AT times our law-enforcement and security agencies work in ways that are unconventional to say the least. Take the example of the arrest of Uzair Baloch, a shadowy figure in Karachi’s underworld. His arrest was announced by the Rangers on Saturday. Apparently Baloch, who heads the banned People’s Amn Committee based in Lyari and allegedly has political links, was picked up “outside Karachi” by the paramilitary force. Yet the arrest has raised several questions; for example, how did Baloch, who had reportedly been detained in Dubai in 2014, make his way to Karachi? In fact, Pakistani police officials had travelled to the emirate to get a hold of him, but returned empty-handed. The authorities need to explain how Uzair Baloch ended up on Karachi’s outer rim when his last sighting was in the UAE.

The suspect’s arrest has uncanny similarities with the apprehending of two men wanted in the Imran Farooq murder case; these individuals were said to have been captured in Chaman, the Balochistan town on the Afghan border. They were earlier thought to be in the custody of the intelligence agencies. Recently, the family of one of the suspects, Khalid Shamim, has contested official claims of the arrest in Chaman; his wife has said Shamim was already in custody. These incidents indicate the need for more transparency where law-enforcement and criminal justice procedures are concerned. Security agencies obviously cannot be expected to reveal operational details, but the basic facts behind the arrest of suspects must be made public. Uzair Baloch was considered a ‘kingmaker’ in the crime-ridden area of Lyari, so much so that he allegedly vetted the PPP’s electoral candidates from the locality. Yet there are a large number of cases against the suspect, including of murder, extortion and terrorism. It is hoped public proceedings against him bring to the fore more details about the nexus of crime, militancy and politics in Karachi. Clearly, explosive details may emerge when Uzair Baloch is produced in court.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2016

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