It was a tactical retreat. The police repositioned itself 500 metres back. And in future, the work to purge Lyari of criminals would be a targeted one conducted by the police, Rangers, Frontier Constabulary and other law enforcers, said Federal Interior Minister Rahman Malik here on Sunday afternoon.
In an informal talk with the print and electronic media at the State Guest House in Karachi where he earlier held a number of meetings with the heads of law enforcing agencies, MPAs and others, Malik said he was subjected to severe criticism from within the Pakistan Peoples Party and media over recalling the police force from Lyari – “but the results are before everyone”.
The firing, bomb blasts, rocket attacks have all ceased, he said, before squarely stating: There is the writ of the government in Lyari today.
It has been just one day since the eight-day ‘police action’ ended in the beleaguered neighbourhood.
We are with the people of Lyari, we were concerned when there was no food in the area, electricity or water and people suffered a lot, Malik conceded.
President Asif Zardari was also very concerned about the people of Lyari and he instructed me to restore law and order in the area first, said Malik.
He apologised to the people of Lyari for the inconvenience caused during the police work. This limited action has exposed to the general public the elements who are their real enemies, the minister asserted. Rockets and hand grenades were not used by the police or Rangers. Those who did it now stand exposed before the people and media.
To a question, he admitted that the operation had not been planned. It happened at the local level. The police went into the area to arrest a criminal spotted there and once the wanted person was arrested, more forces were called in for a search and arrest operation and the action continued for a few days, he said.
He asked the media not call the police action an “operation”. This is a misnomer, it was not an operation at any given time and the police have not failed in Lyari. “I say that it was a tactical repositioning,” he said. “A handful of criminals cannot hold the entire populace of Lyari hostage.” And in the next few days the results of the targeted work would make Lyari a bastion of peace again.
“I will also go to Lyari as it is my area,” Malik said, announcing that the public would be compensated for the losses.
When asked about a political solution to the Lyari issue, he asked the media not to call terrorists and criminals a politician. The Peoples Amn Committee was a proscribed or banned organisation and its members would be dealt with under the Anti-Terrorism Act, he said, adding that the men nominated in cases should surrender and prove their innocence.
“I have received a message from Habib Jan that he was with them due to some compulsion. We are ready to forgive him and others like him to ensure peace in Lyari.”
“There will be no extra-judicial killing and I assure them all action will be taken in accordance with the law, he stressed. At least 30 people have been killed in the last week but only six of them were said to be alleged criminals.”
When asked about rumours of PAC members joining the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Malik said there were some saner elements in the PML-N who would not allow its leadership to accept criminals into its fold, especially since they were carrying the baggage of cases and that too of a heinous nature.
“If they are allowed to join the party then we will see how to deal with criminals and their party,” said Malik, giving a clear signal to the PML-N and PAC to stay away from each other.
He later drove off to Lyari where he met the public in different parts of the town, albeit on the periphery. He stopped at Kharadar, Napier and Lea Market Chowk and got out of his vehicle.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.