Never did politics inflict pain on the citizenry so grievously, except when political parties, in their bid to control Lyari as their stronghold, got locked in a fierce cut throat competition, further destroying the already brittle peace and harmony in Karachi. Political militancy claimed hundreds of lives with armed groups vying to control the notorious locality.
When one stands at Cheel Chowk and observes the usual hustle bustle of Lyari, it is hard to believe that just weeks ago the area seemed to be a war zone, echoing with deafening gun shots and grenade explosions. Police and Rangers men conducted hundreds of the raids in area, but could not maintain law and order so far.
Lyari, one of the oldest neighborhoods of Karachi and the once PPP stronghold for decades, has emerged as the biggest challenge to the government during last few years. Gang wars, poverty, football and boxing are the common attributes usually associated with Lyari.
Lyari has a history of gang wars, clashes between drug pushers and criminal groups. Today, one of the oldest areas of the city is facing a war of occupation between the Pakistan People’s Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement. The major political parties of the city and mafias eye Lyari, as 75 percent of the total revenue the city is contributing to the national kitty is being generated from the areas surrounding Lyari. The recent conflict and clashes between the two groups of Lyari are being supported by the political parties of Sindh. The areas surrounding Lyari are considered as hot cakes for the political groups and mafias involved in Bhatta (extortion) collection, and every group tries to further and cement its influence over the areas and want to be the sole operator to make maximum money.
Political parties made divisions in banned Lyari Amann Committe (LAC). After the recent operation in the city, Baba Ladla, a gang lord of Lyari, took support of MQM and declared his home as the unit office of the said party. After his announcement, the area was filled by the posters, banners and flags of the above mentioned party. Then situation took a new turn and PPP supported the rival group of Baba just to grip the area. The tug of war among the political parties claimed lives of hundreds of people in the area.
The inter-party dispute in People’s Party that led to the police action in Lyari started in early 2012 when Owais Muzaffar alias Tappi — a close relative of ex-president of Pakistan Asif Zardari and also tipped to be the de facto chief minister of Sindh — and Uzair Baloch, head of banned Lyari Amman Committee (LAC), developed serious differences. Owais Muzafar wants to contest next general elections from Lyari and Uzair has also, of late, developed political ambitions and wants to jump into electoral politics, which led them to be at draggers drawn. Tappi wants the PAC to dance to his tune concerning Lyari, but the PAC leaders seemed to be no more interested in acting as puppet of the PPP leadership. Tappi used different tactics which also resulted in killings in large numbers.
To understand the issue, we will have to know the history of Lyari, one of the oldest areas of the city overwhelmingly dominated by Baloch. The history of Lyari’s criminal past started with the emergence of two groups in the area in late 1970s. Initially, the criminal groups — one headed by Shair Muhammad alias Sharo and one by Daad Muhammad alias Daadal — comprised unemployed youths and indulged in street crimes such as purse snatching and other minor criminal activities.
In 1980s, the groups started drugs pushing for high returns. Initially, both groups divided the area and carried out their operations. But conflict between the groups emerged when they tried to further their influence by encroaching each other’s areas. At that time, the members of the groups were equipped with daggers and knives only and fight seldom resulted in loss of lives. Tension between the groups intensified when a person, Haji Laalo, joined the group of Daadal and became his right hand man. The notorious character of Lyari gang war, Abdul Rehman alias Dacoit, was the son of Daadal. Daadal died when Abdul Rehman was only 10 years old. Haji Laloo looked after Abdul Rehman and trained him as his lieutenant. Abdul Rehman ran his group under the supervision of Haji Laloo and took control of different areas of his rivals.
Several other minor groups emerged in mid 1980s including Muhammad Iqbal alias Baboo Dacoit group, Aslam alias Qabarstani group, Badshah Khan group and Bhaboo alias Kala Nag group.
All these groups were pushing each other over drug business, enjoying support and patronage by influential political personalities of the area. The situation remained unchanged till mid 1990s, when Abul Rehman along with his partner Arafaat (Son of Haji Laloo) was arrested in 1998. In the same year, Yasir Arafaat was bailed out by a court due to the efforts of his father Haji Lallo.
When Arafat was released on bail and Abdul Rehman left behind the bar to languish, he got annoyed. In the same year, Abdul Rehman escaped from the court and joined the group again, but the rift between Abdul Rehman and Haji Laloo had already emerged. Consequently, Laloo joined rival group of Baboo Dacoit and started working against Abdul Rehman’s group.
Till then there was no concept of kidnapping for ransom in Lyari, but the same was taking place in other parts of the city as it was witnessing ethnic bloodshed since late 1980s. At that time a strong organizational structure was setup in Lyari for generating money through kidnapping for ransom which expanded its operation to Balochistan and other cities of Sindh. A man, Mashooq Barohi, was leading the gang of kidnappers in Sindh and was considered as the right hand of Haji Laloo.
On the other hand, the members of Balochistan Liberation Army made their way into Lyari and started their activities. During this period, huge cache of weapons was smuggled and dumped in the area. Also, the criminal elements started looting and even attacking NATO containers.
After Laloo, Abdul Rehman restructured his group and declared Noor Muhammad alias Baba Laadla as his right hand. While the son of Haji Laloo, Arshad alias Papoo started running a parallel group, which was considered main rival of Abdul Rehman alias Dakiat groups.
Faiz Muhammad alias Mama Faizo (father of Uzair Jan Baloch, head of banned Lyari Amman Committee) was killed in 2003. Abdul Rehman blamed Arshad Papoo’s group for the killing of Mama Faizo. The incident fuelled the fire and the gang war reached at its peak in Lyari. More than 800 persons were killed in this war. Abdul Rehman occupied all the Papoo’s dominated areas and forced them out of Lyari.
In 2004 Baboo Dacoit suffered from a paralysis attack and surrendered to police at his home, but police showed his surrender as an encounter. He was sent to jail but he got bail the same year. Later, he was killed by the group of Abdul Rehman.
Late Chaudhry Aslam, SSP CID who was killed in a blast just two months ago, killed Abdul Rehman in an encounter. After the death of Abdul Rehman, Uzair Jan Baloch took charge of the group.
Political parties of Karachi were very well aware of the importance of Lyari and always supported criminal groups. Their militant wings ganged up with Lyari criminals. During the wave of killings, Ayaz Lateef Paleejo called the representatives of both groups. Ayaz is considered as an influential personality in the area. Both groups agreed on the instructions of Ayaz Paleejo and residents witnessed a ceasefire in the area.
By Tariq Habib, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, March 31, 2014