Growing Nexus of Crime and Politics in Karachi

Former Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza's dramatic August 28 press conference with a copy of the Holy Quran in his hand has become the center of news media attention in recent days.



Following this highly emotion-charged press conference which was carried live by almost all of the mainstream TV channels, Mirza has been hailed as a hero by some of the most  popular TV talking heads for railing against MQM's top leadership, and for singling out Pakistan Peoples Party leader and Federal Home Minister Rehman Malik for his harshest accusations.

To assess the extent of Mirza's credibility, it is important to understand the following:

1. What triggered the latest of Mirza's outbursts? Was it Malik's decision to send the Rangers in to the Lyari neighborhood of Karachi?

2. When Mirza used a copy of the Holy Quran in the month of Ramadan to convey his sincerity, did he really tell the whole truth? or did he leave out the ugly truths about the horrific crimes committed by Karachi's armed gangs controlled by him and his ANP political allies?

The answer to both of the above questions can be found in the fact that Mirza's press conference occurred soon after he learned about the Pakistan Rangers' operation to clean out gang-infested Lyari. This operation was authorized by Rehman Malik over the objections of Mirza and without Mirza's prior knowledge to prevent him tipping off his gangster allies in Lyari.

During the Lyari operation, the Rangers discovered the horror chambers that were used to torture and kill people in recent weeks. The badly mutilated bodies of these torture victims were stuffed in bags and dumped in various parts of the city to create widespread fear. The perpetrators were none other than Mirza's allies who falsely labeled their gangs as "People's Amn (Peace) Committee" or PAC.

The Rangers also arrested 133 suspects and seized automatic weapons and ammunition that were concealed in a ditch inside a house. They also found rockets, grenades, nine sub-machine guns and hundreds of bullet rounds once they dug out the makeshift arsenal, according to the Express Tribune newspaper report.

The torture cells were found in the Nayyabad area of Lyari. One was underground while the other was on the first floor. Both were outfitted with chains, chairs, tape for gagging victims, ropes, and power tools to dismember bodies. Jackets, sacks and documents were strewn on the floor along with the uniform an indicating the identity of the victims as members of the MQM's Khimat-e-Khalq Foundation.

The TV news-anchors, talk-show hosts, and the print media reporters must not give Zulfikar Mirza a free pass when he tells the truth only selectively to hide his own misdeeds and the crimes of his political allies in patronizing criminal gangs. Nor should other politicians be spared the tough questions about their culpability in destroying Karachi's peace, and for seriously undermining Pakistan's economy. Pakistan's media must play their crucial role in exposing the growing nexus between crime and politics in Karachi, and the rest of Pakistan.

We must not forget that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

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Comment by Riaz Haq on May 5, 2015 at 10:13pm

