Lalas are fighting each other…but who is giving them weapons?
“Chachu, I heard three deafening explosions and I have been hearing gunshots for three days now! Dad is not even letting me go to school because of the terrible situation outside,” said my 12-year-old nephew, while calling me from his house in Chakiwara, a part of the gangster stronghold in Lyari.
“This time Lalas are fighting with each other,” he continued.
Lala, though a Balochi word meaning older brother, is ironically now used to refer to gangsters in Lyari.
Once again, Lyari finds itself in the midst of a gang war, at the mercy of a handful of thugs who roam the streets, shooting sophisticated ammunition at each other, and that too with complete impunity.
Many people have been killed so far in the fresh round of violence, including innocent civilians. Apart from the killings, life in Lyari has come to a complete halt.
Children are agitated at not being able to go to school and play with friends.
Women beg their husbands, sons and brothers not to go to work.
Men are at a loss since their income has come to a standstill.
I recently returned to Lyari, for a couple of months after a year-long absence, and what struck me immediately was the complete lawlessness prevalent in the entire locality. I saw men, wandering around Lyari, brandishing weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, many of which seemed just a little too sophisticated for local gangsters to be equipped with.
Not only have police operations against these criminals been a total failure; in fact, the gangs routinely outgun the police. Now, however, these gangsters are fighting among themselves. After the bomb blast that killed 11 people, mostly kids, at a football tournament at the end of Ramazan in 2013, differences between gangs have risen to the fore.
Ever since the murder of Zafar Baloch, people in the locality have been even more fearful, expecting an escalation in violence with every passing moment. In spite of taking ‘control’ of the area, police and rangers have not arrested many gangsters as yet, and their claim that violence is taking place in only a few areas of Lyari is far from the truth.
While pretty much all of Lyari burns, our law enforcement agencies are simply making false public statements exaggerating the work that they have been doing in the area.
It is very easy to blame gangster and perhaps, even easier to blame the violence on ignorance and illiteracy. However, the question remains: who is arming these gangs with such sophisticated weapons while the police hide in their police stations, leaving Lyari to descend into utter chaos and anarchy?
It seems like the law enforcers have deliberately chosen to turn a blind eye to the violence, hoping that the gangsters will do their work for them. I think that their approach is that once one group eliminates another, they can deal with what’s left. In the meanwhile, the people of Lyari, held hostage by gangsters for decades, continue to be politically victimised and neglected.
The worst part of it all is that no one seems to care.
No one so much as attempts to bring peace, no one empathises and absolutely no one considers the human suffering of the people of Lyari. These people lack basic facilities like water and an uninterrupted supply of electricity. But, right now all they really want, in fact, all they really need, is peace.
However, that is something that the government seems unable and more so unwilling, to provide.
So, until the people, the government and the law-enforcing agencies do not start caring and working towards peace, Lyari will continue to burn along with its people.
A disgruntled Lyari is an unstable Karachi and we know what that means for Pakistan.
We don’t just need to wake up, we need take action.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.