No money, no electric, no water, no education, atrocities by Police and powerful people. Look at Aslam Madhiana case. Alone in Karachi many people get their food from ‘Langar’. Was such kind of people ever existed in Pakistan some ten years before?

    Anyways Baloch and Makrani people love Pakistan and love this city. They are loving people.


  • Umme Kulsoom

    Apologies but the article needs bit of an editing. Besides talking about sportsmen in Lyari, there is a lot more that can be talked about the place. Keeping in mind the trade, economy, wholesale markets, covered area, art and history, architecture and tons of other things are present in the area that need to be researched and projected on such platforms. Recommend

  • memon

    Lyari is mix ethnic area . Mostly Baloch , then sindi call them self ” kattchi ” living around mirza adam khan road , naizi , punjabi mostly living in “Bihar Colony ” , pathan living around lea market , urdu speaking in agra taj and memon living in moosa lane and naya abad . 10 to 15 years back street crime was also present due to unemployment and lack of eduction . PPP always give lower level jobs specially to baloch in department like KESC , KMC ( CDGK ) , KPT , KWSB etc . Upper level jobs belong to people of other parts of city . But after 2000 these low level jobs were mostly fill by the people of other parts of city . And that is main reason of frustration among the youngster . Their is major shift in youngster approach . They are going toward easy money . It is social cum political problem they are not getting their shear . common people merging with criminal. I consider them son of soil and request whole stake holder of karachi please leave something for them . Recommend

  • SaQiB

    Informative………. very informative……… for people who have never been to lyari, this is an eye-openerRecommend

  • Khawar

    Awesome. Do ponder on what Umme Kulsoom has said.Recommend

  • Aamir

    very well written Mr Omair. really liked your thoughts and also respect that. you should have also covered the other areas besides sportsRecommend

  • Faisal Dehwar

    Very well written.. An eye opener for everyone. The situation in lyari has very constructive solutions but unfortunately no one to implement. I agree with the writer completely

    @ Niha
    Dear what do you mean by childish?? History has it that violence can be tackled by promoting things like sports etc… South Africa is an example… It is very much true that if young talented guys from lyari will be assured of a good future then what is the need for them to get involved in the dirty politics around.Recommend

  • usama

    who cares what they like or did or can do. theyr criminals end of story.Recommend

  • sick of this nonsense

    excellent excellent article. Agreed that it needs a bit of polishing but the flow was wonderful. We have a talented blogger here. Finally!Recommend

  • hima

    This is a very interesting article to read. But do you really think the goverment is going to have these institutional investments when they can’t even keep their public schools in order. When everything is happening infront of their eyes and they choose to turn their back on the people of pakistan. When all they want is to put our money in their pocket and run. No man has security of life here, then why would they give two hoots about the talented boys in liyari. You want change, you want someone to do something for these talented individuals but first we need to choose the right people sitting up there so change can actually come. Recommend

  • Obaidullah

    Very nice article which gives information about the talent you find in Lyari. I agree with the writer. It is a fact that in the societies great personalities like Professor Saba Dashtyari (who dedicate their lives to the nation) are killed on road side and the people like Nabeel Gabol and Rafique Engr (who think that problem can be solved by giving Rs.5000 to people of liyari) are brought forward then such things will happen. Recommend

  • Mehran Khan Solangi

    very well indeed. A sporty side has been shown up by a writer. This should be much better if it is written in concise manner. Writer should have shown up the socio-eco side of Lyari. Solution was not defined or specific it was very general and vague. more over it was very informative for peoples who only rely on the media which always doesn’t show true picture. Very good effort.Recommend

  • addy

    @Niha: i completely agree with you on the comment .
    But i need to point out that the “massacre” is not only for the baloch but other Pakistanis too, i think that this is the dire need of the time for the nation to get united against all the odds( they may be anyone ) otherwise it will be the carnage of our souls. The gangs, and other radical will keep emerging..until we oppose them openly.

    Also the people of lyari should come onwards by themselves in every field, because without struggle they are worthless, and for the government its for the people and by the people they themselves have elected it.

    and @Omair an enthralling piece of writing, Good work keep it up.Recommend

  • alicia

    enough with the son of soil talkRecommend

  • hima

    @ Mehran I really do second that. The writer has written very well and given good information about liyari but has not given the solution. To be honest we are all there researching about something great and amusing every day. We are giving news to the “people“ but is that really enough? Our country is starving, people don’t have a place to sleep. They have no life, no security, no garuntee that their life will not be taken with a blink of an eye. Our country has great talent, fair enough. But their are bigger issues and issues that need solutions. We can write and write but till we don’t get up and actually do something nothing is going to happen. And by get up and do something I don’t mean get on the roads I mean try to atleast change the mind sets of the very few that we can change. And hopefully convince a good amount of people to vote for something better. I’m sorry to say this but I will anyway. I personally think and feel, pakistan does not need ANY EXTERNAL factors to come harm it, its killing it self. Till secularization is the only mindset, nothing is changing. When Pakistanis start thinking they are pakistani first then sindhi, punjabi, balouch etc then maybe there will be a ray of hope.Recommend

  • Sakina Kavi

    Amazing article, Omair!! Wish the media played a broader role in showcasing the talent that resides at this part of the area!! amazing article. .so happy to read something so positive about the people of Lyari. Hats off!Recommend

  • Salman Orangiwala

    @OA Baloch ……lolz……………what do we expect ? Mr.Umair Baloch would depict that Lyari is virtually ruled by the Gangster Uzair Baloch who has the largest extortionist gang in whole Karachi ? Just imagine …how deep the ethnicity paradigm has penetrated into .Recommend

  • p r sharma

    It is surprising that author is justifying criminal activities adopted by many lyarites as they found problems for a decent living despite excelling in sports activities. But No sportsman ( footballers/boxer ) are found to be involved in crimes.( there are lots of sufferings in many other cities/ urban/rural centers but taking gun for this reason is unjustifiable)
    Probably it is the easy money in criminal activities which has attracted the unemployed . Moreover protection from police by the powerful persons added the inflow of persons in these activities. Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    Nicely written article. Keep it upRecommend

  • Sakina kavi

    @pr sharma… The author isnt tryng to justify criminal behaviour… He is jst saying tht criminal activities happen due to the dysfunction of the major institutions of a society like politics, education etc.Recommend

  • p r sharma

    @Sakina kavi… Dysfunction of important institutions of societies are not the only reasons of criminal activities . Dysfunction /absence of such institutions may work as a catalyst for criminal activities.. similar Political situations and lack of education exist elsewhere in Karachi/ Pakistan but there is much bugger difference in activities . Please think on it.Recommend

  • Dawood Nangyal

    Awesome effort buddy keep it up…………..
    The problem with us is that every body just criticise and notify the problems but no one try to take even a single step or to writte a single line for the sake of peace but if somebody try to do something either using their words,power,status and wealth for bringing the peace and harmony we should appreciate it to remove the misconceptions among the communities.Although it’s not a complete story of lyari problems but still an effort by our youth concern about our societies problems and their solutions………Recommend

  • zohaib

    Karachi transport, Karachi buses, Karachi location, Karachi area, Karachi bus service, Karachi bus stop
    Find in findtransport.zxq.netRecommend

  • Tamoor

    very well written the real issue of Ground .,.. Good job keep it upRecommend

  • Ahmad Shahroz

    I am so far away from karachi and wasn’t know the reality of the Layarians, I had lots of confusions about Layari when i was listened the news from our Media about Layari town.. Your this article helped me alot in my own research about Layari Town. . . You wrote really well, keep it up Man…Recommend