With mainstream suspicion of the MQM’s ‘ethnic’ politics and in clinging on to this image of the party, critics seldom take account of the MQM’s complex and highly organised – though rigidly hierarchical and violently policed – structure through which it has been able to ingratiate itself into the networks of patronage and service delivery that characterise everyday politics in Karachi and many other parts of Pakistan. It is this intervention in the everyday, quotidian politics of electricity connections, telephone lines, water supply and channelling of youth energies (through collective activities) that generates the spontaneous consent the MQM generates among large swathes of Karachi’s Urdu-speaking middle and working classes. Moreover, it is exactly such mechanisms of service delivery that interact with its minutely organised local units and militant wing to generate the MQM’s ‘dual power’ structure in Karachi as (almost) an alternative state. The refusal to see the MQM as a complex reality beyond its militant wing also obscures the very real imbalances in Pakistan’s power structure and Karachi’s political economy which laid the groundwork for the party’s emergence. Most serious observers and scholars of Pakistan are aware of the shift in Pakistan’s civil-military state apparatuses since the 1960s, and especially following Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s civil service reforms. Since the late 1970s, the suppression of Karachi’s once vibrant labour movement, weaponisation due to civil-military elites’ participation in American imperialism’s ever-expanding war machine, demographic changes due to in-migration from other parts of Pakistan, state patronage of fundamentalist groups, and intensification of certain forms of labour control and informality, have created ripe conditions for the rise of various types of exclusivist, proto-fascist groups. Thus, the relative marginalisation of Urdu-speaking middle classes from Pakistan’s power structure and changes in Karachi’s political economy due to the above mentioned factors created ideal conditions for the emergence of a new type of political subject which, while drawing upon historical tropes of sacrifice, would interact with existing narratives of regional/ethnic marginalisation of other communities in Pakistan, to forge a ‘threatened’ Urdu-speaking community. The MQM also channelled existing discourses of modernisation which intersected with its class and ethnic bases to create the image and rhetoric of a ‘liberal’ and ‘secular’ party. However, a detailed elaboration of the MQM’s political identity is beyond the scope of this piece. Suffice it to say, the popularity of its brand of politics was less a conspiracy of indiscriminate coercion and/or foreign forces than the result of contingent political articulations growing organically out of Karachi and Pakistan’s changing social realities. Coming to our present predicament, it has to be recognised that many of the structural conditions that led to the rise of the MQM and other exclusivist groups in Karachi remain in force today with even greater intensity. These include Pakistani elites’ continued embroilment in the American war machine, continuous retreat of the welfare arm of the state, the unprecedented in-migration into Karachi (unparalleled in any other mega-city in the world) post-2005 earthquake and civil war in northwest Pakistan, and intensification of informality in both workplace and residential area politics. However, while conditions still remain ripe for the rise of protofascist and violent political forces in Karachi, in light of the changing demographics of the city and the MQM’s inability to reinvent itself – name change notwithstanding – as ‘Muttahida’ rather than ‘Mohajir’, the days of untrammelled dominance of the MQM in Karachi are inevitably bound to come to an end.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-316585-The-complex-reality-...

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 23, 2015 at 10:16am

BADIN: A district and session judge on Saturday extended interim bail of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza and his comrades till June 2.

Miraz who has been facing 10 cases in different police stations on charges of vandalizing police station, damaging public property and manhandling policemen, was booked in three more cases for patronizing Lyari gangsters and providing them with unlicensed arms.

According to reports, as Mirza got extension in his bail, his supporters took to the streets for forced closure of shops during a strike that was called against arrest of former minister’s guard and driver in Karachi.

Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism court in Karachi has rejected Zulfiqar Mirza's application, seeking exemption from hearing.

The ATC has directed the former PPP leader to appear before it today (Saturday).

http://www.geo.tv/article-185718-Zulfiqar-Mirza-gets-extension-in-i...

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 26, 2015 at 10:48am

#BBC reporter @OwenBennettJone on #GeoTV @shahzebkhanzda stands by his story of #MQM funding by #India's #RAW 

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2vggjy_owen-bennett-jones-intervi...

#BBC reporter @OwenBennettJone stands by his story of #MQM funding by #India's #RAW #AltafHussain 

http://tribune.com.pk/story/910034/mqm-funding-owen-bennett-jones-s...

Comment by Riaz Haq on August 9, 2015 at 10:19am

The search for jet black terrorists leads to the nabbing of white-collar criminals. It’s open hunting season. Shocked? You should be. That’s not how we do things in Pakistan. So what gives?

The last few weeks have witnessed frantic nab and grab action in many corners of the country, forcing citizens to scratch their heads and ask: Are we finally entering an era where the traditionally short arm of the law is growing in length? The evidence is mounting. In Peshawar, the government picks up a local Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf minister for corruption; in Karachi, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrest high-ranking officials of the Sindh government while taking away records and files from the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) offices; In Lahore, Pakistan People's Party leader and former hockey star Qasim Zia is seized (again by NAB) for embezzlement; in Rawalpindi, the army takes action against its own generals for financial bunglings, and the list gets longer and longer. This is crazy stuff. Suddenly, Pakistan’s law enforcement seems to have grown some teeth, a spine, and perhaps even a brain.

This sounds suspiciously like a new Pakistan. Are the leaders in grave danger of becoming good men?

