By Zia Ur Rehman
March 9, 2016
Incapable of maintaining their hegemony following the Rangers-led operation, gangsters now targeting area’s political and social activists
Karachi: With nominal peace having been restored in Lyari following the Rangers-led operation against warring gangs, otherwise operating with impunity, residents of the area were, however, still wary of incidents of targeted killing of political and civil society activists and the government’s failure to apprehend the killers.
Mir Ishtiaq Baloch, a local leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was gunned down by unidentified men on January 17 outside his office located at Ahmed Shah Bukhari road in Lyari – lying within the jurisdiction of the Baghdadi police station.
The 32-year-old was popularly known as Mullah Pappu in the area and had contested local bodies’ poll for the post of chairman from UC-8 on the PML-N’s ticket; he, however, lost by only 40 votes.
He was the younger brother of a central leader of the PML-N, Mir Ashfaq Baloch.
Interviews with local residents and police suggest that a local gang leader by the name of Gulabo, associated with the area’s bigwigs Ghaffar Zikri and Baba Ladla, was behind Ishtiaq’s killing.
They believe that he was killed for the sole purpose of instilling fear of the gangs among the area’s residents.
“The operation against gangsters has no doubt brought peace to Lyari and the locals having witnessed years of bloodshed were confident that violence was finally coming to an end,” claimed Lala Fateh Nazar, a social activist in Lyari.
However, Nazar added, that the gang’s commanders after being left weakened because of the operation, took to targeting political and social figures who were at the forefront in supporting the law enforcement agencies’ crackdown.
“Ishtiaq was vocal in condemning the atrocities of the gangs and had also announced to organise a peace rally before he was murdered,” informed a school teacher of the area. The rally was to send out a message to the entire city that Lyari was no more a no-go area, he added.
According to Ashfaq, the government was not interested in arresting the culprits involved in killing his brother.
He got an FIR registered at the Baghdadi police station against Gulabo, and soon after a number of gangsters associated with Gulabo resorted to aerial firing in the street where Ashfaq resides.
“Over two months have passed since the murder of my brother but nobody has been arrested so far. And the failure of law enforcement agencies’ to arrest the killers has whipped up fear among the local political and social activists of the area,” added a disgruntled Ashfaq.
“Incidents of attacking and threatening social and political activists in recent months show that violence has resurfaced in Lyari,” said another civil society activist, who recently moved to Gizri area owing to security concerns.
SP Lyari, Aftab Nizamani, while commenting over Ishtiaq’s murder said police were trying to arrest Gulabo, who, he claimed, went underground all the while the operating was being conducted.
“He narrowly escaped three raids conducted by the police,” the SP claimed.
A number of locals still believed that the gangs were not in a position to regain their lost strength but would continue assert their presence through carrying out targeted attacks.