KARACHI: Estranged leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and former Sindh home minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza on Tuesday met Rangers officials investigating charges against suspected Lyari gangster Uzair Jan Baloch and owned his past connection with the suspected gangster but denied that he had ever supported Uzair’s alleged criminal activities and that was he ever involved in such activities when he was part of the government, sources privy to the meeting said.
The meeting between Dr Mirza and the Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, officials was held after a month the suspected Lyari gangster Uzair Jan Baloch mysteriously surfaced in Karachi only to be arrested by the Sindh Rangers in their ‘targeted action’. While the high-profile arrest caused quite a stir in the national political scene because of Uzair’s previous association with the PPP, the official version of the actual events remained shrouded in mystery. Dr Mirza, however, came up with his straightforward and old stance owning his relations with Uzair.
At the Tuesday meeting, the sources said, the former home minister repeated his stance but denied his role in any of Uzair’s alleged widespread crime rackets that ranged from street crime to extortion and killings to kidnapping for ransom. Dr Mirza said when he was at the helm of affairs and had close contacts with Uzair, the law and order in Lyari was in control and the overall crime rate in the city was not as high as it got after he stepped down.
“Zulfikar Mirza was called for the meeting by the Rangers authorities,” said a source. “He met senior Rangers officials and replied to their question related mainly to investigations into charges against Uzair Baloch. He did not deny those words he had shared with the media when Uzair Baloch’s arrest was announced by the Rangers last month. Zulfikar Mirza showed confidence about his role in overall law and order in Lyari saying that during his days as home minister the neighbourhood was not facing such problems.”
Once known for his loyalty to the PPP and close contacts with its certain leaders, including Dr Mirza, Uzair took over the now proscribed People’s Amn Committee (PAC) in August 2009 after the death of Abdul Rehman Baloch, aka Rehman Dakait, in a police encounter more than a year after the PPP formed its government at the Centre and in Sindh.
Though the PAC was portrayed as a community group by its leaders, it was accused of killings, extortion and running a narcotics business both by the police and the PPP’s rival parties. The Sindh government banned the PAC and in April 2012 launched a botched police operation in Lyari against it. The provincial government later announced a Rs2 million bounty on Uzair.
However, it was withdrawn before the May 2013 general elections in an attempt to appease the PAC, which had an iron grip over Lyari, once considered a PPP stronghold. The incorporation of Dr Mirza’s feedback in findings of investigations into charges against Uzair may put further pressure on the beleaguered PPP in the ongoing tussle with the establishment and the federal government.
“Owning to some personal engagements, Zulfikar Mirza left the city after the meeting, which was held in a good atmosphere,” said the source. “During the meeting Zulfikar Mirza vowed that he would not change his stance about Uzair Baloch. The meeting lasted over an hour and concluded with a clear hint from the law enforcement personnel that he [Zulfikar Mirza] could be called again if needed.”
Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2016