Elusive no more: ‘Lynchpin’ of Lyari violence pinned down

Uzair Baloch being held in sub-jail; court orders forming JIT in 15 days


Faraz Khan/Zubair Ashraf January 30, 2016
Rangers handcuff Uzair Baloch after his arrest near Karachi. PHOTO: APP

KARACHI:


Uzair Jan Baloch, the elusive, self-proclaimed ‘don’ of the restive Lyari neighbourhood of Karachi, has finally been caught by the paramilitary Rangers, who have been spearheading a targeted operation in the city since September 2013.


Baloch had fled to the Middle East after he was implicated in several cases by the Pakistani government.

“The Rangers arrested Lyari gang war leader [and] notorious gangster Uzair Baloch in a targeted operation [on] the outskirts of the city as he attempted to enter the metropolis last night,” said a brief press release issued by the paramilitary force on Saturday.

Baloch, a former chief of the now-defunct Peoples Amn Committee who was declared a ‘most-wanted criminal’ by the Sindh government, was in the custody of the Abu Dhabi police for nearly three months after he was detained in the UAE on December 29, 2014 at the Dubai-Oman border while crossing into the City of Gold. His detention was based on an Interpol Red Notice (or international arrest warrant).

A team of policemen and Rangers soldiers had visited the UAE to bring the fugitive back to the country, but they returned empty-handed. Pakistan was unable to seek his repatriation, following which the gangster was set free and had gone off the radar last April.

Though it is unclear when and how he landed in Pakistan, some reports claimed that Baloch had been handed over to the Pakistani security agencies last April after the federal government had approached the UAE authorities.

The reports also stated that a video statement of the gangster was recorded during his custody, in which he admitted to having good relations with the Pakistan Peoples Party in the past.

Baloch has purportedly confessed to being involved in various criminal activities on the directives of senior PPP leaders. He was also allegedly involved in the killing of Khalid Shahenshah —former premier Benazir Bhutto’s security chief at the time of her assassination — and several other high-profile murders.

He has reportedly also confessed to killing many Muttahida Qaumi Movement activists and supporters, as well as people belonging to the Urdu-speaking community. He had allegedly claimed that several police officers were also working under his influence.

The gangster is also believed to be linked with money laundering, land grabbing, racketeering and other crimes. He is said to have admitted to having good connections with banned terrorist organisations such as the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Balochistan Liberation Army, as far as providing shelter, weapons and funds to them.

At the high court

Five minutes before the Sindh High Court was scheduled to close for the day, a convoy of seven Rangers vehicles brought Baloch to the court, which was under unusual surveillance.

As a pick-up truck with heavily tinted windows stopped outside the gate that leads upstairs to the courtroom on the second floor, several armed soldiers surrounded the vehicle.

Clad in an untidy, loose-fitting white shalwar qameez and sporting a Sindhi cap, Baloch appeared weak. He was taken to the administrative anti-terrorism court judge Justice Syed Farooq Shah’s chamber and nearly a minute later he was taken back.

The Rangers informed the judge about the 90-day preventive detention of Baloch under Section 11EEEE of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows them and other forces to detain any person suspected of being involved in terrorism for questioning, said Khawaja Naveed Ahmed, the lawyer for the accused.

He said the court had ordered forming a joint investigation team within 15 days, adding that the Rangers claimed apprehending his client from Lyari’s Chakiwara locality. Baloch has been shifted to the Mitha Ram Hostel that was turned into a sub-jail last April.

The gangster has been declared a proclaimed offender in around 45 cases pending at two ATCs. Among them, 35 pertaining to murder, attempted murder and attacking law enforcers were lodged during the week-long Lyari operation in April-May 2012.

He is also one of the prime suspects in the grisly murder of rival gangster Arshad Pappu who was lynched to death along with his brother and an aide in March 2013.


Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2016.

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