By Ambreen Agha
From where do the Pakistan Amn Committee (PAC) acquire weapons…It is obvious that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) provides both legal and illegal weapons to them. Today, in Lyari, children have guns instead of books. The leader of PAC, Uzair Baloch, enjoys full support from the ruling party PPP and wants to control Lyari…If the Government can bring peace in Waziristan, then why can’t it do the same in Karachi? Clearing Karachi of criminal elements is a matter of three hours…the Law enforcers need to establish their writ over political violence. – Lyari Gangster Ghaffar Zikri’s interview with the CNBC.
Recent incidents of violence in Karachi have covered a wide spectrum, including gangsters and terrorists targeting politicians and media, gang wars between local criminals, and targeted killings of a range of civilians.
On August 16, 2013, two persons – a female staffer, Raheela Zohair, and a security guard, Mir Ali – were injured when four unidentified assailants opened fire at the Express Media office located at Korangi Road in Korangi Town.
On the same day, unidentified militants ambushed the vehicle of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Sania Naz Baloch near Dubai Chowk in Lyari Town. Sania Baloch, however, escaped unhurt.
On August 7, 2013, at least 11 persons were killed and 26 were injured in an explosion outside a football ground in Lyari Town. The blast occurred when footballers and the crowd were leaving the grounds after a football match. The apparent target of the blast was Provincial Minister for Kutchi Abadis and Spatial Development, Javed Nagori, who was the chief guest. Nagori was reportedly injured in the blast.
On August 1, 2013, gunmen belonging to the Sheraz Comrade and Amin Buledi group of the Pakistan Amn Committee (PAC) opened fire on Shakeel Shako, the Joint Sector in-charge of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), killing him on the spot in the Jodia Bazaar (market) of Saddar Town. The Station House Officer Azam Khan said the incident was “a skirmish between activists of the MQM and criminals belonging to the banned PAC”.
The recent incidents of violence are only an extension of the existing culture of mindless killing and arson in Karachi, the District which has provided a ‘level playing field’ to a multiplicity of extremist actors, including criminals, political extremists and terrorists, to orchestrate violence, against a background of a violently polarized politics, with political parties pitting one against the other. Karachi continues to burn with the spill-over of unabated violence in Lyari Town, with gangsters operating in the locality driven by the ambition of establishing full control across the wider Karachi District, comprising of 18 Towns.
All the 18 Towns of Karachi District have been engulfed by extensive violence. According to partial data collected by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) Karachi has recorded at least 3,828 fatalities since January 1, 2011, (all data till August 18, 2013), including 3,288 civilians, 274 Security Force (SF) personnel, and 266 terrorists/criminals. Of these, Lyari Town in South Karachi remains the worst hit, recording at least 507 fatalities, including 446 civilians, 36 SF personnel and 25 terrorists/criminals; followed by Orangi Town in Karachi West with at least 478 fatalities, including 430 civilians, 23 SF personnel and 25 terrorists/criminals; and Karachi East’s Gulshan Town, with 443 killed, including 399 civilians, 28 SF personnel and 16 militants. In 2013 alone, Karachi District has already recorded 1,089 fatalities, including 898 civilians, 106 SF personnel and 85 terrorists/criminals. Lyari Town, Gulshan Town and Gadap Town remain the worst affected.
Political killings have become the order of day in the soaring violence that afflicts Karachi. Activists of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the MQM and the Awami National Party (ANP) have been the principal targets. A total of 304 activists of these parties, including 159 of the MQM; 95 of the ANP, and 52 of the PPP, have been killed since 2011. While the PAC flourishes under the open support of PPP, the Ghaffar Zikri-led Lyari gang is supported by the MQM. Amidst this politically fuelled violence, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has also penetrated Karachi in recent years.
Karachi’s intriguing diversity appears to have become the bane of the entire region. Home to Balochi, Pashtu, Urdu and Sindhi speaking people, the diverse ethnic-linguistic spread across the District is a raw nerve, with identity-based political parties supporting and championing the cause of specific ethnic groups, and engineering a convergence of political elites and criminal elements. Indeed, the continuing wave of violence in Karachi is an account of the state’s complicity in criminal activity, even as a prolonged turf war between two local criminal formations – the PAC and the Lyari gang – which defiantly continue to war for control over Lyari Town and to extend their influence beyond.
The PAC, currently led by Uzair Baloch, and the Lyari gang, led by Ghaffar Zikri, have been fighting tooth and nail to consolidate their influence in the area. The Lyari gang was founded by Arshad Pappu, who was killed by criminals from Uzair’s PAC on March 16, 2013.
The PAC was founded by the deceased Sardar Abdul Rehman Baloch alias Rehman Dakait. The Sindh Home Ministry banned PAC under Section 11-B of the Anti-Terrorism Act on October 10, 2011.
