KARACHI: Lyari is no stranger to violence. The area has seen a flurry of activities of late with the recent alleged extrajudicial killing of Saqib Boxer and the subsequent sit-in by the area residents outside the Rangers headquarters.
Seemingly ungovernable, the area is controlled by the now-defunct Peoples Amn Committee (PAC), rechristened as the Karachi City Alliance, and its undisputed supremo Uzair Jan Baloch.
“Baloch people are very receptive to offers of friendship but if anyone tries to push us to the wall then we will fight back,” said Baloch while giving an insight into the Lyari situation. “Saqib Boxer was shot in the head by the Rangers at the Nayabad Chowk, which is teeming with people till five in the morning.”
Baloch accepted that Boxer was a PAC member and went on to say that all cases against him were registered under pressure and that he had been released only four months ago.
Baloch said that over 17,000 to 18,000 Lyari residents participated in the rally to register their protest and this was the reason the police did not stop them from crossing over into the red zone. “The MPAs were with them and even Edhi sahib joined us in the protest.”
The recent raids by the paramilitary force haven’t gone down well with Baloch and he minces no words about it. “We are accused of firing back at them but have you ever heard of any casualty in their ranks?” he asks. “With the police it was different as both sides lost men but we have never engaged the Rangers in a gun battle and yet they kill our men.”
When asked about Hanif Tanoli, a Rangers personnel killed in Lyari, Baloch revealed that he was killed when a bullet fired by the Rangers themselves ricocheted off the wall. “We asked for a judicial inquiry of the incident but the Rangers requested me to settle the matter as they found an official bullet lodged in his body.”
Baloch claims that footage of the incident is available which shows Rangers men, including Tanoli, watching over three blindfolded Lyari residents. “We protested against it and staged a sit-in on the ICI Bridge but the then CCPO Iqbal Mehmood and DIG South Shahid Hayat visited Qadir Patel and requested for an end to the protest.”
Baloch questioned why raids were only being conducted in Baghdadi and Singu Lane, which he claimed are peaceful areas. “Are all other areas trouble free?” he asked. “Why don’t they go and establish peace in Agra Taj and Nine Zero?”
Uzair has had a love-hate relationship with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and said that any reconciliation with the PPP was out of question. He claimed that MPAs Javed Nagori and Sanya Naz, and MNA Shahjahan Baloch were PAC representatives but the Buzarg committee [the committee of elders] wanted them to contest on PPP’s ticket. “It was their ticket but they were our people and hence it’s a victory for Lyari.”
He said that PPP wants him back in their fold and even offered him senatorship but he turned down the offer. “The PPP had not lost the Malir seat since 1971 but I engineered their loss and helped Hakeem Baloch win,” he said, to prove he has nothing to do with the party.
Nevertheless, Baloch said that he is all for reconciliation and if anybody extends him a hand of friendship he will surely reciprocate it.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2013.