The Baloch Speak Through Their Culture By Saher Baloch

With the Balochi song “We are children of the Baloch” booming in the background, the football ground opposite Lyari General Hospital was absolutely jam-packed an hour before the celebrations had even begun.

Amidst a growing insurgency in their home province, and a multitude of problems that they face in the bustling metropolis, the Baloch community of Karachi celebrated Baloch Culture Day in Lyari and other parts of the city on Friday.

With the Balochi song “We are children of the Baloch” booming in the background, the football ground opposite Lyari General Hospital was absolutely jam-packed an hour before the celebrations had even begun.

“It is Eid in Lyari,” said a child, as he tried catching up with his father while simultaneously fixing his turban that kept falling over his eyes.

In a medical camp beside the gates, sipping a cup of tea sat Habib Hassan. A member of the Lyari Resource Centre, Hassan said that this event had, essentially, been arranged for the youth. “They need to know that they are Baloch,” he explained, putting extra emphasis on the word ‘Baloch’.

The constant barrage of negative news coming from their home province is not lost on the many elders sitting inside the camp. Watching the preparations nearby, Shoaib Mohammad, head of the People’s Paramedical Association, says many people were living in denial about Lyari and the direction in which it was heading. “It is as if it is happening somewhere else.”

For an area that is traditionally known to be a PPP stronghold, Mohammad points out that the few pictures of Benazir Bhutto that used to hang from the walls of this area have all but vanished. He insists there is no sincere leader in the pipeline anymore. “With the death of BB, the politics of ages past have died as well,” he added with a shrug.

Just as he finishes his sentence, a man raises his hands in the air, and with a spate of colorful words greets the youngsters, who are, apparently, late in carrying out a task assigned to them. The man asks the kids, who are walking in a laidback manner, to hurry up. “Nawabon, kaam karo,” he jeers at them and adds a curse-word as an afterthought. On two different occasions, the camels that had been brought to exhibit the culture of Balochistan tried to run away.

The camels’ attempted escape, which created a minor stir at the event, sent a group of young boys who were standing nearby into a fit of laughter.

The mood at the event remained festive throughout, as the people tried their best to forget the problems that awaited them at home.

A majority of the young crowd was anxiously waiting for Uzair Baloch to make his speech before the massive crowd that had gathered at the ground.

Wasim and Mohammad Sohail, volunteers at the event, said that if given a choice they would love to study more. Working as a cook at Nine Zero, Sohail usually plays football in this ground. He says it saddens him that so little has been done to take the game to the national level.

Among the same group, a boy named Manzoor, when asked about Lyari, replied with great conviction: “it’s better than Dubai! My plan is to get married first, and then decide what I need to do,” he said. His plans earned him a sarcastic nod from an old man sitting nearby and a good teasing from his mates.

Being children, and having already seen so much violence, gang war and drugs, they reiterate the same observation that has made by so many others before them: “Lyari has a lot of talent, waiting to be tapped.”

Youngsters from the nearby Singhu Lane have pinned their hopes on Uzair Baloch to resurrect the area and to bring back the lost glory of Lyari.

On the other end of the ground was a massive gathering of women who were busy squabbling over the lack of space. Their complaints were met with a humorously dry reply from the gatekeeper: “We had no idea so many of you would turn up.”

An old woman, who had come from Gulshan-e-Iqbal, said that she was attending the event to support Uzair Baloch. She said that she had attended the last event as well, but that “this one is better, as it is in our hometown and we can stay back if we want to”.

As evening approached, Abdul Sattar Edhi and Uzair Baloch entered the ground, accompanied by a bevy of supporters.

When asked about the stories of strife from the area, along with the rising ‘Lala Culture’, Uzair Baloch denied these allegations as “a conspiracy being hatched by the enemies of the area”.

Explaining his point, he said that there was ethnic strife in the 80’s and 90’s the whole of Karachi, except for Lyari, had been horribly afflicted by ethnic strife. “Even during the gang war clashes, none of the minorities and other ethnicities were harmed. Why would we do it now?” he asked.

On whether he is willing to join politics, he promptly replied, “if the people want me to, I might.”

Former Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza also made a brief cameo in the latter half of the event. His arrival was met with shouts of joy from the audience. Mirza spoke to The News about the persisting Balochistan issue; he stressed that “the government needs to take ownership of Balochistan, rather than announcing development packages for them.” He said that for this to happen, “the Prime Minister and President will need to visit the province personally.”

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