The turf-war began with the killing of PAC founder Rehman Dakait by the SFs on August 9, 2009. It was after his killing that Lyari was divided into two halves – one dominated by present PAC leader Uzair Jan Baloch and the other controlled by Lyari gang founder Arshad Pappu. Soon after Dakait’s death Uzair took over the PAC leadership and initiated the struggle to establish full control over Lyari. Uzair’s territorial aggression was met with resistance from Arshad Pappu. The turf-war escalated with the murder of Arshad Pappu on March 16, 2013. Ghaffar Zikri thus claimed in an interview to CNBC on July 20, 2013, “PAC criminals Baqar Baloch and Yousuf Baloch impersonated Police officials and picked up Arshad on false charges. He was tortured to death, his dead body cut into pieces and thrown in a gutter in Lyari.”
Though PAC has been banned for the last two years, it continues to operate with obvious support from the local administration and politicians. For instance, while expressing his grievances against the collusion between the Police, politicians and members of the PAC, Zikri reiterates:
Uzair Baloch enjoys open support from the PPP and the Police, who do not mount any substantial operation against them. The Chief Minister meets Uzair but he never bothers to meet the residents of Lyari who have been inflicted with violence orchestrated by the PAC. The Police come and sit with the members of the PAC and leave without launching any operation against them. In fact, whatever operations the Police claim to launch are fruitless and superficial.
Indeed, soon after the swearing in ceremony, the newly elected Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, accompanied by his cabinet colleagues, attended a ‘formal dinner’ hosted by the PAC leader, Uzair Baloch, in the night of May 30, 2013. Significantly, Lyari is the only constituency from where the PPP swept all the three seats during the May 2013 Elections. Lyari has one National Assembly seat and two Provincial Assembly seats.
In addition to the crime syndicates present and performing in Karachi, the city is also infested with TTP terrorists who have destabilised the region, along with various sectarian outfits such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jama’at (ASWJ, earlier known as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan), Sunni Tehreek (ST), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Jundullah. According to a July 22, 2013, report, the Sindh Home Department confirmed the presence of these terrorist groupings. Earlier in October 2012, the Inspector General (IG) of Police, Sindh, Fayyaz Ahmed Khan Leghari submitted a report to a judicial bench of the Supreme Court regarding the infiltration of more than 7,000 TTP militants in Karachi. According to partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), 58 persons, including 35 civilians, 12 SF personnel and 11 TTP terrorists have been killed in incidents linked to the TTP in the current year [Data till August 18, 2013]. The number of persons killed in TTP-linked incidents stood at 19 (eight civilians, six SF personnel, five terrorists) in 2012; 69 (36 civilians, 23 SF personnel, 10 terrorists) in 2011; 20 (nine civilians, 11 terrorists) in 2010; and 50 (43 civilians, two SF personnel, five terrorists) in 2009.
TTP’s urban mobility and survival in the metropolitan landscape also suggest its insidious alliance with local criminal groupings and other sectarian-terrorist outfits. Way back in July 2011, security officials were investigating possible links between local criminal gangs and religious outfits in Karachi with terrorist groups associated with TTP. Taking note of the sudden upsurge in violence in 2011, an unnamed official in the Police Department disclosed, “There are definite signs of some connectivity in Karachi between local criminal gangs and some religious extremist groups with Taliban (TTP) who are well organised and this could be the reason for the upsurge in violence in the city.” On July 11, 2011, a counter-terrorism official sounded the alarm on the growing level of co-ordination among extremist groups, including the TTP and local criminal elements.
According to a July 12, 2011, media report, Crime Investigation Department (CID) had sent a secret report to the Federal Ministry of Interior [date not mentioned], about 250 high-profile terrorists, including at least 94 belonging to LeJ, have been arrested from Karachi between 2001 and 2011. Some 40 detained extremists belonged to al Qaeda-linked Harkat-ul-Mujahideen al-Alami (HuMA). During their interrogation the detainees revealed that they worked as a “very well-gelled-together” network and seek commands from their mentors in the tribal areas. This criminal-terrorist nexus not only adds up to presently precarious situation in Karachi, but also has serious implications for Pakistan’s overall stability.
Pakistan continues to adopt a smoke-and-mirrors policy to cover up its inadequacies and the collusive arrangement between elements in the state apparatus and the criminal-terrorist complex. The criminal-terrorist formations appear to command increasing mainstream support in the political system. The recidivism of the political classes has pushed Karachi to extreme desperation, virtually to the edge of anarchy and civil war. While politicians themselves are increasingly targeted by the criminal-terrorist networks, it appears, the will to confront this violence remains conspicuous in its absence, as the calculus of immediate partisan advantage continues to outweigh the high long-term costs that the escalating criminalization of politics and society are inevitably inflicting on the city and the country at large.
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management