KARACHI: Uzair Baloch, an alleged leader of one of the gangs operating in crime-infested Lyari, was arrested in Dubai by the Interpol on Monday while he was crossing into the United Arab Emirates from Oman by road, police authorities here confirmed.

Television channels broke the news regarding arrest of Uzair Baloch during the first half of the day, but with sketchy details and unconfirmed reports. Later, in the evening police officials seconded the arrest report, citing family sources of the alleged gang leader. But they added that they were still in touch with the federal government and the authorities concerned for custody of Baloch.

“We have reports that he has been arrested by Interpol,” DIG south Barrister Abdul Khaliq Sheikh told Dawn. “Although we have not received any confirmation from any official forum, his [Uzair Baloch’s] family has confirmed his arrest in Dubai. We are pursuing the issue with the interior ministry and FIA for further process and his custody.”

Once known for his loyalty to the Pakistan Peoples and close contacts with the party’s leaders and senior members in the Sindh cabinet, eg former home minister Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza, Uzair Baloch took over as leader of Peoples Amn Committee in Aug 2009 when the notorious Abdul Rahman Baloch alias Rahman Dakait was killed in an encounter more than a year after the PPP government came to power. Though the committee is presented as community group by its leaders, it is blamed for its criminal activities which included killings, extortion and drugs business both by police and rival parties of the PPP.

His relations with the PPP started souring after April 2012 when the police launched ‘Lyari operation’. The two-week siege came to an end without any major arrest, but left a number of people, including policemen, dead.

The very next month the Sindh government announced bounty on most wanted criminals of the troubled Lyari neighbourhood. Uzair Baloch carried a prize of Rs 2 million on his head.

The head money notification, however, was withdrawn a month before the May 2013 general elections _ seen as a move by the PPP-influenced caretaker set-up to appease the Peoples Amn Committee, which enjoyed street power in Lyari, the party’s stronghold.

Differences within the Peoples Amn Committee and the widening gulf with the PPP government finally forced Uzair Baloch to leave Pakistan.

In June this year, Islamabad, on a request by the Sindh government, asked Interpol to issue red warrants of Uzair Baloch and Noor Mohammad alias Baba Ladla., The latter was at one time Uzair’s close-aide, but later turned his rival.

The arrest of the 37-years-old alleged gangster, who is mentioned as ‘wanted’ on Interpol website ‘by the authorities of Pakistan for prosecution’ for ‘murder charges,’ sparked an angry reaction in Lyari. Most shopkeepers shuttered their businesses after learning about the development.

“We are already actively operating against criminals in Lyari and this will prove a morale booster for us,” said DIG Sheikh.

The South Zone police, where Uzair is wanted for his most of the crimes, would probably take his custody for further judicial process. “Our teams are interacting with the FIA, the interior minister and other forums concerned to expedite the process.”

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2014

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