KARACHI: Pakistan Rangers, Sindh claimed to have arrested Uzair Baloch, a notorious leader of the Lyari gang war and chief of proscribed Peoples Amn Committee (PAC), in a targeted operation on the outskirts of Karachi on Saturday.
Rangers arrested Baloch in a targeted operation outside Karachi late on Friday while he was attempting to enter the city, said a press release issued by the paramilitary force.
The press release also claimed the recovery of weapons from Baloch, alleged leader of one of the gangs operating in crime-infested Karachi's Lyari area.
Later, the gang war leader was presented into an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) which remanded him into Rangers custody for 90 days.
Extradited or arrested?
Baloch was arrested in Dubai by the Interpol in December 2014 while he was crossing into the United Arab Emirates from Oman by road, the Pakistani consulate in Dubai had confirmed at the time.
A four-member special police team which was in Dubai for a month to seek Baloch's custody from UAE authorities had returned empty-handed in March 2015.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah while denying any association with Uzair Baloch in August last year had expressed ignorance about his status.
“He [Uzair Baloch] was caught in Dubai,” said Shah at the time. “Then our police team went there to gain his custody but it could not materialise for unknown reasons. Now I don’t know if he is still in custody in Dubai or has been released.”
It is not clear when and how Baloch arrived in Pakistan from UAE.
Know more: ‘Uzair not yet produced in Dubai court’
Once known for his loyalty to the Pakistan Peoples Party 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.
PAC was banned on October, 2011.
Former political face of PPP in Lyari
Baloch's 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.
A foster brother of PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, MNA 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.
Explore: Lyari live
The very next month the Sindh government announced bounty on most wanted criminals of the troubled Lyari neighbourhood. Uzair Baloch carried a prize of Rs2 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 2014, 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 alleged gangster, who was once mentioned as ‘wanted’ on Interpol website ‘by the authorities of Pakistan for prosecution’ for ‘murder charges,’ sparked an angry reaction in Lyari. Most shopkeepers had shuttered their businesses after learning about the development.
Currently, as many as 55 cases are pending against Uzair Baloch in various courts. Of these cases, one relates to the murder of Arshad Pappu and another relates to keeping weapons and explosives.
In 2012, a court warranted for the arrest of two leaders of the banned People’s Aman Committee including Uzair Baloch and an alleged member of the proscribed Balochistan Liberation Army in illicit weapons cases.
The police claimed to have detained the suspects in 2012 and alleged that the explosive stuff and illicit weapons were found in their possessions and they were involved in supplying arms and ammunition to criminals associated with the Lyari gang warfare.
Uzair Baloch had been declared a proclaimed offender in the case and the court had ruled that proceedings against the offender would be conducted in absentia under Section 19 (10) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.