Displaced In Karachi
International Committee Of The Red Cross (ICRC)
Displacement through conflict and violence has many layers when you consider Pakistan, particularly Karachi, as the landscape of concern. As one of the fastest growing cities in the world, it offers hope and opportunities to those from volatile parts of the country to come and rebuild their lives or at the very least, hide away and survive quietly by attracting as little attention as possible to themselves as this mega city powers on.
Through this body of work, we witness three kinds of complex and heartbreaking forms of displacement endured by those who bear the personal, physical and mental loss due to three different tragic events; the turf wars in Lyari that saw two gangs cause a bloodbath that resulted in 700 fleeing the neighborhood, the 1971 Indo-Pak war that rendered nearly 1.4 million East Pakistani’s living near the west coast stateless overnight and the genocide in the name of ethnic cleansing the Hazaras of Quetta have had to bear over the last decade.
This series explores how families and individuals brave the consequences of being displaced even when they have returned home or never left home or particularly when they long to go home, but can’t.
Rasheeda Khatoon’s parents had Pakistani Identity Cards. Despite having ample documentation proving her legal status, and while having remained an elected chairman of the Ladies Union Council in her district in Karachi as well as having had a legitimate ID card her whole life, she was denied it’s renewal in 2013 resulting in all eight of her children being denied legal status.
Parveen is eight months pregnant and has moved into her maternal home that already houses 22 members of her family. She and her husband were denied ID cards, which means she cannot be admitted into a hospital. Her mothers’ neighbor has an ID card and they hope to borrow it to get medical attention when her due date arrives.
Kashif, a learned scholar of the Quran, was once a teacher at a Madrassa (a school inside a mosque). When he was denied ID card renewal in 2013, he was fired from his job. He decided to open a school in one of the rooms of his mothers’ house where he teaches a total of 50 children every day for 8 hours and charges Rs.100/- ($0.8) per month.
Nasreen has just given her Matriculation examinations. She wants to study further but cannot get admission in any university because she does not have an ID card. Her father was a fisherman but since he passed away, her mother was denied ID card renewal that resulted in Nasreen being rejected too. Instead of studying further, she teaches at a small school in her community where her legal status is not questioned but where she barely gets paid since she is not a registered teacher.
Ayesha is 22 years old and slowly slipping into depression. Like most girls her age in her community, she wants to get married and start a family. However, because Bengali men cannot secure jobs (due to lack of National Identity Cards) many of them try and find girls who have have ID Cards to get married to. Ayesha’s mother was denied ID card renewal which resulted in Ayesha being rejected too.
Abdullah is an 18-year-old boy. He sits around in his neighborhood in Machar Colony not doing much the entire day. He is quiet and uninterested in his surroundings. He only studied for the first three years in school and then stopped going. He can’t find a job because he was denied an ID Card. He goes to the fisheries twice a week at the break of dawn (where most of the men from his community go) to try and offer his services as labor to fishermen. The days he cannot find work he does nothing. He has no friends.
65 year old Mujeeb worked in Saudi Arabia for a few years. He returned home to Pakistan two decades ago and rebuilt his life in his ancestral neighborhood. In 2013 when he went to get his ID card renewed, his application was denied which resulted in all 9 of his sons being denied the same. Despite the harsh circumstances, he and his sons manage to put food on to table by doing odd jobs.
Faryal and her cousin Mehreen left their home on Alamdar Road in Quetta to escape persecution. They live in a tiny two-bedroom apartment in Karachi with their cousin. They like to eat local snacks from Balochistan and sit around on the floor like they would have at home in order to keep their memories and customs alive.
Faryal is preparing for the GRE exam. The large blue carpet is from her hometown, a gift from her mother who visited her over the holidays. It acts as a source of comfort to Faryal when the going gets tough.
One of the most painful memories for Mehreen’s younger brother was the day he left Quetta because it was too dangerous to stay. He drew the landscape he would miss the most and gave it to Mehreen as a gift.
Every day, Faiza leaves her office after work and walks to a pavilion at the beach. She sits here for 3-4 hours contemplating life and past events. She writes witness poetry. Many mistake her for being a Chinese tourist and send her tea and snacks to show hospitality. She plays along and thanks them because talking about Quetta is too painful.
Not wanting to spend a paisa more than she needs to on herself, Faiza chooses to live in a tiny apartment with three other girls from the Hazara community who study in Karachi. There is constant noise due to traffic and construction work till late hours of the night. She refuses to move to a better and more peaceful place stating she would rather save that money and send it to her family in Quetta instead.
The Christian Slaughterhouse compound in Lyari was destroyed during the Lyari Gang Wars in Karachi. The turf wars between two local gangs ended with army intervention only after 700 families had fled the area fearing for their lives. They eventually returned to find their homes in shambles.
A family of eleven people who once lived in a large house returned to find it completely destroyed. They decided to move to three smaller quarters, rebuild their lives and make the best of the situation.
Families are slowly moving back into their homes that were looted during the turf wars.
The community church that was bombed is still in shambles. Occupied with spending their money on re-building their own homes first, no one has been able to look into fixing the church yet.
Born and raised in this neighbourhood, Imran says nothing is the same after their return. The sense of fear still lingers even though he knows the turf wars are over. He is standing on the spot where his school once was. He says the destruction around him doesn’t allow him to move on.
Children get creative by constructing make shift kites using string and plastic bags to amuse themselves. Many families are still scared of letting them play in the community’s common areas but are unable to stop the fearless and carefree young ones from climbing on top of precarious and damaged buildings.