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Tuesday Apr 18, 2017

The crime and politics of Uzair Baloch

The crime and politics of Uzair Baloch

The one thing that has damaged politics the most is its nexus with criminals, and the phenomenon has developed in the last 30 years. The establishment has also played a role in promoting 'good and bad terrorists’, and 'good and bad criminals’. Uzair Baloch is a classical example of this nexus: that how a nonentity till 2002 became the don of Lyari, and is facing the most serious charge now for his alleged anti-state activities.

Within eight to ten years, he became so powerful that even Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which actually made Uzair what he is today, had allegedly nominated candidates backed by him in the elections. When the PPP decided to distance itself from him after sacking of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, it was too late. Thus, some of his men were elected from Lyari.

If one goes through the visitors’ list of his villa, one finds names of leaders of political parties including the PPP and the PML-N, senior police officers, personnel of intelligence agencies and a group of journalists, too.

When the PPP discarded Uzair, a PML-N delegation, headed by party’s former president Sindh, Syed Ghous Ali Shah, and comprising Nihal Hashmi and Ms Marvi Memon, reportedly met him in a bid to get his support in the area, since the PML has some vote bank in the constituency. All this happened just before 2013 elections. Later, Uzair reached an agreement with the PPP, and that was why he gave the famous reception after the elections, also attended by former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah and others.

Now, the PPP may face a dilemma when they pick candidates from Lyari in the next general elections. There are chances that Uzair-backed sitting MNA and MPAs may not get tickets. It may not be easy as some party sources hinted that either Asif Ali Zardari himself or Bilawal Bhutto may contest from there. One cannot even rule out the possibility of one of the two daughters of former PM Benazir Bhutto getting the ticket in a bid to bring complete unity.

All that Uzair said before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) or before the magistrate in his 164 CrPC statement may be true; but the whole Lyari gang war revolved around gangsters, most of whom including Uzair Baloch, Rehman Dakait or Arshad Pappu, have remained politically active on one time or the other.

What happened between 2008 to 2013 damaged the PPP the most. For the first time, a gang having official backing forced the active PPP workers and leaders living in the area to take sides with one gang or the other.

If a home minister, who remained the closest friend of former president, publicly owned someone like Uzair, admitted providing 100,000 arms licences in a bid to counter the MQM, militancy, appointing police officers, SHOs particularly in his stronghold, in sensitive places like Fisheries. What other evidence to nexus is needed.

Prior to 2001, Uzair had no criminal record and he used to support his father, Faiz Baloch alias Faizu, in small transport business. It was when his father was murdered allegedly by Arshad Pappu for non-payment of 'batha’ (extortion money) he decided to take revenge and joined Pappu's opponent gang, led by Rehman Baloch alias Rehman Dakait.

Those well aware of Lyari's political and criminal history revealed that after the murder, Uzair tried and took some help from the PPP, but did not get much response from the strong PPP leaders of the area.

After a clash between the two groups, Uzair was arrested and sent to prison for six months to one year, where for the first time he realised that how some police officers had relations with both gangs. When he came out of the prison, he become second to Rehman.

However, when the PPP government came into power in 2008, it decided to clean up Lyari of criminals and eliminate key characters of Lyari gang. In this regard, a meeting was held at the Chief Minister House, attended by senior police and intelligence officials. Among those present in the meeting were former home minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza and Lyari MNA Nabil Gabol, Sindh chief secretary, home secretary and IGP Sindh.

It was decided that an operation would be launched against Pappu and Rehman gangs and if they refuse to surrender, they would be eliminated. The news was leaked to both, but Rehman was killed in an 'encounter’.

It was also the time when the PPP and Sindh government decided to clean up the MQM militants too. But, instead of using rangers and police, they decided to use Uzair's gang.

When the issue was raised in one confidential meeting, a former MNA from Lyari, Nabil Gabol, opposed the move and said it would not only be counterproductive but also make Uzair very powerful. Mr Zardari vetoed Nabil's proposal and Mirza asked him to stay away.

Some senior police officers confirmed that all appointments, transfers and postings in Lyari, Chakiwara, Kalakot, Baghdadi and other adjacent police stations were made on his recommendations. For many criminal activities, he at times allegedly used police mobiles.

Sources said it was with the support of police that he finally got the man he was looking for since the murder of his father. Arshad Pappu was the man he was looking for. He not only beheaded him but also played 'football' with his head in one of the most horrifying incident in the recent history.

When former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took suo motu of deteriorating law and order in Karachi in 2011, all these details became part of judicial record.

Known as 'Karachi Baddamni' case, it also highlighted how arms and drugs were supplied to Karachi from land and sea routes, how millions of rupees were given to officers and their political masters, how agencies like Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and others failed and, for the first time, intelligence agencies placed on record a list of political parties’ militant wings.

In the light of this case, a decision was taken in Sept 2013 to launch the Karachi operation against all militant groups and break nexus between crime and politics. This led to killing and arrest of hundreds of militants of outlawed groups, MQM militants, People’s Amn Committee, Lyari gang war, etc.

It was followed by the move to break terror financing and money-laundering and in the process, they also unearthed RAW's connection and Kulbhushan Yadav's network, from Karachi to Balochistan, and finally arrested Uzair Baloch.

While Uzair is likely to be court-martialled, one wonders whether people of his network allegedly working in police and other departments would be touched or would only be ‘used’. Will this also bring an end to the state policy of using one gang against the other, one militant against the other and policy of good and bad terrorists?

—The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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