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Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif. — File photo

KARACHI: While a leader of the banned People’s Amn Committee claimed that the operation in Lyari was launched after their meeting with a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Pakistan People’s Party vehemently denied it and said that the operation was launched specifically against criminals following the murder of a senior party worker in the area.

Zafar Baloch, a PAC leader and the general secretary of the PPP district south, told Dawn over phone that the operation was started after PML-N leader Ghaus Ali Shah paid a visit to Lyari to offer condolences on killing of political workers. Shah had told the media there that he had extended an invitation to Ozair Baloch and his colleagues to join the PML-N.

Baloch, Ozair Baloch, Habib Jan and others on Sunday disassociated themselves from the PPP in protest against the ongoing police operation in Lyari.

Baloch, who is wanted to the police with his seven other associates, held responsible a close relative of President Asif Zardari, Owais Tappi, for mishandling the Lyari situation.

He said Tappi had objected to the visit of the PML-N leader and persuaded the authorities to launch an operation against the PAC.

He said the visit of Shah was not approved of by some PPP leaders, who exploited the situation and convinced President Zardari on the need to launch an operation. This decision was resisted by Home Minister Manzoor Wasan, but he was forced to go on leave, he added.

He said that having been fed up with the ongoing operation, over 30,000 people came out of their houses in Lyari on Sunday and staged a protest at the Natives Jetty bridge against the police excesses and denounced the PPP by burning its fags.

When his attention was drawn towards the use of weapons against police, he quoted Interior Minister Rehman Malik that “if you go to kill anyone, we would certainly not shower flower petals on you”.

He said peace could be restored to Lyari only through negotiations as whatever situation was prevailing was not the outcome of any violence, but totally political in nature.

Dawn tried several times to contact Owais Tappi to take his version, but he was not available on the phone.

However, Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri told Dawn that the situation in Lyari was quite disturbing for the party also as the entire area, except for a few individuals, was a PPP stronghold.

She denied the allegation that the operation was launched as the PPP government did not like the visit of the PML-N leader to Lyari and said that political leaders were free to go anywhere.

She said the operation was launched against criminals after the murder of a local leader of the PPP, who was organising a protest rally following the verdict of the Supreme Court against the prime minister. The operation in Lyari was strictly against criminal elements only, she added.

She said she hoped that the situation would return to normality soon and the people would be able to take a sigh of relief.

She recalled that law and order was top priority of the government, which had always initiated an indiscriminate action to rein in criminals.

She said if elected representatives found themselves helpless, the government was left with no option but to act to eliminate crime and establish writ of the government.

Despite repeated attempts, Dawn could not contact MNA Nabil Gabol to take his version.

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