On March 11, Maulana Abdul Majeed Sarbazi, a prominent figure of Lyari, was gunned down in the Chakiwara area of Karachi. Sarbazai was heading an ‘elders committee’ associated with the gang of Noor Muhamamd, alias Baba Ladla, and played a key role in orchestrating a truce with the rival gang led by Uzair Jan Baloch at the residence of Sindhi nationalist leader Ayaz Latif Palijo in March last year.
Although a number of men associated with the two key gangs in the locality have either been killed or arrested in the ongoing law-enforcement operation in Lyari, murders, bomb attacks and extortion continue.
Interpol arrested Uzair Baloch, the chief of the defunct People’s Aman committee (PAC) who was wanted in a number of criminal cases, in the UAE. Authorities in Dubai declined to hand him over to Pakistani police officers who flew in from Karachi last month, until all legal conditions were met. Two other men, Baba Ladla and Ghaffar Zikri, have gone underground. Local sources say they have moved to Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan province.
According to a newspaper report earlier this year (Express Tribune, January 6), Interpol had issued red warrants for Baloch, Ladla and Taj Muhammad alias Taju in response to Pakistani FIA’s request in June 2014, made after the Sindh government sent evidence to justify the warrants for the key characters of the Lyari gang war to the federal government in May.
Since 2004, Lyari has seen a deadly turf war between local gangs that have also killed hundreds of innocent people, including women and children. According to a veteran political activist from the area, “the entire Lyari and trans-Lyari (Golimar and adjacent areas) are completely under the control of various gangs”. He said common people had been suffering as armed gangsters manned checkposts and controlled who entered or exited their areas. “If they would come across a person who belonged to the area of a rival gang, they would beat up him.”
Journalists and local political activists say Uzair Baloch’s gang is the strongest in the area, but Baba Ladla and Ghaffar Zikri also have considerable influence in many parts of Lyari.
Armed gangsters manned checkposts and controlled who entered or exited their areas
Baloch controls the Baghdadi, Kalakot and Nokein Lane (Nawa Lane) areas of Lyari, while Ladla’s areas include Phool Patti Lane, Bihar Colony, Gul Mohammad Lane, Rangiwara and Chakiwara, they say. Zikri’s gang is active in Kalri and Ali Mohammad Muhalla. Shera, the brother of late Arshad Pappu, runs a gang that is strong in Jahanabad, Shershah and Pak Colony, local journalists say. Zahid Ladla has influence in Edo Lane, while Taju controls Sarafa Bazar, Joria Bazar, Khajoor Bazar, Pan Mandi and the Wholesale Market of Kharadar.
Wasiullah Lakho, a political figure who contested the general election from the NA-248 constituency of Lyari on a Muttahida Qaumi Movement ticket in 2008 and joined the Pakistan People’s Party in 2009, has strong influence in the Khadda Market area of Lyari. Umer Kutchi is strong in the Union Council 3 of Lyari. Shakeel Badshah, son of drug-peddler Badshah Khan, has influence in the Darya Abad and Niazi Chowk areas, according to journalists who cover violence in Lyari.
They say small time gangsters change their loyalties every now and then. Until the People’s Aman Committee split and its leader Zafar Baloch was killed in September 2013, most low level gang leaders were allied with Uzair Baloch. But now, they operate independently.
“All criminal gangs have grown up under the umbrellas of political parties, especially the PPP and the MQM,” alleges Comrade Muhammad Bakhsh, a veteran political activist from Lyari. “It all started with two rival groups led by Haji Laloo and Rehman Baloch – both associated with their own political parties.”
Shah Jahan Baloch, an elected parliamentarian from Lyari, says the ongoing operation by law-enforcement agencies, particularly the paramilitary Rangers, has weakened the criminal gangs. “It is high time that political parties, civil society organizations and law enforcement agencies sit together and work for a peaceful Lyari,” he says.
Police and Rangers claim that they have broken the backbone of the gangs in Lyari by arresting or killing their leaders. While some residents corroborate these claims, others are skeptical. “The gang leaders have just fled, not finished,” says a resident of Aath Chowk. “It could be their strategy. They could return to the area later and regain influence.”
The writer is a freelance journalist