This piece was first published after Uzair Baloch's arrest in Dubai in 2014

KARACHI: With the news of gangster Uzair Jan Baloch’s arrest in Dubai by Interpol, shops in some areas of Lyari started closing down on Monday much before the usual announcement by Uzair’s men through loudspeakers.

Uzair, 37, has been considered the political face of the Pakistan Peoples Party in Lyari — a label the PPP is struggling to distance itself from.

He tried his luck in politics as an independent candidate for the seat of Lyari Nazim in the 2001 elections that he lost to Habib Hassan, a staunch Pakistan Peoples Party activist.

Also read: Uzair Baloch arrested in Dubai, confirms Pakistani consulate

Son of a transporter named Faiz Mohammad alias Faizu Mama, Uzair’s forays into crime came soon after his father was killed by Mohammad Arshad alias Arshad Pappu’s gang in 2003, as he set out to avenge his father’s murder. Arshad Pappu was a rival of Uzair’s first cousin, Abdul Rehman alias Rehman Dakait, who was involved in a long and bitter gang warfare over drugs and land in Lyari with the Arshad Pappu gang.

On pursuing courts over his father’s murder, Uzair received threats from Arshad Pappu’s gang on which Rehman, alias Rehman Dakait, took him under his wing. It is said Uzair refused to join Rehman’s gang initially but came around around the idea later as they shared a common enemy. Uzair was arrested by the late CID SSP Aslam Khan from his ancestral land in Sujawal in 2003. During his time in the Karachi central prison — a total of two hours — Uzair tended to a few PPP workers which earned him protection on his release. After his release on parole, Uzair got involved in social work and opened schools in the area.

But there was a paradox — extortion had become rampant and thrived in the main markets of Lyari as people were too scared to refuse them.

With this, Rehman Dakait’s death in an encounter brought Uzair in the forefront. He was selected unopposed in a unanimous decision by all the gangs as the new gang leader.

The PPP, which keeps its association with the Peoples Aman Committee non-committal, protected Uzair until 2012. Owais Muzaffar, better known as Tappi, wanted to contest elections from Lyari, which was refused by Uzair. The ensuing rift within the PPP-PAC relations called for a hastily put together operation in April 2012, which insiders say was based on completely political reasons. The operation was called off after a week and as a result the PPP had to bow down to Uzair’s demands to pick and choose people from his cadre to contest in the general elections of 2013.

However, when it comes to its presence in Lyari, the PAC is almost over, insiders say, with the continuing infighting further fragmenting an already divided house.

Wanted in more than 20 cases, including murder, extortion and terrorism, what brought his activities into light was the suo motu notice by the Supreme Court of Pakistan over his involvement in the Arshad Pappu murder last year.

Meanwhile, a close aide to Uzair says the PPP is looking for a way to redeem itself in the area and his arrest is going to be a perfect chance for the party to lay down their demands in exchange for control over an area they lost over a decade ago.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2014

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