The operation in Lyari is expected to end either on Thursday night or by Friday morning, said police chief Mushtaq Shah.
His announcement came as a bit of an anti-climax, however, as no important arrests were declared and he did not say which areas had been ‘cleared’ of criminals – ostensibly the motivation for the entire exercise.
Over the last few months, the noose had been tightening around the neighbourhood, which has earned a bad name as a safe haven for the drug and arms trade, extortionists, kidnappers and street crime gangs. A week ago, the government had sent the police in and offered bounty money for several well-known leaders in the area.
“We will continue to pursue the criminals with a bounty even after the operation has concluded,” said the police chief. When asked what constituted the end of the operation, the IG said, “establishing pickets and cleaning out criminals”.
Four alleged criminals and five policemen have been killed. Eight to ten officials have been wounded. The police’s method has been questioned as people in Lyari allege that their aim was not targeted enough and innocent people were caught in the cross-fire. “This is a tricky situation and you can’t say that people are dying from police bullets,” said IG Shah. “Criminals created the situation in the area and in the end they are responsible for the deaths.”
The police was not able to verify whether 70 per cent of an area was cleared. The IG said that the crime headquarters at Afshani Road were under control.
The head of the Peoples Amn Committee and a main target of the operation, Uzair Baloch, managed to organise a rally at the Football House on Wednesday despite the ongoing operation. “We will arrest him or kill him,” said the IG. The government has offered Rs1.5 million for his arrest. When pressed on why the police were unable to capture Baloch, the IG said, “If it were that easy to just go and pick him up we wouldn’t even be in this situation in the first place”.
It’s not political, it’s criminal
Deputy police chief Akhtar Hussain Gorchani reiterated that the operation was not political at the press conference, which was held at Central Police Office.
“The current IG and I have ensured that we do not lean towards any party during our tenure,” he maintained. “Yes, the ruling party of any city gets concessions at times and has to be catered to, but not in cases like these.”
Gorchani dispelled the notion that the operation was being held against a party or person, saying that if as many weapons were reported circulating around Azizabad as they were in Lyari, then the same action would be enforced.
Meanwhile, much the same was reported from Lyari on Thursday. Four rockets were fired at the police who showed no signs of removing their deployments in the area to signal an end to the operation. New pickets are being set up around the neighbourhood where the IG said the police have been advancing, but the majority of Lyari can be accessed by anyone wishing to enter it.
Despite the rocket attacks, DIG South Commandant Shaukat Ali Shah echoed the IG’s words saying that the police didn’t face as fierce a fight on Thursday as they did earlier.
“We have taken control of the entry and exit points like Adam Khan Road and others.”
Shah said that it is likely that Uzair Baloch and others with bounties would be caught after the operation.
The police alleged that the Taliban and Balochistan Liberation Army were involved in the violence and are taking up arms with criminals but they could not provide any proof aside from speculation.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2012.