KARACHI, Aug 12 At the end of three days of mourning for the death of wanted 'gangster' Sardar Abdul Rehman alias Dakait, hundreds of people gathered at Lyari's Gabol Park, named after Sardar Khan Bahadur Allah Bukhsh Gabol.
It is perhaps an odd quirk of history that the walls of the park named after the first deputy speaker of the Sindh Assembly are now splattered with graffiti, accusing his grandson, PPP MNA Sardar Nabeel Ahmed Gabol, of “political backstabbing”.
After Sunday's alleged police encounter, which led to the killing of Rehman Dakait along with his three associates, the political temperature in Lyari has been running high. The majority of residents of the locality seem to agree that with the life that Rehman led, a violent end was not unexpected, but they have questioned the character of political leaders in the area, who they say enjoyed close connections with the outlaw.
While the nature of Rehman's connection with political leaders is unclear, it is known that several sitting ministers visited him frequently both before and after taking office. With Rehman's death, it may now never be made clear what exactly his relationship with these politicians was.
“It's not a question of why they killed him; it's a question of why they pampered and patronised the man who they believed was a criminal for years,” says Haji Namdar, a man in his 80s who claims to have enjoyed the companionship of Sardar Khan Bahadur Allah Bukhsh Gabol and former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
“Name any of the ministers in the Sindh government, either now or before, who was not in touch with Rehman in one way or the other. It's very simple pick one criminal, pamper him, use him and then kill him brutally without giving him a chance to get justice.”
At the end of the Rasm-i-Qul for Rehman, hundreds of Lyariites raised their hands, following the Imam, to respond simultaneously by saying Amen after every request to the Almighty.
“May Allah save our youngsters from crime and bloodshed,” said the voice of the Imam, emanating from loudspeakers fixed around the park, and echoing through the still air. Each sentence got an even louder response from the crowd of hundreds of men, women and children gathered both inside and outside the Gabol Park.
Political connections in testing times
In the aftermath of his death, residents of the area Rehman virtually ruled over are still searching for answers. One of the questions that consistently comes up has to do with his ability to maintain apparent friendships with political leaders during the peak of his criminal life, even when he was thought to be engaged in 'gang warfare' with his rivals, a conflict which lasted several years and claimed many lives.
“The people of Lyari believe that the killing would damage the PPP to a large extent in the area,” says Nasir Karim Baloch, a socially active Lyariite. “They are right to believe that the political leadership didn't play their role to end the crisis and eventually attempted to wrap the matter up in such a clumsy way.”
Zafar Baloch, a close aide to Rehman who was recently entrusted with the task of interacting with the media, goes further than simply claiming that his friend's police encounter was staged by senior officers to “execute an extrajudicial killing”.
He says that Rehman was willing to face cases against him in court, and wanted to transform himself from being a criminal to being a “social leader”. He adds that local political leaders were aware of this.
“Just a few months ago, Nabeel Gabol addressed a press conference at Rehman's home,” says Mr Baloch, surrounded by hundreds of Lyariites in the Gabol Park after the Rasm-e-Qul. “From [Home Minister] Zulfiqar Mirza to [President] Asif Ali Zardari, who is here in the government that didn't know Rehman and didn't make promises to end the Lyari crisis peacefully?”
Mr Baloch accepts that Rehman was a criminal, but claims that he was not wanted in any cases of dacoity, while more than 20 cases are registered against him on minor charges of “conventional rivalry”.
“The very simple solution to the whole problem was that the police should have brought him to court and even hanged him if he was found guilty by a court,” he says.
Despite the confusion and anger in Lyari, however, police officials and PPP leaders are convinced they did the right thing, and that it was “done on merit”.
Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmed says the death of Rehman Dakait will mean the return of peace to Lyari. PPP spokesperson Fauzia Wahab, meanwhile, says that the “death of a wanted man” would never damage her party's roots in its traditional stronghold of Lyari.
“He was flying high to become a self-proclaimed leader of the area,” she says. “His ambitions were threatening everyone and he spoiled institutions, culture, peace and everything in the area. He was killed by the police in an encounter and no one should have any doubt over it.”
She adds that she sees no reason why the PPP's popularity should be diminished by his death, despite the fact that the residents of Lyari are expressing sentiments which suggest quite the opposite.
“We are not going to seek revenge for Rehman's killing, in line with his will,” says Zafar Baloch, Rehman's aide. “We are determined to live in peace.”
“The way the government trapped and killed him, however - it would definitely not get the desired results,” he warns.