The fight to clear Lyari of criminals will take about three days, announced the chief of police on Monday, acknowledging that the force had no idea how much resistance it would face.
On day four of the police operation, police morale was low despite the inspector general’s assessment that the troubled neighbourhood had been cleared about 60% of gangsters.
The silver lining was that crime has gone down in the rest of the city, IG Mushtaq Shah told the media at the Central Police Office in the evening. Around 20 criminals have been arrested and up to seven suspects killed. Some of the men were identified as having links to the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). He did say, though, that some men have escaped and taken refuge in Malir.
During the day, it did not seem as if the situation was improving. Bullets were fired in all directions. There were rumours circulating on the streets of Lyari, especially among the policemen, that the Taliban, men from the BLA and sharpshooters were fighting for the gangsters.
The resistance has made the police so jittery that many men have fired their weapons by mistake. About half dozen such incidents have occurred. A DSP Abdul Razzak was reported to have been injured when his gun went off by mistake on Sunday.
Thus, the policemen on the road between Ghas Mandi and Cheel Chowk have been told to stay alert but with unloaded guns. “I don’t know how it went off,” said a confused policeman after he fired a shot by mistake. “Thank God no one was hit.”
Mobile phone services were suspended in Lyari. But gangsters used walkie-talkies. “Cutting off mobile phone communication just hits the police and media, it doesn’t do anything to the gangsters,” said an insider.
A Pakistan Peoples Party office in Kalakot was set on fire and a police post was torched in Garden. Two more people were killed and over 31 others, including two constables, were wounded. Four people were gunned down and four vehicles were set on fire in other parts of the city in Lyari-linked outbreaks. In Shershah, at least a dozen men on six motorcycles opened fire at Shaheen Hotel, killing three men and injuring one.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2012.