Violence 101: A primer to the Lyari gang war

Published: May 2, 2012

While gangs and smugglers have operated in Lyari for decades, the most recent of these clashes emerged in 2002. PHOTO: FILE

Arshad Pappu. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID  While gangs and smugglers have operated in Lyari for decades, the most recent of these clashes emerged in 2002. PHOTO: FILE While several groups exist in Lyari, the wrath of the police appears to be directed at the Peoples Amn Committee for now, and has led to protests throughout the city including in Baloch Colony on Tuesday. PHOTO: PPI
KARACHI: 

While gangs and smugglers have operated in Lyari for decades, the most recent of these clashes emerged in 2002. The fallouts and gains of these fights are what has shaped the current conflict in Lyari

In 2002, gang leader Haji Lalu controlled the drug operations in Lyari, with Rehman ‘Dakait’, who had run the operation since the 1990s. The two had a strong connection because Lalu had good relations with Rehman’s father and uncles. But the two split in late 2002 when Rehman began asking for a share of the profits – a rumoured Rs30 million – and Lalu refused. Rehman had built connections with drug suppliers and as a result of the split; Haji Lalu suffered a considerable financial loss. In January 2003, Haji Lalu’s son Arshad Pappu ended up killing Uzair Baloch’s father Mama Faizu in unclear circumstances.

The war between the groups started from there. In the meantime, a decimated Haji Lalu offered his arrest.

Enter Chaudhry Aslam, the notorious police officer who wanted to make his name on the case and be credited with solving the issue of Lyari. Rehman was detained and escaped from jail but he eventually ended up commanding an organised, well-disciplined gang that no one could rein in.

Post-2008

After the 2008 elections, Rehman, along with the police, began the process of kicking out the Arshad Pappu group, which was then headed by Ghaffar Zikri. At the time, the Zikri group controlled several areas in Lyari including the Ali Mohammad Mohalla, where Zikri lived.

Arshad Pappu was jailed on several charges, including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and drugs.

The idea was to give Rehman’s group control of Lyari. Zikri said that the police had committed to them that this would be an even-handed operation and they would take similar action against Rehman’s group. But this did not happen, prompting Zikri to say: “You have seen the police et al enter this area. But if they don’t fulfil their commitment you’ll see them leave. Even if the police and Rangers are in Lyari for 10 years they won’t be able to chase us out.”

Zikri re-emerged and took control of his areas. Eventually, Rehman was forced to negotiate with him. Of all the opponents Rehman had faced – who he sidelined, chased out or killed – Zikri proved to be the most challenging. Rehman asked Zikri to work with, not against him. Rehman then began reforming his public image and dabbled in social work and called his group the Peoples Amn Committee (PAC). Politically, Rehman was angling for a parliament seat. However, he was killed in 2009 in an alleged police encounter led by Chaudhry Aslam.

In the fray

The PAC blamed Rauf Baloch, the ex-nazim of a union council in Lyari who had once advised Rehman and his brother Amjad Lashari, for tipping off the police for Rehman’s death.

Rauf had assumed that he would be able to replace Rehman as the head of the PAC and that Lashari would replace Baba Ladla as operational commander. However, the PAC and Rauf battled it out and the brothers left Lyari. They spent some time in Dubai before returning. Rauf was detained by the police and reportedly released last year; however the brothers’ whereabouts are unknown.

PPP MNA Nabeel Gabol was a key supporter of Rehman and would have faced severe retribution if found to be involved in Rehman’s death as some people allege. He had also helped play a role in asking for cases against PAC to be revisited and for fake charges to be dropped.

Another opposing group was led by Akram Baloch, Rehman’s cousin, who also thought he would replace him as the head of PAC.

Succession

Rehman’s successor was Uzair Baloch, who served as its public face and political representative, while Baba Ladla continued as operational commander. Shahid MCB and Zafar Baloch also became prominent within the group.

Zikri leaves

Ghaffar Zikri then left the PAC. There were also internal struggles within PAC over control of areas, and this is one of the problems: instead of being as united and disciplined as they were under Rehman, they have struggled to keep it together with Uzair.

Why did the operation start?

The PAC’s main operations include managing the drug trade. This comprises extorting from dealers as well as smuggling and transporting drugs. It also is implicated in kidnapping for ransom, extorting from businessmen and the arms trade. To a smaller extent, PAC has also been involved in land grabs.  It also controls lucrative gambling dens in the area.

Why now?

That the PAC has been involved in these activities is not new. But the current police operation was started because it had become too much. Complaints flowed in from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – who want control of Lyari for its key constituencies – and the Kutchis of Lyari, who are also PPP supporters.

There was also pressure from the business community over PAC’s involvement in extortion.

