Project Type
Small grant projects
Our Projects

Memories of Conflict: Healing from Lyari’s Violent Past

This project, which is a collaboration between Nida Kirmani, a sociologist, and Dostain Ellahi, an independent filmmaker, will utilize documentary film as a means of learning, healing and teaching about Lyari’s violent past.

Through the process of making the film, participants will be able to connect with, reflect and heal from over a decade of violence. Furthermore, through the screening process, audience members will be able to reflect, discuss, and begin to mend some of the fissures that were created during this time. The film will also be shared outside of Lyari in other neighbourhoods and cities in order to reflect on how communities are affected by and can heal from violent conflict. This addresses EdJAM’s theme of transitional justice and memory.

While most residents of the area agree that Lyari is relatively peaceful as compared to previous years, no formal process of remembering or healing has actually taken place. We believe that, without a collective process of remembering the past, the community cannot properly heal, and without healing, the seeds of violence remain intact. Hence, it is critical that communities collectively gather and reflect on the traumas they have experienced in order to rebuild the social fabric and prevent such episodes from erupting in the future. The main aim of this project is to use the process of documentary filmmaking to create avenues for communities to learn and heal from the violent past. This fulfils EdJam’s goal of creating spaces of dialogue both physically as the documentary is being made and screened and in the digital sphere even after the project is completed.

The main aims are:

  • To produce a 30-minute documentary on memories of violence in Lyari.
  • To encourage residents to talk about their traumas.
  • To provide safe spaces for discussion and dialogue about the violent past.
  • To help people rebuild bonds within and between communities.
  • To allow residents to tell their own stories.
  • To share the experiences of Lyari’s residents with others across Pakistan who may have also experienced violent conflict.
  • To facilitate self-analysis and self-reflection.
  • To reflect on the methodology of using documentary filmmaking as a research tool, particularly with regards to studying violent conflict.

These aims will be met through the process of making the film itself and through sharing the film within and outside of Lyari. The screenings will be followed by moderated discussions in which the audience will be encouraged to reflect on their own memories and experiences of violence. This will be documented and shared with others who would like to replicate such conversations within their own communities. The main beneficiaries of the project will be the residents of Lyari, but we also hope that the documentary and process of making the film sparks similar conversations and projects in other conflict-affected communities.

‘When is a conflict really over? How do we define peace? Is it possible to truly heal from violence? Focusing on the area of Lyari in Karachi, which has witnessed several cycles of conflict over the past decades, this project aims to answer these questions and others through dialogue with diverse members of the community. We hope to inspire people to talk about their experiences of conflict—in Lyari and elsewhere—in the hopes that this may be a first step in the process of understanding and eventually healing from violence.’


One of the oldest settlements in Karachi, Lyari has been the site of on-going violence between political parties, criminal gangs and law enforcement agencies since the early 2000s. Criminal groups gained power in Lyari during the 1980s—the period during which Karachi as a whole became increasingly violent as a result of an influx of weapons during the Afghan War. Over the past two decades these groups were organized into gangs, which were often supported by political parties. Two major conflicts occurred between the gangs and law enforcements agencies in Lyari, first in 2004-2008 and then in 2013-2015. These conflicts turned many neighbourhoods into war zones and greatly hampered social, political and economic activities in the area as a whole.

While the conflict has gradually subsided since 2013, the state-led Operation came with its own violence with many residents losing family members to extrajudicial killings (‘encounters’). Many others are still in prison for alleged involvement in the gangs. Furthermore, the roots of the conflict—poverty, drugs, and the conflict between political parties—remain factors that shape the area. Hence, while Lyari may officially be at ‘peace’, residents are aware the violent conflict may erupt at any time in the future.

Using the production and screening of a documentary film focusing on life after the conflict, our project explored how the conflict was experienced and is still affecting the residents of Lyari years after the conflict has subsided. This is especially important given that few formal efforts have been made to deal with the trauma experienced by the residents of this area or in Karachi as a whole. The film highlights the stories of two extraordinary individuals, Amna Baloch and Nawaz Laasi, both of whom have lost family members to the conflict, in police encounters and gang violence. The main aim of this project was to use the process of documentary filmmaking to create avenues for communities to learn and heal from the violent past. This took place as the documentary was made—in the interviews and focus group discussions that were held—and while it was screened in various locations in Lyari.  This also took place outside of Lyari in screenings that took place in other parts of Karachi and in other cities in Pakistan and internationally.

Overall, Shadowlands has been screened in over thirty locations, twelve in Karachi itself along with being screened in Islamabad, Lahore and in the US, UK, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Switzerland, and Hong Kong. The audience for Shadowlands will continue to grow in the coming years in film festivals and in classrooms around the world. The website will also serve as a resource to learn from the experiences of the people of Lyari and from the methodology of the project itself, which aims to create more spaces for reflection and dialogue about life after conflict and the ongoing struggle for peace.

Shadowlands website: https://shadowlandsthefilm.org/

Shadowlands documentary trailer here

Meet the team:


Dr. Nida Kirmani

Associate Professor

view details
our funders

EdJAM is funded by

our partners

We collaborate with partners around the world large and small