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Thursday May 23, 2024

Underprivileged segments yearned for happiness during Eid

By Zubair Ashraf
May 16, 2021

Eidul Fitr, which is supposed to be a festival of happiness, was not an occasion of revelry for many people of the city as some even struggled to find food during the lockdown while for others, the strict lockdown orders marred their plans of merrymaking. In the meantime, some families who were displaced during the anti-encroachment drive spent the festival in protest outside the club.

Day III: Misery of daily earners

At around 2:30pm on Saturday, the third day of Eid-ul-Fitr, a Christian boy in his 20s knocked at the door of his Muslim neighbours, a family of four comprising an elderly woman, her son, his wife and their six-month-old baby. Clad in an oversized pale pink shirt and grey bell bottom dress pants over a pair of worn out black trainers, he removed the curtain on the door to become visible to his neighbours and they understood by just looking at him that he was there to ask for roti.

The family had been giving a roti or two to the boy whenever they could since he lost his mother a few months ago. His father had died long ago and he lived with his two brothers, one younger and another elder, in a one-room house, without electricity and gas alongside a nullah in Bhittaiabad.

This time, however, the neighbours could not provide for him because they themselves were struggling to have a square meal for themselves since the beginning of the Eid lockdown.

The breadwinner of the family, the elderly woman’s son, worked at a dupatta shop earning Rs500 daily and was without a wage after the closure of the markets on May 8.

The hardships had already taken a toll on the woman and amid the worry of meeting the expenses for attending the two upcoming weddings in the extended family, the occurrence of the neighbour boy asking for roti worsened her feeling of helplessness. “This is not a hotel,” she replied and the boy walked off the door.

Under the scorching sun, his skin looked reddish brown and his yellow eyes gave a hollow look as he strolled towards the market along the main road in the area, where in the morning, the Gulistan-e-Jauhar police had arrested a cobbler for opening his shop, and he had to pay Rs1,000 in bribe to secure his release.

Day II: No Eid for motorcyclists

If you travelled on Khayaban-e-Ittehad in Defence Housing Authority on Friday evening – the second day of Eid-ul-Fitr, you would experience a road block at its intersection with the Creek Road right in front of the Ayesha Masjid.

A police pickup truck was parked in the middle of the thoroughfare and the rest of the road was covered by a fence with policemen standing guard around. If you were in a car, you were lucky as you would pass through the blockade unquestioned because the whole drill meant to stop the motorcyclists from going to the beach.

Apprehending beforehand that they would not be allowed to drive past the intersection, some motorcyclists started to go for alternative routes. In the queue of motorcycles that was waiting to pass through was a couple who wanted to take their three-year-old child sitting on the fuel tank of their 70cc motorcycle to the beach for the first time.

The man decided to talk to a police officer, ASI Ejaz, there. In a bid to deceive police, he lied that he wanted to see someone on the 26th Street and should be allowed to travel.

The officer, however, refused and advised him to take another road. As he insisted on using the same route arguing that motorcycles should be allowed to pass through when cars were allowed, Ejaz replied that it was the policy of the government.

The man said he was not aware of any government policy that discriminated people on the basis of their class.

“Then you must run over me,” the officer said annoyingly and took a side. The man gave a wry smile and as he had released half of the clutch and the officer passed him a comment,

“You have no shame.” The man ignored and sped away.

As the Sea View was closed for public, he went ahead to the Sahil Avenue and noticed a rush of vehicles, including cars and motorcycles, on the strip. He was happy for making it through and introducing his child to the sea but the words of the officer rang in his head.

Three to four police mobiles were patrolling the bay when he saw a black pick-up truck with children in its trunk speeding on the sand with another white pick-up truck in its trail. He saw the sunset with his family and showed his son seagulls descending on the beach. As he was leaving, he saw cars arriving at the beach in more numbers than motorcycles. On his way back, the blockade was still there.

Day I: Eid without home

On Thursday afternoon, the first day of Eid-ul-Fitr, more than three dozen people, including children, staged a demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club in protest against the demolition of their houses along the Gujjar Nullah by the government.

According to the Karachi Bachao Tehreek, a political movement against the demolition of houses in the city, some 50,000 have been rendered homeless by the demolitions around the nullah alone.

Journalist Fawad Hasan, who has been covering the issue extensively, explained the affected families wore the look of painful despair.

“Since losing their homes, most of the people have been living in their relatives’ places but how long will they sustain like this because all of them come from underprivileged backgrounds and don’t own enough space,” he said.

Hasan questioned how come a place that had been leased by the authorities, and had been paying for electricity and gas supplies lawfully could become illegal all of a sudden. “Isn’t this the responsibility of the state to provide shelter to its people?” he asked, reiterating an argument of the affected families that if controversial places like prime minister Imran Khan’s personal residence in Bani Gala could be regularised, why the poor only had to face the adversity.

He said the people rendered homeless had been protesting for long and had been harassed and arrested by police and other law enforcement agencies, due to which they had lost hopes of getting a replacement of their demolished houses.

But there was something interesting in the protest, Hasan remarked. The affected families at the end of their protest held a demonstration in support of the people of Palestine, saying that they understood what was being like thrown out of one’s home.