UNREST has reigned in parts of Karachi’s Lyari locality for the past several days as police and protesters have fought pitched battles on its congested streets.
The trouble started last Sunday when a leader of the Kuchhi Rabita Committee, along with several associates, was gunned down; leaders of the banned People’s Amn Committee were nominated in the murder case. Following the killings the police launched an ‘operation’ in the area, though some Lyari residents claim the police’s actions are ‘one-sided’.
There is an element of ethnic rivalry in the feud between the KRC and the Baloch-dominated PAC, while the tussle has a political element as well: the PAC is said to have the backing of some elements of the PPP while the KRC allegedly enjoys the support of the MQM. There is also reported rivalry among supporters of the PPP in Lyari; the area is one of the party’s few political strongholds in Karachi. But perhaps the biggest cause of violence in Lyari — one of Karachi’s oldest localities — is the struggle between different groups for control of the extortion, drug and gambling rackets that thrive in this working-class area.
Law and order in Lyari has been worsening for the last decade. While criminal elements have destroyed its social fabric, the state has also largely neglected the locality.
Even though some civic projects have been carried out over the past few years, a precarious law and order situation renders such gains useless. While action against criminals is needed across Karachi, it must be concentrated on eliminating illegal activities in Lyari.
A complementary plan also needs to be drawn up for the socio-economic uplift of the locality, particularly to ensure that Lyari’s youth don’t fall into the clutches of criminal gangs. The state, particularly the PPP, needs to act now to end Lyari’s perpetual misery.