February issue 2010
Interview: Abdul Qadir Patel
“There is no den of heroin or of weapons in Lyari”
– Abdul Qadir Patel MNA, Pakistan Peoples Party
Abdul Qadir Patel is an old Lyari resident who was first elected to the Sindh Assembly in 1993. In the last general elections, he ran for NA 239, which comprises Keamari, Baldia, Trans-Lyari, Janabad and Golimar.
Q: Why did some PPP members belonging to Karachi oppose the operation against criminal gangs in Lyari?
A: There was no justification for the crackdown. There were only a few targeted killings in Lyari in the recent violence. The maximum number of killings occurred in Garden, Saddar, Landhi and Baldia Town. But those who were killed mostly belonged to Lyari. Their bodies arrived in Lyari. Don’t you find it odd that they did not conduct an operation in the areas where the killings occurred but, rather, chose the place where the bodies arrived? Lyari received 14 bodies, including those of two women, in the first 10 days of January. Who were those victims? Mostly poor Baloch labourers.
Q: Why was there a surge in the killings and violence in Karachi?
A: There are many factors … but as far as Lyari is concerned, targeted killings had been going on here for quite some time. One major factor is the prime land of Gutter Baghicha. Several activists were murdered because they were opposing the housing schemes and demarcation of plots on this amenity land. Zahid Baloch, Nisar Baloch and Nadir Baloch were all murdered because of their opposition to the Gutter Baghicha land scam. This land is meant for parks and a football ground — the most popular sport of Lyari. So that tussle has been going on for some time. All the people of Lyari are angry because efforts are underway to change the status of the amenity land.
Q: What has CDGK’s stance been in the Gutter Baghicha case?
A: The city government passed a resolution in favour of building a housing society there. The MQM tried to do this when Farooq Sattar was mayor, but their suggestions were shot down. Once again, they are trying to do the same thing, which is unacceptable to the people of Lyari. This is a point of dispute.
Q: What are the other causes behind the recent surge in killings and violence?
A: There have been a lot of other injustices against the people of Lyari. When the Muharram bombing occurred, which was followed by arson and looting, again the Baloch population of Lyari was targeted, though they had nothing to do with the looting or the violence. The Baloch can be recognised from a distance. Not one Baloch was seen in the footage of the violence that ensued after the bombing but, still, the people of Lyari were victimised.
Q: But a gang war has been going on in Lyari for a while now…
A: Right now there is no gang war. In the past, when the PML-Q was in power, criminal gangs had the support of the former government. Both the rival gangs (led by Rehman Dakait and Arshad Pappu) enjoyed the patronage of different sections of the former rulers and, as a result, more than 300 youngsters were killed in Lyari during those days. When the PPP government came to power, we managed to end this gang war and formed peace committees. For the last one year or so, not a single person has been killed in the gang wars.
Q: There are allegations that Rehman Dakait had connections with the PPP.
A: Rehman Dakait is on record in an interview that he was a PML-Q member. But it is also a fact that he and his aides were die-hard PPP supporters as traditionally most people of Lyari are. When the PPP came to power, Rehman stopped his criminal activities and started social work. It is strange that when he was resorting to crime, he was spared. He was arrested when MQM’s Rauf Siddiqui was home minister under the previous government, but managed to walk out. Why was he killed now … I fail to understand. Just when he had transformed himself, he was killed in a controversial encounter. Our rivals feared that the PPP would be further strengthened in this locality because of Rehman’s support.
Q: Are you denying reports that Lyari is infested with crime and criminals?
A: There is no den of heroin or of weapons in the entire Lyari. If my claim is wrong, punish me as you would a thief. Yes, there is crime, as there is in any other poor locality. Vested interests are not allowing the rehabilitation of youngsters in Lyari. I believe that the rehabilitation of youngsters involved in petty crimes is a must, but that process was disturbed because of the recent violence and operation.
Also, we see thousands of MQM workers, who benefited from the NRO, being given jobs in the Water and Sewerage Board and other places. But a similar scheme was not launched for the people of Lyari. When we tried to provide them with jobs, the move was resisted. It is unfair that you neither give the people of Lyari an education or jobs. Now, President Zardari has taken the initiative. He has not only stopped that highly unjust operation but is also taking steps to provide employment to the youth of Lyari. Three billion rupees have been allocated for Lyari’s development. Also, there are plans to open a medical college, as well as a university in Lyari.
Q: What about reports of the killing of an Urdu-speaking youngster who was in love with a Baloch girl? Did this, in any way, lead to the recent bout of violence?
A: Lyari has a mixed population and inter-ethnic affairs are a normal routine. The boy who was killed was an MQM supporter and he was apparently also visible on the CCTV footage of the Muharram 10 violence. But this needs to be confirmed. Who killed him and why, is a question mark.
Q: Why, in your view, is Lyari being made the target of an operation?
A: It is a PPP stronghold, which our rivals want to weaken and conquer. They want to change the demography of this area to secure seats here. We have already seen 20 parks of Baldia (an area adjacent to Lyari) occupied and residential plots being demarcated there. Four of my polling agents have been killed in my constituency alone since the last general elections. A total of 11 PPP workers have also been killed there so far.
Q: Are there any differences between the PPP and the MQM in managing the affairs of Lyari? What has been the MQM’s role?
A: The fog has now cleared. The differences seem to have been settled.
Q: What steps do you propose for peace and development in the area?
A: The top leadership of both the PPP and the MQM get along well together and are for keeping the alliance intact. It is the workers who fight. There is a need for cooperation and meetings between the workers of both parties at the union council level. The MQM should induce its workers operating at the unit-level to ensure peace in the future.