The killings of Kutchi members did not help, and a group representing them, the Kutchi Raabta Committee, complained to the president.

The establishment has played a role in building up a city alliance that includes MQM opponents. This counter-force – comprising criminal elements – gives the establishment the constituencies that it can then award to any party it wants. It also cuts into the MQM’s dominance in the city. One hint of this came in the form of an anti-US protest last year led by Uzair Baloch, which PAC called a ‘show of support’ for the military and Inter-Services Intelligence. Protesters managed to reach the US Consulate easily. Another hint is that the paramilitary Rangers force has not faced resistance in Lyari as compared to the police.

The PPP

Gabol reportedly realised after Rehman’s death that PAC would not be as loyal to the PPP. The party had used PAC as a militant wing, and it would ensure electoral victories and security for the PPP. Gabol believed Lyari was a PPP stronghold; it didn’t need PAC to help.

This message now seems to have gone to President Zardari and his half-brother, Owais Muzaffar ‘Tappi’, but there has not been a clear make-or-break statement from either the PAC or the PPP. While PAC has openly claimed that the PPP helped arm it to counter the MQM and the PPP has initiated an operation against it, if either group were serious, there would be anarchy in Lyari and scores of people would have been killed. The PPP representatives have also backed down over PAC. This treatment is similar to how PPP first ignored PAC when Rehman was killed. But when PAC began hitting out at the PPP, it refocused on it.

What happens next?

The police may eventually tire and they, or the gang leaders, will ask the Rangers to take over. The Rangers will easily carry out an operation without facing resistance, be praised by residents, arrest 10 to 15 people, seize a large cache of arms and claim success.

What is the objective of the current operation?

The main objective is to either arrest or kill the PAC’s leadership and its operational structure and eliminate the gambling dens.

How difficult is this?

The operation has so far only been in two areas – Lea Market and its surroundings, controlled by Shiraz, and Cheel Chowk, Nawa Lane, Saifi Lane, Afshani Gali, which are held by Taju and Mullah Nisar. But this is the tip of the iceberg and the police have already been shown up by just three PAC commanders. There are still 15 odd commanders who haven’t begun fighting as yet.

One indicator of the tough fight ahead came from a source who recently met a PAC commander. He saw two large rooms filled with weapons still packed in boxes.

While the operation is being led by Chaudhry Aslam, if he exits the picture – as he is one of the PAC’s main targets – the police will not be interested in fighting since the only reason they’re sticking around is because of Aslam.

The battle could turn worse if there is infighting in PAC. There have already been reports of arguments between Uzair Baloch and Baba Ladla over killing Aslam and other police officers. As a fighter, Baba Ladla wants to go in for the kill, while Uzair is thinking of political leverage and the future.

The situation has also been complicated because it appears that Owais Muzafar ‘Tappi’ is in charge. Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan was sidelined and the IG Police was brought out as the public face.

Given the police’s public failure, they are now claiming that it has been difficult to clear out Lyari because PAC has support from the Baloch Liberation Army. While PAC members may have personal connections to BLA members, the organised linkages are enjoyed by the rival Zikri group. The Arshad Pappu group, which had relocated to Sakrand, has also been seen in Lyari in recent days.

On Tuesday, the home department issued a notification for head money placed on Lyari gangsters. An amount of Rs3 million was set for Uzair Baloch, Baba Ladla, Zaman Mehsud and Ilyas Pappu, while Rs1.5 million was announced for Rashid Rekha.

Rauf Baloch group

Rauf Baloch and Amjad Lashari (absconders)

AKRAM BALOCH GROUP

Akram Baloch

Afzal and Sumair (imprisoned)

Areas: Bheempura and Salar Compound localities in the Old City

KRC

Hussain Kutchi

Akhtar Turk

Daud Kutchi

Kareem Shah

Rasheed Kutchi

Areas: Nayabad, Kharadar, Moosa Lane, Khadda Market, Baghdadi, Chakiwara, Kumhar Wara, Agra Taj Colony and Bihar Colony

Arshad Pappu group

Arshad Pappu and his six brothers including Arafat and Sher Mohammad (absconders)

Chief operational commander Ghaffar Zikri (absconder)

Peoples Amn Committee

The current leadership with their residences. These are also the areas they command.

