Scared and frustrated, the residents of Lyari have begun to move to other areas as they see no end to the tedious battle between the police and armed gangsters. Their fears might have been proved right as Saturday claimed 13 more lives, out of which seven were innocent bystanders. The other three included Civil Lines SHO Fawad Khan, a police constable and an alleged gangster.
The main battleground is Kalakot and its surrounding areas. Other affected areas included, Nawa Lane, Afshani Gali, Faqir Mohammad Durra Khan Road and Cheel Chowk.
The residents fear for their lives and claim that there is no one to help them as they live without electricity, water, gas and food for days when the law enforcement agencies cordon off an area. Hence, to them the only choice to live peacefully is to leave the area altogether. “Now we only have two options,” says a resident of Cheel Chowk. “Either we die of thirst and hunger while being imprisoned in our homes or we leave. Whoever can leave the area is doing so.”
If it is the police or the gangsters who are causing all the trouble, to them it doesn’t matter because none of them care what happens to the innocent residents who have nothing to do with either.
Although the police department launched the operation with tall claims of not harming the general public, a minimum of 30 people have died only in April till Saturday.
Those who died include two PPP leaders, women, children and four policemen, including Civil Lines SHO, while the police have only been able to kill only four alleged gangsters so far.
About 100 people have been injured, including 18 policemen, have been injured so far. All the others were passersby and bystanders.
“We have gangsters on one hand and police to the other,” they say. “We are stuck in between. We are the ones who die and it is our houses which are the most affected.”
On Saturday, the Lyari gangsters continue to attack the police with hand grenades, rockets and sophisticated weapons. The police attempted to regain its hold once again as it tried to extract them out of their positions from the affected areas. Two armoured personnel carriers (APC) and several mobiles were damaged while armed men also set an APC on fire.
Since the gangsters were able to destroy the APCs with considerable ease, the police brought a an APC tank with them, which they had called for especially from rural Sindh. A chain APC is just like an armoured tank but without its rocket-launching nozzle.
“The gangsters used to shoot at the tyres of the APCs and then corner the policemen who got out of the vehicle to push it,” a policeman explains.
Additional IG Akhtar Hussain Gorchani said that it seemed from the sophisticated weapons that the gangsters had, that they were being supported by anti-state elements.
Just like the residents, the policemen too have become very frustrated. Several of them who are participating in the operation have threatened to resign if their superiors continue to carry out raids without a plan. On the other hand, the IG has called for two more units of the Criminal Investigation Department for help. “Why don’t the policemen venture inside the lanes of Lyari who act like they know everything about the area?” asked a policeman. “The ones being sent inside have been called from other units.”
The police also claim to have arrested over two dozen alleged gangsters but none of them seem to have had any actual relation to key trouble-makers. South Zone SSP Nasir Aftab and AEC SSP Chaudhry Aslam Khan hold the reins of the operation which is being carried out by Allied Force Commandos and Frontier Constabulary.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2012.