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

Published Apr 30, 2012 12:30pm


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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?


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Comments (19) Closed

abdulrauff May 01, 2012 02:40pm
no no no
SoftImage May 01, 2012 03:11pm
as far as i am concerned the operation in Lyari is heading in the right direction although it is late in time but as we say better late than never. The on going operation is costing millions of rupees and precious lives are being lost, after achieving the objectives to maintain law and order would be the biggest challenge for the government i hope they would have an eye on that matter too. De-weaponizing Karachi is a good idea but it would be illogical as we all know Pakistan is a rich source of illegal weapons and especially Khyber Pakhtoon khawa (KP) where it is available in abundance. Until and unless weapon is confiscated from the source the entire excise is useless.Lyari is the hub of all criminals in Karachi so it would certainly be benefiting for Karachi if this menace is eradicated and peace is upheld in Lyari.
ahmed ali May 01, 2012 02:39pm
only in Layari where hand grenades ,rocket propelled grenades and other sophisticated automatic weapons are being the long run who will be is the people belong to Layari .pls. dont give ethnic color to it
@abidifactor Apr 30, 2012 02:25pm
Please also refer to the confession on GEOTV yesterday by Zafar Baloch as to how and why this situation came up in Lyari since the past 4 years.
GhulamRasool Soomro Apr 30, 2012 08:38pm
Its fact that Layari has remaind the centre of democratic and liberal thinking peoples , it has always resisted the anti democratic , ethnically and conservative elements.very sad to say that PPP are targeting his own innocent people only for his government..
Agha Ata Apr 30, 2012 12:41pm
Education, education, education, that is the answer to these problems. Uneducated people develop a faith on their political leaders which is not very different from the faith in their religion, a blind faith. Good education can help them think objectively and critically!
Agha Ata May 02, 2012 12:48am
Please don’t call it a tip of iceberg. It is too superior to an iceberg. It is a tip of a glacier.
s khanzada May 01, 2012 01:18pm
ppp government and PMN both are dreaming that all the citizen of Karachi coming towards them and appreciating their performance but when they waked up there is no citizen of Karachi looking towards them even they felt they are alone in Karachi. contentiously they are facing this situation and then they decided to used all criminal elements and provide them new advance lethal weapons and used them against those who are representing peoples of Karachi. so right now which situation we are looking in lyari it has a long bad story of these above two main parties conspiracy which is now going to open slowly slowly just wait .
@FahadAzam1 May 02, 2012 07:37am
Well, I agree with one of the comments above that lack of education is the root cause of the problems of Lyari. It is one of the most backward towns in Karachi in terms of infrastructure and education and the responsibility of taking up the issue of lack of education lies on the elected representatives of the area. For decades, PPP nominated members have been elected from this area without any serious competition. The fact that they did nothing to provide better facilities of education to people of this area seems to me to be root cause.
Nabeel Khan May 02, 2012 02:19pm
Innocent Ppl ??? sorry to ask u bt who is firing from neiborhood on Police ?? where did these Rockets r comming from ?? who is throwing hand grenades on Law enforcement agencies ??? do u mind to tell this ???
Ahmed May 01, 2012 02:44am
Well written Faiza Mirza, you are a true, unbiased journalist . I totally agree with you. Keep up the good work.
raika45 Apr 30, 2012 01:53pm
I by chance logged on to Dawn live on the internet ,and I saw the mayhem in Karachi.I have and read about lawlessness in your country.Seeing it with my eyes where the police was ineffective makes me wonder.Where are you heading to Pakistan?
kaleem Apr 30, 2012 08:23pm
Shehzad Apr 30, 2012 07:57pm
It is sad to see Lyari burning. When we lived in Kalakot Lyari before we moved to USA. Lyari had only ONE problem DRUGS. There was a known gang leader “kala Nag” known for his bravery but he only went up to Cinema’s. It was worse than but we 6 of us brothers and sisters made it to USA while we studies under street light. I hope people in Lyari still find hope in life. Its just said to see this.
Mr. T May 01, 2012 05:37am
It's definitively TIP of the iceberg, every area in Karachi where any political parties holds, they hold on the basis of ammunition only, either it's Azizabad or Landhi or Sohrab Goth (they are next after Leyari i guess)...
fazal rehman Apr 30, 2012 08:12pm
First of all I would like to say that Lyari Operation is necessary for end of drug culturel, wepon, and other criminal activities, miscreant in Lyari were being by anti state element.
S.M.ALI May 01, 2012 09:13am
Lyari Operation is necessary for end of drug culturel, wepon, and other criminal activities,
Akbar Ali May 01, 2012 02:18pm
Dear Mr.Fazal Whats about other part of city.Khati Pari,Orangi town,liquat abad,Aziz Abad,Landhi etc.If you want to do really the true operation clean up against criminal then do justice,,,,, don't kill innocent Baloch people,
Irfan Baloch Apr 30, 2012 02:58pm
Then what about the people in the media. Why can't they see or refuse to report the real situation on the ground. Are they not educated or are they political workers first and then Repoters, Anchor Persons and Editors. The death of true journalism is one of the core problems we face. It's a shame that today some psuedo intellectuals in the media acting as anchors are the ones in charhge of forming public opinion. It should have been the job of philosophers, intellectuals, thinkers. We the common folks are in a crisis, what we have got in our hands now is a problem to communicate. We have no voice. Even God gave his prophets a voice before handing them down a book, otherwise their nations would have not been able to differentiate between good and evil. That is the sole reason the whole country when hearing the word Lyari today thinks of an Evil.