PAC Head Uzair Baloch – Singu Lane

Zafar Baloch – Ghareeb Shah

Shahid MCB – Eidu Lane

Uzair Baloch’s financial backer Amin Dada

Chief operational commander Noor Mohammad alias Baba Ladla – Dubai Chowk

Sikander alias Siku – Dubai Chowk

Jabbar Jhengu – Saifi Lane

Taj Mohammad alias Taju, and his right hand man Shahid Mix Patti – Nawa Lane

Omar Kutchi – Nayabad

Wasiullah Lakho – Memon Society, Khadda Market

Shakeel and his brother Fahim – Niazi Chowk, Maripur truck stand

Zakir Siataj – Kara Bai Karim Jee Road near Ali Hotel

Rashid Rekha and Mullah Arif – Ali Mohammad Mohalla

Rashid Bengali – Umrabad, Baghdadi

Mullah Nisar – Nawa Lane

Sheraz Comrade and Imran Kawwa – Saifi Lane, Lea Market and Sheedi Village road

Sajjad Khatri – Khadda Market

Anwar Khojak – Pak Colony, Old Golimar

Rehman Dakait’s family

Dad Mohammad alias Dadal

Rehman Dakait’s father

Sher Mohammad alias Sheru

Rehman Dakait’s eldest uncle

Taj Mohammad alias Taju

Rehman Dakait’s youngest uncle

Khadija Bibi

Rehman Dakait’s mother, Dad Mohammad’s second wife

Raheem Baloch

Rehman Dakait’s brother

Saleem and Ghaffor

Rehman Dakait’s stepbrothers from Dadal’s first wife

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2012.

Reader Comments (21)

  • usmanx
    May 2, 2012 - 6:25AM

    Horrible situation. Wonderful journalism. Thank you ET.

    Recommend

  • Aristo
    May 2, 2012 - 12:07PM

    Great report Mr. Faraz Khan, sad to read that the establishment has learned nothing from their horrible past mistakes, they are again dong the same thing that they did with the jihadi forces in the country. Here, they want to counter, PPP, MQM and the US by supporting the defunct PAC. Two wrongs never make a right.

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  • Pervez Amjad
    May 2, 2012 - 12:24PM

    It’s very strange to see the people who shout the most about baloch rights in balochistan remain absolutely silent when it comes to the baloch of lyari.All the tweets and comments of condemnation for what is happening to the baloch in balochistan but when it comes to what is being done to the baloch of karachi,all these people have remained silent.

    Recommend

  • May 2, 2012 - 12:41PM

    Excellent… Journalism at it’s best..

    Recommend

  • M. Ahmed
    May 2, 2012 - 12:58PM

    The ghetto of Karachi!

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  • Sarfraz Siddiqui
    May 2, 2012 - 2:11PM

    @Pervez Amjad:
    That’s because in karachi the oppressors are the party the liberals of karachi love the most,so no condemnation for the deaths of baloch in lyari.All condemantion is reserved for the deaths of balochis in balochistan.The liberals of pakistan have let down the baloch of lyari.

    Recommend

  • Jahanzaib Baloch
    May 2, 2012 - 2:39PM

    Mix masala article , with so many factual errors. Rip off of articles excerpts from desi masala newspapers like Janbaaz and Evening special.

    There were strikes and protests in Balochistan regarding Lyari situation.

    Recommend

  • Saim
    May 2, 2012 - 3:33PM

    Great report FK would have been great if a map is also attched to same so people can see that cheel chowk is just the start of Layari & what police is claming to take control of 80 % area is all in the air.

    Recommend

  • Faysal
    May 2, 2012 - 3:58PM

    Very good research. We would like to have more of the same. thanks !

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  • SH
    May 2, 2012 - 3:59PM

    Excellent work Faraz!

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  • Rabia A
    May 2, 2012 - 7:06PM

    my fav crime reporter in the country, great story :) !Recommend

  • Mariam
    May 2, 2012 - 9:19PM

    Very insightful!

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  • Dani
    May 2, 2012 - 10:34PM

    Brilliant article! Loved reading it.

    Recommend

  • fus
    May 2, 2012 - 11:43PM

    They are bunch of gangsters and thats it, whether they had or have Political patronage or not. Whether they were supported by MQM, PPP or ANP, gangster is a gangster and should be treated like one. How easily some ppl make it a bloch issue, so does it mean all Baloch are gangsters? That is not the case, they are hard working ppl who themselve are fed up of these ppl. What has PPP given to them since they started supporting PPP? Just provide food, shelter, edcuation, job and justice to all and ELIMINATE all these gangsters, extrotionist and kidnappers, but please show that you have brain and stop supporting these gangster. Also come out of this is myopic mind set where you blame MQM for everything. PPP has been ruling for last 4 years what has it done for Lyari, Karachi or Sind?Zufikar has just armed the ppl to create chaos and ghunda gardi rather than giving education and food to the ppl of lyari…so wake up.Recommend

  • Saqib
    May 2, 2012 - 11:56PM

    This is called journalism !!! no words to praise Express Tribune Team WOW !!!

