'Uzair Baloch a spy, Baldia fire a terror incident': JIT reports reveal nexus of police, politicians and gangsters
Uzair Jan Baloch, the alleged Lyari gang warfare kingpin, passed on secret information regarding Pakistan Army installations to the Iranian intelligence and was behind a large number of targeted killings and politically motivated murders of rival gangsters and civilians.
These were among a host of revelations that came to light on Monday evening as the Sindh government made public the joint investigation team (JIT) reports of three high-profile cases — concerning Uzair Baloch, the Baldia factory fire incident and former chairman of the Fishermen Cooperative Society Nisar Morai — after much controversy and litigation in courts.
The three JIT reports were uploaded to the website of the Sindh home department and elicited varied responses from different political parties. But the reports were perhaps awaited the most by Federal Minister for Shipping and Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi, a leader of the ruling PTI who had taken the Sindh government to court to make the JIT findings public three years ago, as was apparent from several of his tweets.
The six-member JIT formed by the Sindh government in February 2016 to interrogate Baloch, comprising representatives of security and intelligence agencies, unanimously declared him as "black" — guilty of the crimes alleged, finding that Baloch along with his gang members was involved in a large number of murders/target killings of his rivals and innocent citizens including ethnic and "politically motivated killings".
"The accused has accepted his criminal acts before JIT and co-related all his actions with actual criminal happenings on [the] ground," the report, reviewed by Dawn.com, said of the chief of the outlawed Peoples Amn Committee (PAC).
He also martyred several police and Rangers personnel and attacked police stations. In total, Baloch “confessed” to killing 198 people on ethnic and political grounds and owing to gang-war rivalry, according to the report.
It revealed that Baloch, now 42, told the investigators that he and his accomplices killed 11 traders of the Shershah junk market in 2010 because they were “sympathisers” of a political party and gave extortion to that party.
He also admitted that in order to take revenge of the killing of his father, he kidnapped his rival gang leader Arshad Pappu and two others with the help of certain police officers and murdered them brutally. In addition to the murders, the JIT said Baloch was also involved in extortion, land grabbing, China-cutting and narcotics trafficking.
Another revelation in the report was regarding Baloch's alleged espionage activities. Baloch disclosed that he obtained a fake birth certificate of Iran in the late 1980s with the help of his aunt, who was a dual Pakistani-Iranian citizen, and in 2006 managed to obtain his Iranian identity card and passport.
In 2014, when Baloch was residing with a friend in the Iranian port city of Chabahar, one Haji Nasir offered to arrange a meeting between Baloch and Iranian intelligence officers. A meeting with one such intelligence officer was subsequently arranged in which Baloch "was asked to provide certain information about armed forces officials [...] besides general security environment of the city", the report said.
"The accused is found involved in espionage activities by providing secret informations/sketches regarding Army installations and officials to foreign agents (Iranian intelligence officers) which is a violation of Official Secrets Act, 1923," the JIT wrote in its findings.
It also revealed that Baloch has a large number of assets in Pakistan and Dubai — managed through black money — and laundered huge amounts of money through his henchmen.
While being involved in illegal purchases of weapons and explosives, he under the cover of the PAC "made Lyari his own state and put the entire city in a state of fear", the JIT noted.
The probe team recommended that criminal proceedings should be initiated against Baloch in the light of his disclosures and challans of the cases in which he was nominated be submitted in courts. It said some of the crimes confessed to by him were cognisable before the National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency and Anti-Encroachment Cell, therefore Baloch and other accused should be handed over to these agencies for legal action.
The JIT said it was "strongly recommended" that Baloch be tried under the Pakistan Army Act for his espionage activities. Last month, Karachi prison authorities had disclosed before an antiterrorism court that a military court had sentenced Baloch to 12 years' rigorous imprisonment in April this year after convicting him of spying for foreign countries.
The report stated that certain other offences that Baloch was accused of needed "further probe" as and when fresh incriminating evidence surfaced.
The Sindh government had announced on Friday that it would make the three JIT reports public by the ongoing week but challenged minister Ali Zaidi to point to any disclosure in the documents that might prove the involvement of top PPP leaders in criminal activities.
