Saad Rasool l
Every time you think that you have seen the worst of politics in Pakistan, you are amazed to discover that there are still deeper and darker places that constitute our political diaspora. That the political framework of this country is barely cloaked in the thin veneer of slogans such as ‘zinda hai Bhutto’ and ‘vote ko izzat do’. That underneath this democratic façade resides a draconian structure of nepotism, of extortion, of land-grabbing mafia and, from time to time, of cold-blooded murder and terrorism.
To this end, the killing fields of MQM, under the garb of a democratic political party, are a well-documented reality of Karachi. In Punjab, PML(N)’s impunity concerning Model Town Massacre aside, there is still the matter of individuals like Abid boxer, and the multitude of murder cases against Rana Sanaullah (to which his own party member, Abid Sher Ali, swears by). But, as barbaric as these events are, none of these compare to the murderous escapades of PPP’s leadership, through their attack-dog in Lyari: Uzair Baloch.
Let us pause, for a moment, the ridiculous politicisation of Uzair Baloch’s JIT report, between PPP and Ali Zaidi. We will come to that in a moment. Instead, let us start with recognising that no one disputes the fact that Uzair Baloch killed hundreds of people on the streets of Lyari, extorted millions of Rupees for himself and his masters, grabbed thousands of acres of land across Karachi, and conducted espionage activities for foreign enemy powers—all the while enjoying political protection and police patronage in Karachi.
The facts, as narrated through the JIT (and known to all and sundry across Karachi) reveal that “in 2008, after the killing of Rehman Dacoit during a police encounter, Uzair Baloch took over his gang”. And through this gang, Uzair Baloch unleashed his reign of terror in Lyari, in cohorts with “Qadir Patel, Senator Yousaf Baloch, Nisar Morai, Owais Muzaffar Tappi and Zulfiqar Mirza” all of whom “supported Uzair Baloch with arms and finances on the directions of Asif Ali Zardari.”
To this end, a bare perusal of the JIT report (which reads like a fast-paced crime novel) reveals that Uzair Baloch would never have been able to carry out most (if not all) of his criminal activities, were it not for substantial propagation and protection from key PPP figures. Per Uzair Baloch’s own admission, Qadir Patel was one of his handlers, at the behest of ‘Baray Sahab’ (Asif Zardari); at one point “Qadir Patel directed” Uzair Baloch to teach the opponents a lesson by targeting “2 workers of opponents, on account of one killing of Baloch” in Karachi. Zulfiqar Mirza, the then Home Minister of PPP’s Sindh government was more lenient in his ‘kill orders’ compared to Qadir Patel. Uzair Baloch recounts that, after he had killed 11 people in an incident at Shershah Kabari Market, “Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza called [Uzair Baloch] and directed that you may [only] kill 1 worker of opponents on account of 1 killing of yours”.
Importantly, referring 158 murders in Lyari, Uzair Baloch specifically admits that in 2010, “Senator Yousaf Baloch of PPP also conveyed the message of Asif Ali Zardari by saying that “Baray Sahib” is really pleased on the target killing of opponents”. This sentiment was confirmed by Faryal Talpur when, per Uzair Baloch’s own admission, “Faryal Talpur tasked [him] that Lyari should continue to be the fort of PPP and if opponents threaten they be kept at gunpoint (killed).”
An important role that Uzair Baloch (admittedly) played for the PPP leadership was that of being a land-grabber. To this end, the JIT report, in the words of Uzair Baloch himself, recounts how people were threatened and browbeaten into selling their houses around Bilawal House in Karachi. Not to be left behind, Sharjeel Memon’s role, as a ‘land-grabber’, through Uzair Baloch, has also been stressed throughout the JIT report. Per Uzair Baloch’s own admission, Sharjeel Memon frequently called on him to forcefully grab land and extort money, part of which was kept by Uzair Baloch, whereas the rest was paid to Sharjeel Memon and his political masters.