There is a certain urgency in what we are seeing unfolding; a certain deadlined challenge that is in the process of being achieved. An impression has successfully been created that the state finally means business; that the gloves are off and political expediency has been boxed and shelved. Onwards ho! Doors will be kicked down, closets overturned and skeletons dug back out. Villains, run.

For now, that is.

Retribution triggers such happy emotions. You killed our sons? Now hang. You looted our money? Now rot in jail. You abused your office? Now suffer humiliation. Yes, the average God-fearing, well-meaning, taxpaying citizen is experiencing deep catharsis watching lowlife individuals being dragged to justice. All power to those who have grown fresh spines. May you crush more them under your boot.

But wait. Everything that feels good, isn’t. Snatch and grab makes for great headlines, but what then? How many of these crooks, cons and racketeers will actually be convicted? Would not it be fairly easy for them to worm, wiggle and wriggle their way out of our criminal justice system and into the fresh, crisp air of lucrative freedom? Naming and shaming is good, but convicting is better.

Plus, hey who’s doing the naming and shaming? And at whose behest?

Three federal agencies backed by a federal minister inspired by a federal institution are driving this campaign. FIA, NAB and Rangers (in Sindh) cannot be accused of having a brilliant track record in the past. Yet, all three at this point seem a model of efficiency and resolve. Is it that overnight these three agencies have discovered their mojo? Or stumbled upon a hidden reserve of proficiency, performance and prowess? Or is it in fact a new-found will at the top that has transformed them into rocket-propelled chainsaws?

Chaudhry Nisar, the minister of interior (and exterior too apparently), wears a determined, no-nonsense look nowadays. They say he doesn’t take pressure and uses his moods like a lethal weapon. In Star Wars terminology, he is this government’s Jedi and the federal agencies are his lightsabres. Slash and burn.



http://timesofoman.com/article/65180/Opinion/Columnist/Ongoing-camp... 

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 3, 2016 at 9:06am

Ex mayor of #Pakistan's richest city #Karachi: #AltafHusain funded by #India #RAW, runs #MQM militants. http://reut.rs/1TSLRlJ via @Reuters

A former mayor of Karachi, Pakistan's largest and richest city, returned home from self-imposed exile on Thursday and launched a new political party to challenge the iron grip of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on the city.

The MQM political party is under pressure from the paramilitary Rangers force, which launched an armed operation in the southern port city late in 2013 to tackle soaring crime rates.

Since then, hundreds of MQM workers have been arrested and a Pakistani court has issued an arrest warrant for party boss Altaf Husain for threatening the army in a television address.

Mustafa Kamal, who won wide support as mayor of Karachi from 2005 to 2010 for his efforts to ease traffic and improve public services, leveled blistering criticism at Husain's strongarm tactics.

"Today we are launching a new political party," a weeping Kamal said at a news conference. "Children have been slain and generations have been destroyed by Altaf Husain. This is my challenge."

Hussain could not immediately be reached for comment. Wanted in his homeland over a murder case, he has been living in self-imposed exile in Britain since 1992.

Kamal left Pakistan in 2013 over reported differences with Husain, and had lived in Dubai since then.

In a tirade that lasted almost two hours, Kamal accused Husain of the murders of party workers, and of delivering speeches and making party policy while drunk. He said Husain personally ran the party's militant wing.

MQM senior leader Saif Ali dismissed Kamal's accusations, adding there was no doubt Husain was the "undisputed leader of the people."

Karachi is home to Pakistan's stock exchange and handles all of the cash-strapped country's shipping. It generates most of Pakistan's tax revenue, and some of its most wanted men.

The Rangers crackdown and Kamal's unprecedented attack have raised questions over who will control Pakistan's financial heart in the future.

Husain is known for his fiery addresses to supporters in Karachi via a loudspeaker linked to a telephone in his London home. His hold on the sprawling and violent city is so strong he is capable of shutting down entire neighborhoods.

In 2010, MQM founding member Imran Farooq was stabbed to death in London. Party insiders say he had major differences with Husain before his death.

