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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Amn body — genesis & ‘peace’ role

KARACHI, : The People`s Amn Committee, whose open support by Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza on Sunday triggered a fresh spell of wrangling between the two main coalition partners in the Sindh government, was formed to sustain a ceasefire between the warring gangs of Lyari in early 2008. While it seems to have achieved that goal to a certain extent, it has increasingly been associated with an extortion racket in the city.
Lyari had been engulfed in the gang warfare since 2001 till recently, during which period perhaps hundreds of people were killed.

Even a representative of the Katchi Rabita Committee (KRC), an ethnic rival of the PAC, while talking to gave the credit to the Amn (peace) Committee for ending the bloodshed in Lyari.
But Karim Bhai of the KRC media cell added that after reaching a ceasefire, the gangs had turned to extortion, targeting peaceful citizens.
Lately, the PAC has become synonymous with extortion, allegations being that it has been sending extortion slips not only to the area markets, but even to Saddar`s electronic market, law-enforcement officials and office-bearers of market associations maintain. Dawn
However, some senior officials of the law-enforcement agencies, who didn`t want to be named, told they were clear that most of the extortion business was being run from Lyari under the umbrella of the PAC, which was being given sort of official patronage.
“There are reports that a certain number of motorcycles have been distributed among the committee members for `greater mobility`,” an official said.
A spokesman for the PAC, Zafar Baloch, dismissed the allegations of extortion being levelled against the committee, but admitted that its name was being exploited by unscrupulous elements.
“Yes, there can be black sheep among us, and we have taken to task such elements,” he said.
He, however, pointed to a rare ethnic discrimination in the downtown business district. He alleged that at the behest of a certain political party, Baloch labourers were fired from jobs by traders.
The poor labourers, he said, were fired just because of their ethnic background, he said, adding that some of such element did indulge in extortion as they started sending extortion slips to the same shopkeepers who had fired them.
Zafar Baloch claimed that activists of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM-Haqiqi) were also involved in the extortion racket and several extortion calls had been traced to a Liaquatabad radio base station.
“We have recently caught some people receiving extortion money in the medicine market in our name,” he said.
Regarding the genesis of the PAC, the spokesman said peace was achieved among the Lyari warring gangs by prominent elders who held talks with the rival groups, and area by area a ceasefire was achieved and the Holy Book was used to take pledges for peace.
The PAC is not a political movement, but a social forum which has helped bring peace to Lyari and played an important role in the infrastructure development of the area, Zafar Baloch said, adding that now the committee had its presence in Shanti Nagar, Malir, Old Golimar, Jahangir Road, Mowach Goth and Keamari Town.
Initially, even the People`s Party was worried about the PAC role, the spokesman remarked.
Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik is on record having said that the Lyari Amn Committee has nothing to do with the PPP.
Speaking about the emergence of the Katchi Rabita Committee, the PAC spokesman said there were no differences between the two major communities living in Lyari.
The Katchi Rabita Committee
The Katchi Rabita Committee was formed in the backdrop of the April 27, 2009 incident in which two men of the Katchi community were burnt alive in Lyari.
Subsequent to the incident, no FIR was registered and no judicial commission formed to investigate the matter, said Karim Bhai, a spokesman for the KRC.
Describing the KRC, he said it comprised the oldest natives of Karachi, mainly constituting Memons and Gujarati- and Kathiawari-speaking people.
Recently, the KRC held a demonstration in front of the Chief Minister`s House and subsequently a public meeting was held at the Kakri Ground in Lyari, the KRC spokesman added.
Referring to the situation of Lyari, Mr Karim said even the elected representatives of the PPP from the area could not visit their own constituencies.
He said the Baloch community was worst affected by the PAC and they were bringing a bad name to the PPP as well. He held the PAC responsible for all social and criminal ills in Lyari.
“We, the oldest natives of the city, are being forced to migrate away from our homes in Lyari,” Karim said.
Answering a question about the objectives of the KRC, the spokesman said they had no political objectives; they just wanted peace in Lyari, adding that there was no dispute between the Katchi and Baloch communities of Lyari.
Responding to an impression that the KRC was being backed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the KRC spokesman said the day they decided to join the MQM, the PPP would lose its traditional Lyari vote-bank.

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