But how exactly did the PPP leadership facilitate Uzair Baloch, providing him the necessary immunity from arrest and prosecution? Through the notorious Sindh Police of course. In this regard, several police officials, including very senior officers, were in bed with this terrorist. In fact, it would not be out of place to say that these despicable police officers ensured their own postings and positions in the PPP government, by lending support and patronage to Uzair Baloch. In this regard, Uzair Baloch’s admission reveals that “in the year 2010, CCPO Karachi Waseem Ahmed… told [Uzair Baloch]… to come to the house of SSP Farooq Awan… [where]… CCPO Waseem told him that … he should kill Ghaffar Zikri and his gangsters.” In return, Uzair Baloch “demanded posting of SHOs PS Kalri and PS Baghdadi of his choice”, which the CCPO was all too happy to grant. Interestingly, this Waseem Ahmed was later rewarded by the Zardari government, and made Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), in light of his stellar performance as CCPO Karachi.
Uzair Baloch used to pay a monthly ‘bhatta’ to police officers; in particular, this including monthly payments to SSP Farooq Awan, “through ASI Baqir of CID Garden” after having collected “extortion from various gambling dens” across Lyari. SSP Farooq Awan, along with his brother Shahadat Awan, also used Uzair Baloch to illegally grab land and extort money from innocent people. As expected, for these and many other services, SSP Farooq Awan also awarded ‘Hilal-e-Shujaat’ by the PPP government.
For these (many) services provided to ‘Baray Sahab’ and his party, what did Uzair Baloch get in return? Political protection, of course. Lots of money. And, to sweeten the deal further, many key appointments were made at the behest of Uzair Baloch, by the PPP government. To this end, the JIT report reveals that “Qadir Patel through Agha Siraj Durrani appointed Muhammad Raisi as administrator of Lyari District on the recommendation of [Uzair Baloch]”, who later collected monthly Bhatta for their (joint) political masters. Also, per his own admission, Uzair Baloch “managed the appointment of Saeed Khan as Chairman Fisheries, through Faryal Taplur” and through him Uzair Baloch “extorted Rs20 lac per month whereas Faryal Talpur was getting share of Rs1 crore per month”, in addition to “Rs12 to 15 lac per month… from various fishing boat owners.”
The report also reveals that, after Zulfiqar Mirza had a falling out with the PPP leadership, Asif Zardari had feared that the party might lose Uzair Baloch and his ‘power’ in Lyari. As a result, per Uzair Baloch’s own admission, “Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur sent messages through Yousaf Baloch not to leave PPP and allotted 500 vacancies of grade 1 to 14 in Sindh Govt” including 130 in the Sindh Education Department, 3 in the Sindh Excise Department, 45 in FCS, and 45 in KMC. Peanuts, really.
The JIT report also recounts, in Uzair Baloch’s own words, how he escaped from Pakistan, got an Iranian passport, and spied on sensitive security installations in Karachi for foreign spy agencies. But the tentacles of these ‘espionage’ activities of Uzair Baloch, which extend to Kulboshan Yadav, require space and analysis that is beyond the contours of this piece.
So, in light of Uzair Baloch’s own admissions, does it matter who presented the JIT or how it was collected? Are we really going to make Uzair Baloch—who admits to having killed hundreds of people—a spitting contest between PPP and Ali Zaidi? Is that the big takeaway? Is that what we, as a nation, should focus on?
Or should we, instead, as a different set of questions?
Did Uzair Baloch, admittedly, kill hundreds of people in Karachi? Was Uzair Baloch, admittedly, extorting money from innocent people, and paying part of it to PPP’s political leadership? Was Uzair Baloch, admittedly, facilitating members in the PPP leadership to grab land (‘qabza’ group) across Sindh? Was Uzair Baloch spying on sensitive installations across Karachi (including those that came under attack from terrorists)? Was Uzair Baloch PPP’s attack-dog in Lyari? Was Uzair Baloch procuring party-tickets, for candidates of his choice in Lyari, from the PPP leadership? Was Uzair Baloch working with senior officials in Sindh Police (including the CCPO) to extort money and kill civilians? Did Uzair Baloch get people appointed to government posts during PPP’s tenure?
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, then what does it matter who gave Ali Zaidi the JIT report, or what asinine excuse Faryal Talpur and Qadir Baloch can concoct today? The only question is, should the accused be ‘full-fried’ or ‘half-fried’?
Saad Rasool is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has an LL.M. in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School. He can be reached at [email protected], or Twitter: @Ch_SaadRasool. The article originally appeared at The Nation and has been republished with author’s permission.