    Recommend

  • Salman Orangiwala
    May 3, 2012 - 12:18AM

    Aspiring and wayward journalists of the media and of ET ,too , need to learn a few things from Mr.Faraz Khan .Instead of getting carried away , Mr.Faraz ahs always maintained his very professional approach in reporting ,all the time .

    Faraz Khan could be the answer of ET to the Dawns NFP .Keep up .La magnificence .

    Recommend

  • Bisharat Baloch
    May 3, 2012 - 12:54AM

    Ali Raza, Pervez Amjad, and Sarfraz Siddiqui: If you think that the operation is against the Baloch and “innocent” Lyariites, then who are the people shooting guns, throwing grenades, and firing rocket launchers right now? The operation is against these criminal elements. It does not matter if they are Balochi, Sindhi, Muhajir, Pakhtun, Hindu, Makrani, or whatever. They cannot be innocent since they are fighting with latest and high-tech weapons, including hand grenades and rocket launchers. Stop trying to bring ethnicity into this. It is because of people like you that Lyari is burning right now. For God’s sake be truthful, if not to others than to yourselves at least.

    Recommend

  • Nand
    May 3, 2012 - 1:17AM

    @fus:
    But according to establishment ‘a terrorist is not a terrorist’.

    Recommend

  • True Muslim Paki
    May 3, 2012 - 2:14AM

    Nice article. But many of this already known in khi. But babu ladla is not as courageous as made out here! Infact ladla is the one looking for a political career, not uzair. & yes, somehow ISI wants to control the bhatta & the revenues as well, but indirectly only. But it should not take sides which has become very obvious to people but now it’s end of road for MQM. :)

    Recommend

  • Aslam Ameen
    May 3, 2012 - 5:03AM

    No doubt, the article contributes significantly to know in deep with respect to the background as how those gangsters operate in Lyari. But, there are many questions and arguments (variable) which arise as the current situation is going worse.

    (1) What were the aims and objectives, if PAC has to be found?
    (2) Why the PPP Lyari’s political wing was too favourable and active to make PAC ; whereas now, it opposes so much so that to erupt it altogether?
    (3) (from article )It is said that so called ‘notorious’: Chawdery Aslam, who was IN just to gain fame; however, the going on operation by police squad is so dependent on him. Why that is so?
    (4) Most importantly, how could a government employ some well known criminal gang operators the duty as an ambassadors of Aman (peace).
    (5) In current scenario, still the police facing resistance by criminals. Purely, the main reason is the means (arsenal) they are utilizing. Hence, the quantity and support in focus.

    The gangs’ operations are not new in Lyari not even in Karachi. But in recent years and particularly in Lyari, the extortion; drug mafia; kidnapping; ransom gains; land grabs and gambling are on the rise. Eventually, it started to hit the peak in last 4 to 5 years. Shockingly, it has become a routine to threat big to small all traders and business person; either by phone calls or in the shape of so called ‘parchee’ a piece of paper asking for their demands or otherwise be ready for doom. Thus, it has ruined not only the commercial but also the personal lives of locality.

    Lastly, it is opposed that (as the article claims) the main objective of the current operation is just to disrupt the PAC in order to prevail peace over crime. Logically, the operation is nothing but the efforts by government; a soothe impact on locality of Lyari in order to gain political control as the new election is nearby.

    Recommend

  • May 5, 2012 - 2:31PM

    Certainly brings back memories of the not too distant past in the ultra developed nations who once faced the same set of conditions.

    Joseph “Big Joey” Massino, Al Capone, John Gotti, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Joseph Valachi, Albert Anastasia (head of the Gambino Family), Big Paulie Castellano, who represented the largest mafia family in the United States. etc. etc. etc.

    From racketeering, to smuggling, to bootlegging to organized crime … these boys littered the streets of Chicago, Harlem, NY City and Detroit and had very deep Armani pockets. As they had police support, political support and most importantly, support of the major institutions and agencies which, arguably, continue to this day.

    Let’s not demonize Pakistan too much. And anyone who rants and raves in disgust at the present situation needs to analytically judge the evolutionary stages which the present modern day nations have endured in eliminating filth. But how far ahead is the day of reckoning for Pakistanis is a big question mark indeed.

    We have committed corruption mindsets. The “untouchables” are occupying the leadership positions in the government and disdainfully belch filth on prime-time television promising this and vowing that in an effort to fool the population. And they do it with a smug.

    But the uncontrollable and unfathomable evolutionary forces are also at work here. For every rise there is a fall. It has happened countless times before. It has just recently happened in Tunisia, Iraq, Libya and about to engulf many more Muslim nations.

    These are exciting times. Make a fresh batch of popcorn and turn the global news on. It is entertainment de jure.

    Recommend

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