KARACHI: The peace initiative taken by educated youth and social activists of one of the city’s most violent areas stands at a crucial juncture with the announcement of ‘peace talks’ and temporary ceasefire between the leaders of the two notorious gangs, the Uzair Baloch group and the Baba Ladla group.
Most Lyari residents consider the role of Qaumi Awami Tehreek president Ayaz Latif Palijo as arbitrator between the gangs as farce, terming him a ‘supporter’ of the gangs. “Palijo should have thought about these peace talks before the Jhat Pat Market carnage. He should not be lending support to the criminals now,” a resident of Nawa Lane told The Express Tribune. “These talks are nothing but oxygen for the gangs who we desperately want to abolish now.”
Soon after coverage of the talks aired on different news channels, the residents started questioning about the action taken after 19 people were killed in Jhat Pat Market. “Who will trace the killers now? What about the families who lost their loved ones?”
Most of these residents, especially the families of victims of the Jhat Pat Market killings, believe that the gangsters were trying to use Palijo for protection as the law enforcement agencies and the residents have finally decided to rid the area of them.
“This was a wrong step by Palijo. He should have taken the residents of Lyari into confidence for peace, rather than speaking to the leaders of gangsters,” commented an old man sitting outside a tea stall in Nawa Lane. “We finally had the courage to start talking against these criminals, but now both groups will join hands against the common people.”
Messages condemning what was termed the ‘latest drama’ were circulated throughout the area to forewarn people against falling for the ‘farce’. “We have been suffering for the last six years. We have lost our identity and people outside Lyari consider us criminals,” a student complained. “We are trying to build a new image of Lyari but such talks will torpedo our efforts.”
“These talks will do nothing for the common man. Palijo has facilitated criminals, not the common people of Lyari,” another resident of Aath Chowk said. “Who will be responsible if these men kill anyone?” questioned a resident of Cheel Chowk.
On the other hand, Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Sania Naz, who is also part of the peace committee, believes differently. “I have been trying to make these talks happen for the last four months,” she told The Express Tribune. “We are completely against criminals,” she clarified.
When questioned about the displeasure expressed by residents regarding the peace talks, Naz asked, “How else do you propose we bring peace to Lyari?” She added that Palijo himself had approached both the groups for the peace talks.
Save Lyari Movement
Following the increasing intensity and frequent clashes between the Uzair and Ladla groups, Lyari’s youth had started an initiative of their own to bring peace to the area. The Jhat Pat Market killings had ironically proved to be a catalyst to their movement, aptly titled the ‘Save Lyari Movement’. The organisers said the movement will continue until Lyari was rid of every criminal.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2014.