Husain is now under investigation in Britain for Farooq’s murder, as well as charges of money-laundering.

Last year, Pakistani officials arrested two men suspected of killing Farooq. Both are affiliated with the MQM.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 16, 2016 at 10:35am

“British judges have found that the #MQM is responsible for killing 100s of #Karachi police officer in #Pakistan.” http://gu.com/p/3htn8/stw 

On two occasions British judges have found that the MQM is a violent organisation. In 2010 a Karachi-based police officer sought asylum in the UK claiming the MQM was threatening to kill him in revenge for his having registered a case against one of its members. The judge, Lord Bannatyne, granted asylum and in his judgment accepted that: "the MQM has killed over 200 police officers who stood up to them in Karachi".

The figure is often cited by the Karachi police themselves, and refers to those officers who were closely involved in Benazir Bhutto's anti-MQM crackdown, Operation Clean-up. It came in 1995, during Bhutto's second government. Unable to rely on the slow, intimidated and corrupt courts, which were always nervous to convict MQM defendants, the security forces resorted to hundreds if not thousands of extrajudicial killings of MQM activists. Many of the police officers responsible have subsequently been murdered. MQM, however, refutes any allegations of inciting violence from London.

Comment by Riaz Haq on October 10, 2017 at 8:03pm

Uzair Baloch spills the beans about #PPP top leaders' corruption & backing of #crime, violence in #Karachi #Pakistan

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1526890/uzair-baloch-spills-beans/

In his confessional statement, dated April 29, 2016, Uzair testified that he joined a gang led by Abdul Rehman alias Rehman Dakait in 2003 and was incarcerated in the Central Jail, Karachi where he was appointed incharge of the prisoners belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on the recommendation of then jail superintendent Nusrat Mangan and PPP leader Faisal Raza Abedi.

In the statement available with The Express Tribune, Uzair disclosed that he assumed full-fledged command of the gang after Dakait was killed in an encounter in 2008 and formed an ‘armed terrorist’ group under the name of the Peoples Aman Committee (PAC) and became its chairperson.

He confessed to have collected Rs20 million extortion from different persons and departments every month, adding that the fisheries department would pay Rs2 million.

He also disclosed that PPP MNA Faryal Talpur, sister of party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, was given Rs10 million extortion every month. According to the alleged gangster, Dr Saeed Baloch and Nisar Morai were posted to the fisheries department on his recommendation.

“I maintained a friendly relationship with the [then] Karachi Capital City Police Officer Waseem Ahmed, SSP Farooq Awan and his brother Shahadat Awan [a lawyer and currently posted as prosecutor general of Sindh],” Uzair disclosed, adding he had done several favours for them, including helping Farooq and Shahadat encroach land in Malir. He also got Farooq to collect Rs150,000 to Rs200,000 in extortion every month.

The incarcerated gangster disclosed that on the insistence of Senator Yousuf Baloch he met the then chief minister Qaim Ali Shah and Talpur and asked them to get the head money and cases against him withdrawn, which was eventually done by Talpur and Zardari.


In his statement, Uzair disclosed that after the Karachi operation was intensified he was called through Qadir Patel and Senator Yousuf by Talpur to her Defence residence, where Sharjeel Inam Memon and Morai were also present. According to him, Talpur discussed various issues the including Lyari gang war, and offered to hide his personal arms and explosives and have Sharjeel and Morai handle his financial affairs and Yousuf and Patel handle affairs in Lyari if he wanted to flee the country.

He testified to have done various illegal works for the party, including helping Patel encroach land and providing 500 jobs to criminals on Yousuf’s insistence. He also admitted to have helped Owais Muzaffar Tapi, Zardari’s foster brother, illegally occupy 14 sugar mills that were later purchased at lower prices.

Uzair also claimed to have sent 20 of his men to harass residents around Bilawal House on Zardari’s instructions and force them to sell 30 to 40 bungalows to Zardari at lower prices. The gangster said he came to know about a plan to kill him while in police custody, so he pleaded to have his custody transferred to the Rangers.

