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Lyari: The tip of the iceberg or root of the problem?

April 30, 2012


Policemen take positions during a fire fight with gang members near Karachi's Lyari area.—Reuters Photo

As much as we hate to admit, the fact remains that Karachi has the reputation of being one of the most violent and unpredictable cities in the world – so much so that the word violence is almost synonymous with Karachi.

It is wise to say that the network of ‘armed miscreants’, which is responsible for claiming countless lives, rules major parts of the city. Restaurants, tea stalls, pedestrian crossings or even one’s own home is not considered a refuge because when bullets strike, nothing remains safe.

The aftermath of these killings is even more drastic than the actual killings. Massive operations and targeted raids are conducted by the police force frequently, however, the culprits still remain at large and the killings fail to cease.

A senior level police official, on condition of anonymity, said, “Kati Pahari, Landhi, Sohrab Goth and Baldia all remain extremely sensitive and dangerous. In fact Baldia is more sensitive as it remains a safe abode for Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).”

“It is important to understand the difference between operations and targeted raid. The operations generally are more widespread such as the operations of 1992 and 1996 which were aimed against all the armed political activists/members. Targeted raids are smaller in scope and are specific to a single individual or group. The police encounter in which Rehman Dakait died was a targeted raid because it was aimed against a group of people belonging to a specific group,” he added.

According to the police official, the law and order situation at Orangi is worse than any other town and area of Karachi.

“The situation is critical and it is deteriorating by the day. However, I must reiterate that the problems in Lyari are of political nature and their attribution to law and order is government’s way of saving face. Lyari has always been a strong vote-bank for PPP and people from the area have supported the party through thick and thin. However, MQM has always felt slightly sidelined in Lyari which is why they formed Katchi Rabta Committee, to gain entrance into the area,” he added.

Going down the memory lane, the police official said, “The encounter of Rehman Dakait and his accomplices, along with the conspiracy surrounding his killing, remain extremely controversial to this date. However, it is important to understand that he was killed because he was getting too big for his shoes and Kutchi Rabta Committee along with Arshad Pappu were used as pawns against Rehman by MQM and certain factions within PPP.”

According to the police official, Lyari remains a battleground for conflicting political views and schools of thought.  The conflicts between different political parties can be attributed to the ubiquity of violence in Lyari and other parts of the city.

However, Faisal Sabzwari of MQM denied all the allegations and said, “These accusations make no sense and are totally baseless. The question is who is stopping the Rangers and police force to launch operations in MQM dominated areas.”

“Criminals in Lyari are armed. They have access to rocket launchers, hand grenades and other advanced weaponry which is unheard of in other areas. Everything is out in the open and I will reiterate that the Rangers and police are welcomed to invade ‘MQM dominated zones’,” he added.

Sabzwari said that a criminal remains a criminal regardless of his political allegiance and should be reprimanded.

On the contrary, Hani Baloch, a resident of Lyari said, “The problem is that we all are secular people and we believe in coexistence. I would like to reiterate that when Babri Masjid was demolished in India, Lyari was the only area in Karachi where Hindus remained unharmed because we believe in tolerance.”

“We all live congenially and the violence has always been a political issue. Clashes between different political parties are attributed to gang-war; however, that is not the case. Target killing and violence is not only specific to Lyari but since it is not an MQM dominated area, it is targeted and highlighted the most,” he added.

Baloch also said that the operation is claiming innocent lives and representatives of different political parties are still safe.

“To be honest they are only targeting innocent Balochis. A couple of political activists and criminals must have died but innocent people are being victimised,” added Baloch.

The famous incident of May 12, 2007, the day which will always be remembered as one of the bleakest days in the history of Karachi, was also the result of different parties clashing together. When parties clash they refuse to think about the so-called human welfare of the citizens they conveniently rule. The heavy death toll, in May 12’s killings, is sufficient to validate the triumph of party’s agenda on public lives.

The suo moto action taken by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, against killings in Karachi remains one of his prolific achievements, however, for many people the suo moto order is considered figurative including representatives of the police force.

“The order issued by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Chief Justice is an extensive document which perhaps could be helpful if it’s followed appropriately. The order covers a wide array of important areas, aiming to eradicate corruption from law enforcing agencies and political groups, at large,” he added.

One of the most important points mentioned in the order pertains to the eradication of ‘criminal cells’ within different political groups. Association of political groups with criminals such as Ajmal Pahari, Kamran Madhuri and many others, will have severe repercussions for the involved political party. However, the ‘dissociation’ of miscreants from political groups has not evidently been seen since the order was passed in 2011.

The deteriorating law and order situation is majorly attributed to the lack of discipline and unwillingness will to perform by the law enforcing officers, which is why the order also addressed the issues pertaining to the efficiency and productivity of the police force.

“The reason why we do not see Pakistan’s police force as progressive and disciplined as the police forces of other countries is primarily because of political recruitments. Different political parties provide incentives to their supporters and voters by referring them to join the police force because this profession is considered extremely lucrative,” said another senior police officer on condition of anonymity.

“You must understand that by sending their supporters in the police force they tend to gain entry into the system so that they can dictate their rules later for better or for worse. If the head of any division is led by a politically appointed candidate then how can you expect him to not favour the party he is indebted to?” he added.

The police officers also added that repealing the Police Order 2002 minimised the scope of their authority drastically, affecting their performance.

“We have no autonomy now. We seek Home Department’s permission for all the minor tasks and raids because they dictate the rules and influence us in every possible way,” he added.

Suo moto action, orders and judgements have so far been futile. Neither has the order resolved the issue of political hiring and negative influence on the law enforcers nor has it stopped the incidents of target killing.

However, the police department is hopeful that President Asif Ali Zardari’s instructions to formulate a committee with representatives from Awami National Party (ANP), Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to prevent target killings in Karachi, will bring about a positive reform in the state-of-affairs.

Karachi, being one of the most densely populated metropolises of Pakistan, is segmented into various groups in the names of ethnicities, sects, races and creeds. Uneducated masses, which play as pawns in the political games rendering a helping hand to the political establishments, fail to understand that ‘politics of arms’ benefit none.

We all know that target killings, extortions and the so-called drives to eradicate criminals from the face of Karachi are all motivated by political leaders. Systems and mechanisms, that pose threats to political agendas of various groups, are abolished or manoeuvred to benefit the rulers.

The question is how long is the silent majority going to remain silent?