Lyari crisis

May 03, 2012

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AS the police-led operation against ‘gangsters’ in Lyari entered its sixth day on Wednesday, the humanitarian plight of this forsaken Karachi neighbourhood’s residents has become a matter of serious concern. People have been without food, water, power and gas for the past several days while stray gunfire poses a constant threat. Many of those who could do so have already fled Lyari. The city has witnessed protests against the operation, with demonstrators clashing with the law-enforcers. Protesters claim the action is partial, targeting a particular ethnic group. And while the Sindh government announced it had started relief work for the hapless people on Tuesday, it appears no plan was chalked out to protect residents before the police went inside the area last week.

Confusion seems to surround the operation. Police say they have secured troubled parts of the area, yet journalists have exposed this claim by easily interviewing a ‘wanted’ man. It is unclear what the police seek to achieve in Lyari. No one in government has spelt out a long-term solution for the crisis. There has been criticism that the police are patronising one set of gang-sters (the Arshad Pappu faction) against another (the People’s Amn Committee). If these allegations are true, it would mean the state has learnt nothing; there are no ‘good’ gangsters and ‘bad’ gangsters. Action against criminals must be even- handed and non-partisan. While the police have faced stiff resistance — confronted with sophisticated weapons — there are also accusations that the operation has been carried out to appease the PPP’s political allies or to settle personal scores.

What is most surprising is that the Rangers have not been utilised — perhaps because the paramilitary force would carry out indiscriminate action. The state must involve the Rangers so that humanitarian supplies can reach the affected parts of Lyari and criminal elements can be neutralised. It makes no sense to bypass the paramilitary force which has been stationed in the city specifically to help maintain peace. If the Rangers continue to be kept out of the picture, it will only fuel suspicions about the true motives behind this operation.