Only last week, the provincial authorities had informed the Sindh High Court that they had challenged its order to make public the three JIT reports before the Supreme Court. This had come in response to a petition of Zaidi seeking to make public all three reports. He had petitioned the high court in 2017 and submitted that these JIT reports contained startling disclosures about the involvement of politicians in crimes such as murder and extortion.
Baldia factory fire a 'planned terrorist activity'
A different nine-member JIT came to the conclusion that the horrific Baldia factory fire in 2012 was not an accident but a “planned sabotage/terrorist activity” in which 259 workers were burnt alive.
The arson was carried out over the non-payment of Rs200 million extortion and refusal to agree to a partnership in factory profits, the report said.
It held the then head of MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqi, and Rehman Bhola responsible for the tragedy.
Know more: Quiet burns the fire: The Baldia tragedy
The JIT was also critical of the initial police investigation into the case and observed that police dealt with it in an unprofessional manner and in a way that benefited “the offenders” instead of the victims for some “motives and gains”.
It said “fear and favour” were the dominating factors in the initial investigation, which affected the “length and breadth” of the police performance.
"The JIT ... strongly recommends introduction of police reforms in order to avoid recurrence of such catastrophic investigative failures in future," the report said.
The investigation team suggested that a fresh first information report (FIR) be filed under terrorism charges against the eight accused, including Hammad Siddiqi.
It also recommended an overhaul of the emergency services structure in Karachi, noting that the rescue services available in the metropolis of nearly 20 million people "are not capable enough to deal with such catastrophes of terrorism and mega accidents".
Nisar Morai carried out criminal activities 'through political influence'
The four members of a third JIT constituted by the Sindh government in April 2016 declared ex-chairman of Fishermen Cooperative Society Nisar Morai as "black" in light of his alleged "criminal/corruption history".
According to the report, Morai, a friend of former home minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza, during his interrogation had "revealed his various criminal activities carried out through his political influence".
“It has been found that the accused had established and maintained a very strong link with [a] few political figures and has accepted his involvement in financial corruption,” read the report.
He employed 50-200 people as ghost employees in the fisheries department and extorted money on a monthly basis from a former chairman of the Fishermen Cooperative Society, the report said.
During his posting at a government dispensary in Ibrahim Hyderi, "he never practically served there but continuously received salary from [Sindh] health department", according to the report.
About his business contacts, the JIT claimed Morai obtained the contracts of Toll Plaza link road on the Superhighway, contract of livestock check post at Nooriabad and contract of a cattle market and earned millions of rupees on a monthly basis.
It stated that Morai facilitated land grabbers in exchange for "huge bribes", patronised gambling dens and also received bribes to clear land challans.
Morai, who according to the report was politically affiliated with the PPP, disclosed that Zulfikar Mirza provided “financial support, arms and ammunition” to the Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi “to strengthen them to resist” the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (Altaf).
According to the JIT report, he also disclosed that he was involved in the murder of former Pakistan Steel Mills chief Sajjad Hussain. However, a model court had acquitted Morai in that case in April last year citing lack of sufficient evidence.
Morai also told the JIT that he had contacts with Uzair Baloch and met him on Mirza's direction.
The JIT recommended that criminal proceedings should be initiated against Morai and he should be arrested and challans of the cases against him be submitted in the concerned courts.
'Game is on'
Talking to reporters, leaders of different political parties gave a variety of reactions to the JIT reports being made public.
Minister Zaidi termed the revelations "intriguing" and said he would hold a press conference on the matter on Tuesday. "Game on hai! (the game is on!)," he tweeted.
Sindh education minister Saeed Ghani said the Uzair Baloch JIT report was "five years old" but Zaidi had "awakened now". He said the people named in the report had recorded their respective statements.
He said it should be left to the courts to decide who is responsible for the offences mentioned in the reports.
PTI leader Haleem Adil Shaikh claimed that "everyone knew that Uzair Baloch had links with the PPP leadership". He said it was their demand that the said JITs be made public so that people could know as to what had transpired in Karachi and who was responsible for it.
Dr Farooq Sattar, head of his own faction of the MQM, said JITs had often not been helpful in holding people accountable before courts of law. He apprehended that the JIT reports might have been “tempered” with by now. He also feared the reports might become a source of "media trial".