The week-long operation in Lyari has been suspended for two to three days as Interior Minister Rehman Malik has requested Uzair Baloch, head of the Peoples Amn Committee, to surrender to the Rangers if he doesn’t trust the police.
Uzair Baloch has responded to the ultimatum by saying that he will not surrender to anyone. Balochistan Governor Zulfiqar Magsi and Sindh Food Minister Nadir Magsi have been trying to mediate negotiations between the Peoples Amn Committee and its former ally, the Pakistan Peoples Party.
Malik has laid down a seventy-two hour deadline for criminals in the area to surrender and at first announced that the operation had ended, later clarifying that it had just been “suspended”.
“Justice will be done to Uzair Baloch and Lyari’s most-wanted criminals, his accomplices,” Malik told journalists on Friday and adding that, “we cannot hold the entire area hostage because of a mere four to five people.”
Meanwhile, Sindh Police Inspector General Mushtaq Shah announced that the operation has been suspended for 48 hours. Pickets will remain in areas where the police have been able to advance, a key one being Afshani Gali, said to be a headquarters of the PAC.
The interior minister announced that he would be restoring electricity by evening in Lyari and that phones would be restored by 6am. KESC maintains that electricity can be restored only if its teams are given proper security to do the repairs. Despite the suspension of the operation, rocket fire and gunfire did not end and a grenade attack in Lea Market injured two and two passersby were killed in an attempt to attack Napier police station Friday night.
The spiralling violence and ease with which criminals have managed to carry out their attacks makes it hard to determine whether the suspension is actually an impasse or a stalemate, or, whether it has been called because the police force needs time to regroup.
Sindh Police Additional Inspector General Akhtar Hussain Gorchani told The Express Tribune that they will be taking a couple days to let criminals surrender and take a look at how to approach the situation and what new tactics to take if needed.
“We are keeping our deployments at our base camp in Cheel Chowk and the pickets, in advanced positions that we have established, will be kept only as long as it is not endangering any policemen there. We won’t keep a lone policeman at a picket in an advanced position if the picket is not secure. We will be keeping our most strategic positions.”
IG Mushtaq Shah claimed earlier in the week that about 20 to 25 people have been arrested and Gorchani said Shahjahan and Shahid Bikik were two high-profile arrests they have made.
“These two arrests have got the criminals worried,” said Gorchani.
The fact is that Shahid Bikik was arrested in Thatta with a few accomplices prior to the operation in Lyari in connection with a completely different case and sources said that most of the arrests claimed by the police were made before the operation, not during it. Not a single suspect has been presented in front of the media as is generally the case with high-profile killings and the police have yet to present any evidence to prove that those who have been killed during the operation belong to gangs.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.