Lyari has been the Pakistan People’s Party fort for over four decades ever since the party chairman, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the founder and leader of the PPP announced that, “we will make a Paris out of Lyari”, a slogan which jolted the most deprived area of Karachi which houses more than a million people. According to a survey held in 2003 by the UNDP, unemployment remains around seventy percent and the crime rate in Lyari and its adjoining areas is highest in Karachi. Contrary to the beliefs, demographically Lyari not only holds the black Baloch community (Makranis) but houses a large number of Iranian Baloch, Mianwali and Pashtun communities and remains the oldest community in Karachi which could be traced back to several centuries.
In the 1990s, Rehman Baloch aka Rehman Dakait emerged as the new force in Lyari, who was nicknamed ‘Najeeb Junior’ because of his love for the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and his militant-like actions. Rehman Baloch, branded as the ‘Robin Hood of Lyari’, remained a very controversial figure throughout the 1990s and 2000 over his involvement in various criminal activities. He was killed in what is widely believed to be a ‘setup’ and settlement between various power brokers in Sindh after he allegedly killed Khaled Shahanshah.
Rehman had obviously became “too powerful” and he had formed what was until yesterday called, ‘The People’s Amn Committee’, allegedly a B-team of the PPP. The significance of the People’s Amn Committee (PAC) can be determined from the fact that no one could win in Lyari without PAC’s support as it not only commands respect within Lyari but represents the largest ethnic group in Lyari, the Baloch. It might be Nabeel Gabol who is the MNA from Lyari, but in good times they would all report to the PAC and derive powers from the Amn Committee. Eventually, it was the PAC which banned Gabol’s entry into Lyari. Only last week a patch-up was enforced between various stakeholders in Lyari.
The People’s Amn Committee was initially formed by Rehman Baloch out of anger at PPP’s treatment to Lyari, which essentially acted as a liaison between the PPP and Lyari’s people and ensured job quotas and other things.
After Rehman Dakaith’s departure, the PAC was taken over by Uzair Baloch, a close aide of Rehman but a refined man whose father was previously hanged and killed by another gangster Haji Lalu. Uzair after taking over the PAC, tried his best to curb certain criminal elements which had previously infiltrated into the Amn Committee, but would often fail as his political rivals were armed to the teeth. While the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) had previously made complaints about the Amn Committee, it was the Shershah massacre when the Amn Committee truly became a MQM’s target. The MQM officially and seriously started taking up the issue of the PAC with the PPP and demanded a complete stop to its activities.
The emergence of the new lad on the block was that of the Kachi Rabitta Committee (KRC) which is backed by Hussain Haroon, who wants a constituency in Karachi by replacing Nabeel Gabol while the Sunni Tehreek, which has recently taken a very militant stance, has started killing MQM workers in the central district. It should be noted that the Sunni Tehreek now has more MQM-Haqqaqi members on ground than ever before, which is creating friction on ground in areas where both parties are somewhat dominant. It should be noted that it was the PAC that for the first time completely halted and shut-off Karachi last week for the PPP shutter-down strike against the judiciary in what is described as the most successful strike ever in the city.
The PPP, like any other political party realising that they lack serious street power due to there rural background in Karachi and post-12th May experiences, wants its own militant wing and had previously used PAC exactly for this purpose alone. After the MQM’s one-point agenda of disbanding the People’s Amn Committee (PAC) it was decided by the PAC Chairman, Uzair Baloch, himself to dissolve the PAC.
So has the MQM demand to curb the PAC worked? Not really. In getting rid of the PAC, the MQM has actually done what Zulfiqar Mirza, the provincial home minister, had been trying to do for years. To bring together PAC workers under the platform of the Pakistan People’s Party – in this episode again, it’s game, set and match, PPP.