by Zia Ur Rehman
June 18, 2013
KARACHI – Calm is returning to Lyari after Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah June 11 ordered police to contain the violence.
One of the oldest areas of Karachi has become a safe haven for criminals, police and local civil society activists said.
“Lyari has a history of gang wars, fighting between drug pushers and clashes between criminal groups,” Allah Baksh, a social activist living in the Agra Taj Colony of Lyari, said.
Increased wave of violence
A recent spike in violence, however, came after the June 8 killing of a young man, Arif Baloch, in the Kalri area, police said.
At least 24 people were killed and more than 40 were injured, with women and children among the casualties, during the June 9-13 violence, media reported.
The most affected areas of Lyari included Dhobi Ghat, Usmanabad, Bihar Colony and Agra Taj Colony, Lyari parliamentarian Javed Nagori said.
A number of Baloch families have temporarily moved to the Hub, Saakran and Gadani areas of Balochistan; meanwhile, Kutchi families moved to the Kemari and Malir areas, Baksh said.
Despite the history of violence between Balochis and Kutchis, it is clear that outside miscreants are igniting ethnic strife, police officials and local parliamentarians said.
Miscreants belonging to other parts of the city including Baldia Town and PIB Colony are destroying peace in the Lyari area, Southern Karachi Deputy Inspector General of Police Amir Shaikh said.
Four suspects among the arrested belonged neither to the Baloch nor Kutchi community and they were not Lyari residents, he said.
Baksh accused workers of the People’s Aman Committee (PAC) and Kutchi Rabita Committee (KRC) of using Lyari as a battleground to push their agendas.
PAC and KRC leaders blamed each other for fuelling the violence in Lyari.
“PAC-backed gangsters are involved in killing Kutchi people, and KRC is a representative community organisation, struggling for the rights of the community in a peaceful manner,” Kareem Shah Kutchi, a leader of KRC, told Central Asia Online.
PAC leader Zafar Baloch said the Baloch and Kutchi communities have been living in peace for several decades but that some KRC members are destroying the peace in Lyari.
While seeking alms has benefitted many in need, laws are in place to confront those taking advantage of Pakistani Muslims’ generosity.
Lahore and Islamabad authorities started to crack down on offenders in March and April, according to media reports.
Karachi authorities will do the same at the start of Ramadan, Amin Khan, a local social welfare department official, said. “We will also involve non-governmental organisations in the anti-begging crackdown.”
“After two warnings, they will be put behind bars,” Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said June 21.
Begging is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment, Karachi lawyer Zulfiqar Ali said.
Outlaws holed up in different localities in Lyari used hand grenades and automatic weapons against police, media reported, but security forces remain steadfast in the fight.
Police commandos have been placed on the rooftops of 17 buildings and check-posts in violence-hit areas of Lyari, Haji Sanaullah, a senior official at the Kalri police station, told Central Asia Online.
Several suspects accused of involvement in the violence have been arrested, Shaikh said, noting that police discovered a weapons cache during the arrests.
Police June 11 also recovered a bomb weighing 1.5kg, which the Bomb Disposal Squad defused later.
“The bomb was recovered from the Chakiwara area based on information received by suspects arrested during the crackdown,” Sanaullah said.
“The overall situation is peaceful, but gunmen are still firing to create panic and chaos in some areas,” he said.
Peace committee formed
Authorities formed a 10-member peace committee under the supervision of Karachi Southern Deputy Commissioner Mustafa Jamal Qazi.
“Committee representatives from law enforcement agencies, PAC and KRC have held five meetings so far,” Qazi said, adding that both rival groups suggested establishing 17 new security check-posts in affected areas of Lyari.
In order to remove misunderstanding between the rivals, authorities also are holding conference calls with the leaders of both groups, Qazi told Central Asia Online.
The committee is meeting with local leaders of different communities of Lyari to gain their support in maintaining peace in the area, he added.