The former Lyari kingpin had also requested complete protection, apprehending that he and his family members could be killed after these revelations, as he expected revenge from Zardari and other politicians he named in his statement.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 29, 2019 at 4:37pm

#Pakistani to make #Netflix original series debut with Omer Shahid Hamid's The Party Worker. “A story based in #Karachi's #political/#mafia past. In fact there is a novel by Omer Shahid Hamid on it: the party worker.” #MQM #Killing #Extortion https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/450564-pakistan-to-make-its-netfl...

Pakistan is now making its debut on Netflix with an original based on the work of well reputed Pakistani author Omer Shahid Hamid.

The 42-year-old writer who is also currently serving as a police officer announced on Twitter that he has already signed a film or series deal with the streaming giant for his acclaimed book The Party Worker.


The author publicized the news while a few curious souls on Twitter were discussing what Pakistan’s Netflix original would be like if there was one.

Responding to the tweet was a user who brought the attention to Hamid’s novel: “A story based in karachi's political/mafia past. Infact there is a novel by omer shahid hamid on it: the partyworker.”

Jumping in on the conversation was the ecstatic writer who wrote: “Funny you should mention it. Just signed a film/series deal for #ThePartyWorker #netflixherewecome.”


Omar Shahid Hamid
@omarshamid
Funny you should mention it. Just signed a film/series deal for #ThePartyWorker #netflixherewecome #ifallelsefailsHumtvzindabad

Rafia Jaffar
@RafiaJaffar
Replying to @SudrishK
A story based in karachi's political/mafia past. Infact there is a novel by omer shahid hamid on it: the partyworker

206
3:21 AM - Mar 29, 2019
Twitter Ads info and privacy
83 people are talking about this
Hamid’s book The Party Worker is cautiously divided into chapters dedicated to each character of the book that deliver their own perspectives and give birth to varying consequences to the eventual truth.

The book is set amidst the chaos and violence that lingers in the air of Karachi.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 27, 2019 at 7:03am

#Karachi vice: Meet #Pakistani cop who channels #police stories into gritty #crime novels. Cop Omar Shahid Hamid is one of #Pakistan's most popular English-language authors.His father was killed by a notorious hitman, his partner was murdered by #Taliban. https://gn24.ae/8627f21f6eba000

Personal tragedy haunts the hard-boiled novels that are turning top cop Omar Shahid Hamid into one of Pakistan's most popular English-language authors.

For nearly two decades Hamid has worn a badge in Karachi, the mega port city on the Arabian Sea that for years was rife with vicious political and extremist violence.

Now a deputy inspector general, he is also fast becoming one of Pakistan's most recognisable writers, publishing four books in quick succession since 2013.

His work has even nabbed the attention of major streaming outlets on the hunt for new original material from South Asia, including Netflix, which has already seen major success with similar material in TV series such as Sacred Games, about Mumbai's corrupt underworld.

Hamid said the secret to his success is his unflinching accounts of political corruption, contract killers, and crooked cops alongside nuanced portraits of Karachi's divided neighbourhoods.

"Books like mine wouldn't work if I pulled punches," he tells AFP.

"It's that grittiness, that uncompromising reality that I think a lot of readers enjoy."

At times the reality has hit dangerously and heartbreakingly close to home.

Hamid did the bulk of his writing while he was on sabbatical after being advised to leave Karachi and take a break from policing in 2011 when he was threatened by Islamist groups.

Close to reality
Weeks after the release of his first novel "The Prisoner", his mentor and police partner Chaudhry Aslam - the inspiration for one of the book's protagonists - was killed in a Taliban-claimed suicide blast.

In his third novel "The Party Worker", Hamid portrays the rise of a brutal hitman who killed at the behest of a fictional political party ruling the city with an iron fist.

For Karachi insiders, the character mirrors the life of feared hitman Saulat Mirza, who served as the feared enforcer for the once-powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party - and whose list of victims include Hamid's own father, Shahid.

