KARACHI: The violent spell in Lyari that forced thousands of residents to flee to safer areas was caused by political forces, Sindh Advocate General told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
IGP Shahid Nadeem Baloch appeared before the apex court’s three-member bench, headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, during a follow-up hearing of the Karachi law and order suo motu implementation case at the SC Karachi registry.
The judges questioned the police chief about the actions he took when violence peaked in the volatile neighbourhood. Mass exodus took place when residents of Lyari went through week-long armed clashes between members of the Kutchi community and the Peoples Amn Committee, they noted.
While the government had insisted that the violence was a result of infighting between the criminals, the Supreme Court judges were not satisfied. Baloch told the judges that meetings were held with the two political parties active in the neighbourhood. Many suspects were arrested and recoveries were made during raids conducted by law enforcers in Lyari, he added.
Unimpressed by his reply, the judges questioned the advocate general whether or not it was the criminals who were behind the violence or were political elements involved. Faced with such a direct question, advocate general Khalid Khan admitted that the violence was caused by the criminals in Lyari but there were political elements involved as well.
The mass migration out of Lyari to parts of Sindh also shocked the bench. “There is a larger picture,” observed one of the bench members. He reminded the law enforcers that peace was the top most priority.
IG Baloch added that police had set up pickets at the rooftops of houses. The police are even ready to make similar arrangements for the security of residents when they return, he promised. The judges recalled that the apex court had passed orders in 2011 directing the law enforcers to restore peace in the entire city but they had failed to maintain peace even in one locality. Justice Khilji Arif Hussain asked the IG to reply honestly whether or not residents feel confident or scared when they their homes.
The Supreme Court bench recalled that the deputy inspector generals had filed affidavits in the court, undertaking that they might be held responsible if any crime was committed in their areas in the future. When the judges asked the IG how many of them were suspended, the police chief remained silent.
“There is an element of defiance everywhere,” remarked Justice Amir Hani Muslim. Taking serious exception to the state of affairs, the bench said it would initiate contempt proceedings against those found responsible.
The bench snubbed the IG for failing to take legal action against the senior superintendent of police for district South, following the escape of three under-trial prisoners from the lock-ups of an anti-terrorism court. Baloch admitted that the lock-ups at courts were in shambles. He blamed the works and services department for failing to improve them.
Finding himself on the spot, Baloch also blamed the frequent escape of prisoners on the poor quality of handcuffs available for them. Good quality ones will be bought soon to resolve this problem, he promised.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2013.