After a break of 10 days, three other arrests at midnight and resentment over the Saqib alias Sakhi incident, Lyari turned into a battlefield yet again.
Since 8am on Friday, the police engaged in a 10-hour shoot-out with men from banned Peoples Amn Committee (PAC) over the arrest of three men and close aides to PAC’s Uzair Jan Baloch.
Residents of Lyari came out to protest soon after the men were arrested. The protest got out of hand by the time the police got there. The protesters were burning tyres and chanting slogans against the police when the authorities decided to disperse the crowd by firing teargas shells.
Around three people were killed while a dozen were injured as residents had to put daily life on hold.
Under a cloud of bullets, rockets fires, hand grenades and over 15 petrol bombs, it was next to impossible for the police to enter Lyari so they stationed themselves at Lea Market Chowk. Some men could be seen hiding out on rooftops, ready to shoot at the policeman whenever they stepped into Lyari. In retaliation, policemen also opened fire at protesters and PAC men. A frustrated policeman said it was very difficult to shoot the target as they were well hidden and well armed.
A similar incident took place on April 2, where the protestors and PAC men did not let the police enter Lyari and resulted in six people getting killed. The Rangers were not there to assist the police force which was being led by SP Khurram Waris from the Old City police station.
Some residents claimed that the police and Rangers were responsible for all the killings, unrest and unemployment in their neighbourhood. “The police just walks in, arrests a couple of people and leaves, making our lives miserable,” said an angry man. “Why don’t the police and Ranger conduct a big operation with a proper strategy? Why are they putting the lives of innocent people in danger?”
According to SP Waris, it was necessary for Rangers to be there but it was not up to him. “There are officers who are above than me. They should call the Rangers,” he said. “There is a lot of action out here and it will possibly continue like this for a while.” The SP added that at the moment, no policeman could enter Lyari without an armoured personnel carrier and they only had access to three of them.
The Rangers spokesperson claimed that whatever was happening in Lyari was a police operation and they would have been a part of it if the police had asked.
A source in the PAC told The Express Tribune that the leaders had not given them any clear orders or told them what to do. He added that the men from the Rehman Dakait group were attacking the police, not the PAC.
While talking to The Express Tribune, PAC chief Uzair Jan Baloch said that he condemned the police operation and arrests. “They are threatening us with bullets. They want us to take Saqib’s case back,” he said. “We are not firing at them. The police is making their men wear civilian clothes, enter Lyari and fire at them. They want to ruin our name and reputation.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2012.