KARACHI: Ghaffar Zikri alias Saeen – the last commander of the third generation of Lyari’s notorious gangs – was killed in a police encounter on Thursday. The ‘gangster’, who had entered the world of crime as a pickpocket and created terror in the city, was killed with his accomplice, Chhota Zahid, in Lyari’s Ali Mohammad Mohalla.
During the encounter which lasted almost an hour, Zikri allegedly used his four-year-old son as a human shield and tried to escape by throwing grenades at the police. The child was also killed in the exchange of fire, while two police personnel sustained bullet wounds.
“Zikri was wanted by the police in more than 200 criminal cases, including murders of police personnel and civilians, several cases of kidnapping for ransom, extortion, targeted killings and smuggling,” Karachi Police chief AIG Amir Ahmed Shaikh told media after the encounter. “The Sindh government had announced Rs2.5 million as head money for his arrest,” he said, adding that the reward money would now be distributed among members of the police team involved in the operation. He also announced an additional reward of Rs500,000 for the police personnel.
According to police officials, 46-year-old Zikri, who was on the run, had only a day earlier come to Ali Mohammad Mohalla, to attend the funeral of a caretaker of the Zikr Khana, where he used to pray, a resident of Ali Mohammad Mohalla told The Express Tribune. During the latest sojourn, Zikri had taken up residence with his family at the house of his mentor, Mohammad Ali alias Tango.
On receiving information of his whereabouts, Kalakot and Napier Police raided the house from where Zikri and his close aide, Chhota Zahid alias Bijli, tried to escape, using his minor son as a human shield. “When the police opened fire, they [Zikri and Zahid] retaliated with gunfire and threw hand grenades [at the police team], injuring a sub-inspector and a constable,” said South Zone DIG Javed Alam Odho, adding that the police had cordoned off the area for almost an hour and a half, during which the operation continued. The bodies of both the criminals were shifted to Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital for medico-legal formalities.
After the incident, the city’s police chief, South Zone DIG and a large contingent of Rangers personnel reached the spot and lauded the police team for having achieved what is termed as the biggest milestone of the year. “This was the last notorious gangster of the area,” declared AIG Shaikh.
Zikri’s father, Essa, had made a name for himself as one of the best football players of Lyari. Ghaffar Zikri, who later adopted the nom de guerre, ‘Saeen’, ventured into Lyari’s criminal world as a small-time ‘pickpocket’. He had already been popular among the area’s youth as a star footballer. Soon, Zikri started selling Hashish on street corners, before officially joining the gang of Haji Lalu, the father of another notorious gangster, Arshad Pappu, in 2000.
“Haji Lalu did not take him seriously and deputed him at his den to serve people,” related a police officer, who has spent most of his career in Lyari. Zikri gained notoriety after he, along with his senior, Mohammad Ali alias Tango, snatched a machine gun from a constable posted at the Kalri Police Station.
Subsequently, the police, acting on a tip-off raided and killed Mohammad Ali. It was at this point that Zikri joined the Arshad Pappu group, vowing to avenge his friend’s murder. One of his first acts was to kill a woman, Taj Bibi, who was believed to be a police informant.
“Zikri’s brutality can be gauged from the fact that he used to cut off fingers of people who refused to pay extortion,” said Ali Baloch, a resident of Ali Mohammad Mohalla.
Over the years, Zikri was involved in a truf war, first with Rehman Dakait and then with the Baba Ladla group. This animosity would result in the killings of scores of people over the years. “The clash between Rehman Dakait and Zikri started on the issue of extortion being collected from buses en route to Hub, Balochistan,” said a police officer said.
After Pappu was killed in 2013 by the Uzair Baloch group and a targeted operation was initiated by the Rangers and police in Karachi, Zikri started changing his location frequently and used to live in different areas of Karachi and Hub, going into hiding for several months before reemerging in Lyari.
After the encounter, scores of women from Ali Mohammad Mohallah and its adjoining areas staged a sit-in in front of Baghdadi Police Station over the killing of Zikri’s four-year-old son. They blocked the road and shouted slogans against the police. “Zikri was a criminal. We accept it. But why did they kill a minor boy?” an elderly women, who was leading the protest, told the media. For their part, the police rejected the allegations, terming it an accidental death during the encounter.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2018.