Before Lyari had heard of Arshad Pappu and Rehman Dakait, they knew Haji Abdul Salam Baloch alias Haji Salamu. Since the time he started peddling the neighbourhood streets in the late 1980s, he had gained instant notoriety.
On Sunday afternoon, Salamu, his brother Shahzad alias Charlie, nephew Kashif and an accomplice were shot. Their bodies were taken to Civil Hospital, Karachi. Tension gripped the area and a heavy contingent of Rangers was called in to control the situation and catch the suspects who managed to escape.
Police suggested that the triple murders took place over Salamu’s refusal to join the banned Peoples Amn Committee (PAC). An eye-witness claimed that a meeting had been arranged between Haji Salamu and Lyari gangster Sheraz Comrade’s group to sort out differences. The venue was near Haji Salamu’s house in 500 Quarters, Musharraf Colony, within the jurisdiction of the Mauripur police station. Around a dozen men from Sheraz Comrade’s group parked outside Haji Salamu’s house and opened fire after he refused to openly support the PAC.
In the 1980s, Haji Salamu, 56, was a notorious drug lord. He used to operate from his house in Chakiwara with his brother. A source claimed that Haji Salamu never wanted to take part in the gang war between Rehman Dakait and Arshad Pappu so he moved to Mauripur in 2002.
“He was one of the prominent drug lords in the area,” said the source. “However, because of the gang war, his business was getting affected. The Dakait and Arshad Pappu groups were forcing him to take sides and he decided that it was better to move away before it was too late.” Haji Salamu had spent more than half of his life in jail as several cases had been registered against him. One of his brothers, Nasir, was killed in an alleged police encounter in 1993.
“After he moved to Mauripur, he had kept a low profile,” said the official. “He started dealing in drugs again but it just wasn’t the same. They didn’t have the same amount of manpower or strength.” In the last couple of months, especially after Arshad Pappu was released from prison, Haji Salamu and his men were being pressurised into taking sides again.
A member from Haji Salamu’s gang said that the attack was not unexpected as Haji Salamu had been warned of dire consequences if he did not comply.
West Zone SSP Amir Farooqi told The Express Tribune that initial investigation suggested that the suspects had arrived to overcome differences but opened fire at Haji Salamu and his family when he refused to do what they asked. “The Comrades were upset that Haji Salamu did not play a more active role in the Lyari operation,” he said. “I do not know if Haji Salamu was supporting Arshad Pappu’s group but he wasn’t supporting the others either.” He added that 9mm pistols were used in the attack and raids were being carried out to track down the suspects. According to PAC leader Zafar Baloch, the PAC has no link with the attack on Haji Salamu. “They were all criminals and were killed over a personal dispute,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune. “They were not innocent you know. In the last couple of months Haji Salamu’s gang was active and using [PAC chief] Uzair Baloch and [Lyari gangster] Baba Ladla’s name to extort money.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2012.