"It's less a thing of making a sketch of Saulat Mirza," explains Hamid, calling the character a "sketch of a particular type of young man... who kind of in the last 30 years or so essentially gave their lives away to these ideologies thinking they were doing the right thing."

The goal is not to excuse such actions, he insists.

"Understanding the motivations of someone is a positive tool if you're someone who has worked as an investigator in counterterrorism for a very long time," says Hamid.

"What he has written is fiction but it's very close to reality," says Faheem Siddiqui, Karachi bureau chief for Geo News.

"As a crime reporter, I know what had happened in the city. It took a great deal of courage to write about these events."

Hamid's plots go beyond his own losses to appear at times like thinly disguised retellings of the seismic moments that have rattled Karachi in the last 30 years - from the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 to the killing of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's brother Murtaza.

Dangerous city
Once a quiet port nestled on the Arabian Sea coastline, Karachi was transformed by the flood of refugees from neighbouring India after partition in 1947, setting the stage for disputes that needle the metropolis to this day.

Years later the port became a conduit for weapons, narcotics, and a new flood of refugees from war-torn Afghanistan, transforming politics and ratcheting up violence to make Karachi one of Asia's most dangerous cities.

"

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 18, 2020 at 12:40pm

The ‘gangs’ of the Indus
Populations in the Kacha areas are one of the most neglected ones in Pakistan. Very little has changed in their lives

https://tribune.com.pk/story/885160/the-gangs-of-the-indus

The stories that we read and hear about the Indus delta, generally known as Kacha in the Seraiki region and upper Sindh, are stories of crime. These areas get brief attention when ‘encounters’ between the police and robbers occur, or when the police launch operations to ‘clean up’ the region. Having walked through and travelled extensively in this region for about half a century, I find, regrettably, the stories to be half-truths and one-sided. There is some inconvenient truth about the region that needs to be told and simply, it is in three words: injustice, neglect and inequality.



True, there are gangs of dacoits who have presence here and might be involved in crimes. The question is: why is this the case? It is unfair to talk only about the robbers — who are not good enough to hide their crimes and commit them in the open — and ignore the very respectable power holders of the past and present who have plundered the country beyond imagination. We are too weak to talk against the extortion mafias in the big cities, the land grabbers and the very corrupt elite that have continuously pushed up the ranking of Pakistan among the most corrupt countries in the world. The point is that as long as they continue to dominate our politics and power system from the local to the national level as they do, injustice in society will continue to produce gangs around the Indus and up to the mountains of Balochistan.

Take justice as a broader term — giving people their due rights, privileges and facilities as citizens. The most basic need and very important to their existence as a civilised people is education. Everything else tails this basic public function of the state which is meant to give every child an opportunity to make the best of his or her talent. The populations in the Kacha areas are one of the most neglected ones in Pakistan. Very little has changed in their lives. Basic facilities like roads, schools and basic healthcare centres either do not exist or are just ‘ghosts’. One may spot some of these generally empty structures serving as guesthouses for locally influential persons. There is no evidence of even sporadic action against ‘ghost’ teachers and their bosses in the district education offices. They are the real dacoits, along with their political bosses, who extend patronage to them.

I wish to quote from one of my stories I wrote three years back, “The dacoit’s dream”. A social mobiliser from Lahore had the task of travelling to the delta, talking to people and setting up a school. On one of his first trips, one of the notorious dacoits of the Ghotki area stopped him on his way. A fearless and devoted person to the educational cause, he was not deterred by the presence of the dacoit or dissuaded by the fear of being kidnapped while in the proverbial hornets’ nest. In that moment, his only thoughts were whether this was the end of his mission and maybe his life.

“The dacoit asked him questions about what he was doing in his domain — the Kacha areas. When he learnt about a school being conceived in the nearby locality, he began to beg the mobiliser for a school for his community. In a beseeching tone, he said he wanted his son to go to school, to be educated and to never follow in his footsteps. The dacoit received the promise of a school and a facility was built for his community and many surrounding communities to share. Education and development are the keys, and not just ‘encounters’. And so, what about the big robbers?”

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