The people who are fighting the police are actually not Lyari ‘gangsters’ but residents who have suffered at their hands.
Nearly 35 people have been killed, but only a handful of them have been gangsters. A dozen or more homes have been destroyed in this week of fighting. According to Baba Ladla’s right-hand man Sikandar Siku, it was these people who were resisting the police. The ‘gangsters’ were only providing them backup.
A young man with a pistol in hand explained that he used to run a general store which was destroyed by the police, who also misbehaved with his mother and sister and forcibly entered his home. “Do you expect me to stay quiet and do nothing?” he asked. “I took out my licensed weapon and am using it to protect my family. I am not alone, there are many others like me and we will continue to fight till we are sure that the police have left. It is our good will that we are not hurting or killing the policemen, just keeping them at a distance.”
Since last week, an estimated 50 young men became involved in the fighting, as compared to over 2,000 policemen who are stationed at Cheel Chowk.
It appears to be a PR war, with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party taking the heat for sanctioning police action in one of its traditional strongholds. Whether it is a game of cat and mouse or politics, anger against the PPP is running high. With a small laugh, Siku added that its one million votes were now theirs. “If the Pakistan Peoples Party even wins 10 votes, you can come and throw as many shoes as you want at me.”
The aim was to get the criminals who have spread networks of drugs, guns and extortion in Karachi but as the operation wraps up, no big names have been netted.
“The police is killing the average citizens,” said Sikandar Siku, who is worth Rs1.5 million in bounty. “The people like Lahoti and Mullah Sohail who the police claim to have killed are not in the country.”
He is hanging out, dressed in a casual blue t-shirt, grey trousers and Reebok sneakers, accessorized with a rocket launcher pistol. “There is nothing from our side. The police started it,” he said. “If they stop shooting us today, we will stop too.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.