At least 11 people, among them two police officials, were killed and scores more were wounded as police fought pitched battles with gangsters in the Lyari town of Karachi on Saturday.
Thirty-six people – including 28 civilians, four policemen and as many gangsters – have been killed since April 2 when the police moved into the infamous neighbourhood to take out gangsters blamed for a bloody gang war in the area.
On Saturday, gangsters lobbed hand grenades and fired rockets at the police and their vehicles who tried to enter the labyrinthine of Lyari’s streets. Over 20 grenades and rockets were fired, most of which missed their targets. At least two houses and a gas pipeline were destroyed.
Tuesday’s fatalities included the station house officer of Civil Line police station, a constable and gangster. The rest were all innocent civilians, mostly passersby.
Several armoured personnel carriers (APCs) have been destroyed in attacks from gangsters since the operation began. Police have got reinforcements from interior of Sindh.
The Express Tribune has learnt that local gangster groups, headed by Arshad Pappu and Ghaffar Zikri, with their 600 armed fighters, is aiding the police action against their rival Baba Ladla Group, or Peoples Amn Committee, which has been banned by the government.
Masked gangsters have been seen roaming with the police on Lyari’s streets where they fought gunbattles with gangsters.
Meanwhile, Uzair Jan Baloch, former chief of Peoples Amn Committee, announced on Saturday that he was quitting the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in protest against the police action.
Anger at the PPP, which considers Lyari a stronghold and has consistently won elections from the area, has been simmering for years.
Finally Uzair Jan, PPP activist Habib Jan Baloch and former PAC leader, Zafar Baloch, announced their departure from the party. Lyari’s residents also burnt PPP flags and accused the party of victimisation.
Provincial police chief Mushtaq Shah said that the operation would continue until all criminals and gangsters were flushed out from Lyari. He added that the police would not allow gangsters to escape from the neighbourhood.
Scores of residents of Lyari, caught up in fighting between police and gangsters, have started shifting to safer places due to food shortages and suspension of gas, electricity and water supplies.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2012.