Uzair Baloch reappears

Updated April 08, 2020

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AS mysteriously as he had been spirited away by the security forces in 2017 — after an equally intriguing arrest the year before — Uzair Jan Baloch, chief of the banned Pakistan Aman Committee, has resurfaced.

On Monday, the once feared kingpin of the Lyari gang war in Karachi was produced in an anti-terrorism court in Karachi by jail authorities after the army’s V Corps, headquartered in the city, handed him over to them.

Uzair Baloch, according to the police, is the prime suspect in a rival gang leader’s murder, an operation carried out in a particularly gruesome manner.

The victim, Arshad Pappu, his brother and another companion were allegedly abducted from a social gathering in Karachi’s Defence Housing Society, taken back to Lyari, and slaughtered, with their bodies defiled for good measure.

The case could not be prosecuted after the military took Uzair Baloch into custody on suspicion of espionage and “leak of sensitive security information to foreign intelligence agencies”.

Indeed, much still remains unknown about Uzair Baloch, who fled Pakistan in 2013 in the wake of the Rangers-led operation against organised crime in the city.

There are wheels within wheels in his ‘career’, a mix of extremely unsavoury activities facilitated by (often contradictory) allegiances with the power elite.

However, while Uzair Baloch as leader of the most prominent gang in Lyari — not to mention a one-time PPP ally later turned sworn enemy — occupied a unique place, other gangs were also willing pawns in a deadly political game, one far bigger than appearances would suggest.

The consequences of that tussle extended to the rest of the city and its cynically exploited ethnic fault lines.

Those who suffered the most though from the immediate fallout were the hapless citizens of Lyari.

For years, they knew not a moment’s peace as armed gangs ran amok in the streets, battling it out over the proceeds of various rackets, and enticing the area’s youth into a life of crime.

In February 2017, a confessional statement by Uzair Baloch was submitted to a Sindh High Court bench.

In it were startling revelations about a purported nexus between the PAC, the PPP’s Sindh leadership and top police officials in land grabbing, extortion, gunrunning and various other criminal activities.

While these accusations must be transparently investigated, it must also be said that extended detentions, without plausible explanation, of individuals suspected of grave crimes against Pakistani citizens sully the state’s reputation.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2020