The recent development of Uzair Baloch being taken into custody under the Army Act and the subsequent revelations of the names of politicians and police officers found to be involved with the Lyari gang leader have further complicated the matters yet further in Karachi.
Uzair was arrested in Karachi last year by paramilitary forces and was handed over to the police on remand by the court. A report from the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed to probe the case said that Uzair was involved in “espionage activities by providing secret information regarding army installations and officials to foreign agents (Iranian intelligence officers) which is a violation of the Official Secrets Act 1923”.
The controversies surrounding Baloch’s arrest in Dubai, and events since then, raise a few questions. And these apply not only to the PPP but also the government and the security establishment. Although Uzair has been considered a political face of the Pakistan People’s Party in Lyari — an association that the PPP is struggling to distance itself from — the extent of relations between the gang leader and PPP officials has remained a mystery till now. After the registration of a plethora of cases against him following the 2012 operation in Lyari, the PPP has continuously tried to distance itself from the Lyari gang leader — a far cry from the time when, allegedly, the party used to nominate its candidates in the area according to the wishes of Baloch. Reports also suggest that even PML-N members from Sindh had visited Baloch before the 2013 elections to gain support in the area.
Uzair’s statement about his political links — given to the JIT or made before the magistrate — may be true. But the actual Lyari gang war revolved around ‘local’ gangsters, most of whom including Uzair Baloch, Rehman Dakait or Arshad Pappu, have remained politically active at one time or the other. Therefore, mere distancing on the part of the political parties and a sudden change in the stance of the security establishment is unlikely to resolve the dynamics on the ground, which give rise to such a violent situation.
Lastly, a transparent investigation from the government as well as the security establishment will help establish whether the timing of the case is politically motivated or that there are some other mysterious angles to it — especially considering the alleged backing of the establishment to Baloch in the 2000s. *