The old city areas of Kharadar, Lyari and Macchar Colony turned into a battlefield on Friday after a few men stormed Kharadar market in an attempt to scare shopkeepers into paying extortion ahead of Ramazan.
A woman and four men lost their lives while a dozen more people were injured in the resulting firing. On Friday, over 50 men riding two dozen or so motorcycles stormed a marketplace in Kharadar and opened fire. They killed 35-year-old Fatima Bibi, mother of two, a 38-year-old water supplier Fazal and 36-year-old Faisal, and wounded nine other men - Amjad, Faisal, Shahab, Saleem, Ali, Ahmed, Fareedullah, Imran and Obaid.
According to witnesses, the men intended to wrest control of the area but were forced to retreat when members of a political party opened fire at them. “We would have lost our area to those men if we had not retaliated,” said a resident, Imran Khan, hinting his support for the party.
Meanwhile, the traders and shopkeepers claimed that the gangsters wanted to scare them into paying extortion ahead of the holy month of Ramazan. “”They [gangsters] want to collect more and more extortion in Ramazan,” said a shopkeeper, on the condition of anonymity. “But we have decided that this time we will fight and not pay them.”
After the armed men retreated, the residents and shopkeepers of Kharadar gathered at Merewether Tower to protest. This blocked the traffic flow and caused a massive jam. The protesters shouted slogans against the incident and blamed the Lyari gangsters and the outlawed Peoples Amn Committee for the incident. “How many innocent people do they want to kill?” a man shouted. Following the protest, a large number of law enforcers reached the site and reopened the blocked thoroughfares.
According to the police, the same armed men who opened fire in Kharadar later went to Macchar Colony and killed two more people belonging to the Kutchi community. Saleem Hussain and Abdul Rehman were standing at their food stall when they were targeted. The suspects then opened fire at the Kutchi-dominated area and injured four other people.
More police and Rangers personnel were summoned for an operation in Lyari. They claimed to have killed an alleged gangster, Saqib alias Saqib Boxer, in the encounter. “He was one of the culprits involved in the firing at Kharadar,” SHO Idrees Bangash told The Express Tribune.
Kharadar police have registered an FIR No. 243/13 on the complaint of an injured victim, Faisal, against Lyari gangsters, Saqib Boxer, Wasi Lakho, Ayaz Baloch, Sunny, Sheraz Comrade, Umer Kutchi, Sarwar Baloch and their companions.
Officials of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) condemned the attack. “On one side, our party workers are being detained illegally, tortured and killed while, on the other side, gangsters are openly operating without any fear,” said its deputy convenor Nasir Jamal.
Saqib Boxer, who died on Friday, was released from prison only a week ago on bail. His affiliation was claimed by the outlawed Peoples Amn Committee when it staged a protest on Mauripur after his killing. “The Rangers first picked Saqib up and asked him to escape but he insisted on being arrested, so they killed him,” PAC leader Zafar Baloch said. “A Balochistan-like situation is being created for the Baloch and the people of Lyari.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2013.