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Fears of spike in Lyari violence when celebrations end

March 19, 2013

In this picture, police armored personnel carriers (APC) patrol during continuous firing at Lyari area in Karachi. — File Photo.

KARACHI: As celebrations over Nabeel Gabol’s departure from the Pakistan People’s Party and slaying of a gangster continue in Lyari, political activists in the area believe that Lyari is set for an increase in violence and chaos.

Just a day ago, Mr Gabol formally announced switching over to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in what he described as a decision pending for over a year.

Now that he has made the decision, the MQM will seek to make inroads into the area where it has long been trying to gain a toehold.

However, one activist thinks Mr Gabol won’t be able to make a dent in PPP’s vote bank.

An old-time PPP activist now heading his own party named Baloch Ittehad, Abid Brohi, says that Mr Gabol took a “wrong decision at a wrong time”. He says that if there were forces in Lyari who did not want him as their representative, there were countless others who supported him too. Whether they will do so in the future remains to be seen, he adds.

“As much as Nabeel Gabol tries he won’t be able to get the nationalists on board. The MQM has clout in other parts of Karachi but not in Lyari: there’s a small minority that supports them there,” he argues.

However, senior journalist Latif Baloch says that Mr Gabol does not only have good connections within the Kutchhi community but also in areas having large Urdu-speaking population such as Agra Taj Colony and Bihar Colony, making it around 10,000 votes.

“There are other silent voters in the area who will definitely, or maybe openly, support the MQM now,” he adds.

With the death of Sindh Assembly member Rafiq Engineer and Mr Gabol’s departure, the position in Lyari lies vacant at the moment. Even when alive, Mr Rafiq was not allowed in Lyari, along with Mr Gabol, which eventually became a reason for him to leave the area altogether.

With two vacant seats, the PPP would want to hold onto it, as otherwise it would be a disaster for them in Lyari, Mr Baloch adds.

Among those who will be considered to contest elections from Lyari are said to be Owais Muzaffar aka Tappi and Faryal Talpur. With an uncomfortable history with Lyariites, Mr Muzaffar is said to be a strong contender who activists say “may be” opposed by People’s Aman Committee leader Uzair Baloch.

President Asif Ali Zardari has already announced that Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari will contest elections from Lyari when he is eligible to stand for election.

Mr Brohi says that whoever is visible in the area and works for the people will get the votes. “If people see Uzair Baloch as someone who can better represent them, then they’ll vote for him, irrespective of his background. We cannot rule him out.”

Though there is an apparent calm in Lyari, the division of the area in terms of votes will see more bloodshed in the near future, says an activist not wanting to be named. Apart from that, the news of ‘gangster’ Mohammad Arshad alias Pappu’s brutal murder on Sunday will be another cause of tit-for-tat killings between two gangs in Lyari. Mr Brohi says that it would have been acceptable if Pappu had been killed in a police encounter. “But to be killed by the same people, and in such a brutal manner, what does that say about the state of law and order in this city?”

SSP Operations in CID Fayyaz Khan says that Arshad Pappu’s gang is too weakened to retaliate now. Mr Khan, who captured Arshad Pappu in 2006, says that most of his workers have already joined the PAC.

“His gang is already finished and can’t do anything. It’ll remain the same as before. The violence will remain but won’t escalate,” he adds.

A senior activist, requesting anonymity, however, sees worse days ahead for Lyari. “There will be a surge in violence as now the PAC has more than one enemy to counter. They are supported by the PPP’s top cadre. Otherwise the PAC would not have survived for so long,” he says.

Mr Baloch adds that the PAC is more of a “political need of the PPP” to counter the MQM and other forces in Lyari, whether the party admits it or not. “They have a force of 4,500 men with a strong intelligence network. The PAC will stay now and get stronger more than ever.”