KARACHI: In his Gadani jail cell, Lyari’s legendary kingpin Arshad Pappu seethes over the killings of Baloch in Karachi, especially since there is a perception that he and his men are partly to blame. Neither he, nor any of his men, are in any way linked to the massacre, he is at pains to stress.
“I’m a leader of the Baloch people of Lyari,” he told The Express Tribune in an interview. “My heart bleeds for the Baloch people.”
The question today for the people of Karachi is, however, who is killing the young men. If Pappu is to be believed, the actual fight is between the “Pakistan Peoples Party-backed Peoples Amn Committee (PAC) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)”. Both parties have, however, rubbished these claims.
After the death of Rehman Dakait in 2009, the mantle of the gang fell to Uzair Baloch, who is closely linked to Baba Ladla. Both men are central figures of the now defunct PAC, claim insiders.
The other group is the one led by Arshad Pappu from his jail cell. His network is currently being run by Ghaffar Zikri and Razzaq Commando.
Police and intelligence personnel allege that Pappu’s gang is backed by one party that is using his network to gain a foothold in Lyari. But Pappu challenges this. “I may be in jail, but I’m not that weak that I would end up taking shelter with a party,” he said. “I know how to fight on my own.”
“I am not a puppet of any political party,” he said, while referring to the MQM and to distance himself from the killing of Baloch men. According to Pappu, the perception that he is an MQM puppet dates to the Musharraf regime when his associate Ghaffar Zikri had lent support to the party in the general elections, while their rival Rehman Dakait supported the PPP. This claim has also been rejected by the MQM, which says that no such understanding existed.
According to Pappu, the current carnage in the city was nothing but “politics over bodies”. He laughed when told that police were saying that they were moving into Lyari and other areas to nab the target killers. “Mark my words, they’ll do nothing,” he said. “They could do nothing in the past and will do nothing even today.”
His heart fills with sorrow every time he learns the death of a Baloch or even an innocent Mohajir. “I believe there is a conspiracy by forces from high above that want to see the peace-loving Baloch and Mohajir fight.” He promised that one day when he is set free, “God willing, [he’ll] make sure that there is unity among [them].”
Till then, the cycle of violence will continue to carry on unless something is immediately done to sever political backing for the warring groups. “I appeal to Zardari and the PPP to stop the bloodshed of the innocent Baloch people at all costs,” Pappu said.
For him, there should be no doubt that PAC was spreading terror in the city. “PAC has no fear because they are being backed by the senior leadership of the PPP,” he alleged, and went on to add Zulfiqar Mirza and Manzoor Wassan’s names as the ones who were openly supporting his rival group. This claim was strongly refuted by the leadership of the PPP.
The motive, Pappu said, went to the fact that there is a lot at stake, including mountain loads of money. “What do you think Baba Ladla (Dakait’s gang) does? He’s responsible for collecting extortion money from areas not only in Lyari but beyond them like Shershah, Ghas Mandi, Keamari. He then gives a generous share to party leaders,” he alleged. The PPP has also denied this and said that there is no iota of truth in it.
MQM ‘rubbishes’ claims of support for Pappu
MQM leader Faisal Subzwari has ‘rubbished’claims that the party is in any way associated with any of the gangsters in Lyari or was using any group to gain a foothold in Lyari. According to him, the whole world knows who killed Lyari’s Rehman Dakait. “The same people who killed Rehman have now taken over his network in Lyari and today the same party claims that they were his biggest supporters.”
About claims that the MQM was backing PAC’s rival group led by Pappu and Zikri, he said: “This is pure rubbish. The MQM never had anything to do with them in the past or even today.”
It is the government’s responsibility to take action against all criminals, including Pappu who is in jail and Zikri, who is hiding somewhere in Karachi.
About the elections when Zikri supposedly lent support to the MQM in Lyari, Subzwari said it was totally untrue. “Back then there was no PAC. However, everyone knows how the ballot boxes were stuffed on the directions of Rehman Dakait along with Habib Jan during the elections there.”
When asked whether it was true that the current carnage was a duel between the MQM and PAC backed by the PPP, Subzwari said that the only part that rang true was that PAC had the patronage of a political party that was spreading chaos in the city.
He stressed that innocent Urdu-speaking people were being targeted and until the killing came to an end, they could not think of rejoining the government.
PPP defends Mirza
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon defended his fellow minister, Zulfiqar Mirza, denying that neither he nor any one from the PPP is supporting criminals.
“These are nothing but lies. There is not an iota of truth in it,” he said when asked about the accusations that PAC frontman Baba Ladla has the backing of senior party leaders. People who are saying the PPP backs PAC should remember the party actually disbanded it, added Memon.
“All this talk is to divide the people and incite them to violence,” he said. He warned that the people who are spreading these ‘lies’ should know that if the government wanted it could expose the ‘reality’ and show the world who the ‘real’ culprits are. “We have pictures that can expose who met the members of PAC,” he said.
Whether it is the MQM’s Rabita Committee or PAC, the fact of the matter is that innocent lives are being lost, said Fauzia Wahab, a member of the PPP’s central executive committee member. She stressed, however, that one must not forget how the current wave of violence was triggered. “The bodies of five Baloch men were found. Who was responsible for that?”
Who is Arshad Pappu?
Arshad Pappu reportedly has four sons and three daughters but they and his wife have moved out of Lyari because of threats to their life. He shot to notoriety during Musharraf’s regime and was eventually caught in 2006. According to one of his lawyers, Mohammad Farooq, Pappu was charged with around 50 cases of which 20 were for murder.
To date, Pappu hasn’t been convicted in any. In fact, he may be released soon, claims his lawyer. “Just two cases are pending against him,” says Farooq.
Pappu’s father Hajji Lallu was also released. One of Arshad Pappu’s brothers, Sher Mohammad has also been freed by the courts. His two other brothers Nasir and Yasir Arafat, are, however, with him in jail. Incidentally, the alias Pappu was given to him by his father. “During my childhood I was a very healthy boy which is why my father used to call me Pappu,” says the Lyari gangster. “Since then, everyone close to me calls me that.”