Fear and the City

Negotiating Everyday Life as a Young Baloch Man in Karachi

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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This article explores the impacts of continuing conflict on the everyday lives of people living in Lyari, one of the oldest areas of Karachi. It focuses on fear and insecurity as emotional practices that structure the spatial and social relations in the city. Using the narratives of young Baloch men who must negotiate the threat of violence at the hands of criminal gangs and state security forces within their area and rival political parties outside the area, the article highlights how fear and insecurity must be understood as being contextually situated, depending on one’s social and geographical position within the city. The experiences of these young men demonstrate how emotions such as fear and insecurity are both produced by and reproduce spatial configurations of power.

Fear and the City

Negotiating Everyday Life as a Young Baloch Man in Karachi

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient



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In April of 2012the police under the leadership of Chaudhry Aslam undertook an eight day operation in Lyari in order to capture members of criminal gangs including Uzair Baloch. The operation was largely unsuccessful and led to the death of at least 31 civilians and five police officers (Kaleem 2012). It also compounded the sense of marginalization and targeting felt by many people living in the area.


Verkaaik (2013) refers to the practice of labelling the victims of violence as “martyrs” as the “sublimation of violence” which imbues violent acts with religious meaning allowing such actions to transcend the mundane world of politics. The mqm used such practices to mobilize new recruits to undertake violent acts.


  • View in gallery
    Uzair Baloch is pictured in the middle of this billboard with Rehman Dakait in the upper left corner and two “martyred” gang members at the bottom.
  • View in gallery
    Uzair Baloch is pictured in the middle of the billboard, along with General Ashfaq Kayani, the former army chief, and Zulfiqar Mirza, the former Home Minister of Sindh under the ppp.


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