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From a Promising Boxer to a Casualty of the Lyari Gang Wars in Pakistan

Gwadar: The city Talha Baloch grew up in (Source: Wikimedia)

Ariel shot of Gwadar's coastline. Talha Baloch grew up in Gwadar. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This story was originally written by Feroz Jan in Urdu for PakVoices. It was edited for context in English by Salman Latif and is published on Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement.

A young man was killed in Lyari, Karachi, in an encounter with the Rangers, a paramilitary force combating gang violence and law and order problems in Pakistan's largest city. The man was later identified as Talha Baloch. 

In Lyari, one of Karachi's oldest, most densely populated and politicized towns, he went by “Gwadari.” He was originally a popular boxer from the coastal Balochistan city of Gwadar.

According to the police, 24-year-old Talha died of gunshot wounds on February 18, 2015. Aftab Nizamani, a senior police officer, claimed that Talha was involved in the recent murder of three members of the political party Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and was a prominent member of Uzair Baloch‘s gang, which recently had a falling out with the PPP. In a profile published on Dawn.com last year, Uzair was described as the “political face of the Pakistan Peoples Party in Lyari, a label the PPP is struggling to distance itself from.”

Back in his hometown, the circumstances of Talha's death irked many. Talha’s relatives in the coastal city said he had extraordinary boxing abilities but was disappointed by the lack of career opportunities there for boxers. They claimed that many connected people had promised Talha a chance in the ring but no one came through, leaving him disheartened. Talha’s friends said that he eventually gave up boxing altogether and couldn't find a job for two years. Ultimately, he left his city Gwadar, went to Karachi in 2008, and eventually settled in Lyari.

Lyari is known for producing excellent boxers over the years. In 1988, a Lyari boxer Hussain Shah won the bronze medal for Pakistan in the Olympic Games. The neighborhood features many boxing clubs, but coaches there bemoan lack of opportunities for their boxers.

This isn't the first time a promising boxer has been killed in Lyari's gang wars. Stuck between poverty and the notorious Lyari gang war, many are forced to turn to a life of crime and often have to pay with their lives. In the past, boxers in Lyari have been killed by local gangs and by the Rangers

Lyari is notorious for a continuing conflict between different criminal gangs in the area. Political parties and state institutions have been accused of running a “proxy war” there, trying to manipulate the gangs in Lyari to meet their own political agendas. Dawn reports that between 2003-2008, the gang war in Lyari claimed 500-600 lives. In 2013 alone, more than 100 lives were lost in Lyari-specific incidents of violence.

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