Karachi: As Baba Ladla and Uzair Baloch entered a truce brokered by Qaumi Awami Tehreek chief Ayaz Latif Palijo, a pressure group, quintessentially led by the locals of Lyari, was concurrently gaining momentum in the neighbourhood.
It is the Save Lyari Movement – “a pressure group that was the result of the angst and helplessness of the people of Lyari” is how one of its leading members defines it.
The sole objective of the movement is to get rid of criminals from Lyari where the endless gang violence has crippled the daily lives of the residents.
The people associated with the movement held a number of rallies outside the Karachi Press Club in the last few months and received a groundswell of support from the Lyari residents, including the families that were displaced by the gang violence.
Led by elders whom the gangsters grew up respecting, the movement is arguably the biggest irritant the criminal elements face in the neighbourhood today. It is especially significant at a time when the criminals are striving hard to re-establish whatever goodwill they think they had with the residents that eroded considerably following the recent clashes.
“It’s not the police or the Rangers that they [gangsters] fear most. They have been dealing with the law enforcers for quite a while,” said a resident of Nawa Lane. “It’s the local people and their wrath which is haunting them. Particularly, after so many innocent people died in the recent violence.”
Two days after the truce accord, a peace rally was held in Lyari, led by the Lyari Ittehad Committee that was formed on the day of the ceasefire.
It comprises elders representing both gangs in the talks that helped broker the deal. “Hardly 50 people showed up there [at the peace rally]. In fact, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s candle light vigil on Sunday was more successful,” said another resident, a social activist who lives near Arth Chowk.
Some people associated with the movement have already been threatened by the gangsters to quit their activities.
But they say that the ceasefire would reinstate the rule of the criminal gangs, which the ordinary Lyariites do not want.
“It’s a very crucial moment. If we manage to stick to our objective for another one month, I believe we can deal a severe blow to the criminals’ activities here,” said one of the top activists associated with the movement requesting anonymity as he was recently threatened himself. “But what we fear is that if any untoward incident occurs within this period, the movement can die out.”
On Sunday, the Lyari Ittehad Committee held a national flags-raising ceremony near the football stadium on the occasion of the Pakistan Day. Residents say a minor skirmish erupted between the supporters of Baba Ladla and Uzair Baloch.
Witnesses say that when Sania Naz, a Pakistan People’s Party MPA from the area, brought the flag of her party, those from the Ladla side raised an objection and left the congregation.
Although Lyari is relatively calm these days, many residents say that the silence is actually an indication of a gathering storm.
The fear of another bloody spell of violence is pervasive in the area, as both gangs are still armed and dangerous.
“Most displaced people of the neighbourhood are yet to return to home. They know that peace in Lyari wouldn’t last long,” said a journalist who lives in the Haji Jummah Goth area of Lyari.