• The gangs of Karachi
July, 2012

The gangs of Karachi

A sharp study on who controls what — backed by political parties — in the ‘city of crime’

Karachi has been bedeviled by ethno-political violence for the last three decades. Unabated targeted killings on ethnic, political and sectarian basis, turf wars between different political and other criminal groups, activities of land grabbing, drug, and other mafias, gang wars, extortion, kidnappings for ransom, dacoities, robberies and other criminal acts are legion.

The law and order situation is not only taking a punishing economic toll on the city but also weighs heavily where social, psychological, political impact is concerned.

The situation has assumed such an alarming proportion that industrialists are relocating their units to other countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and even Cambodia. 

Dozens of criminal groups have emerged besides the political parties who are involved in multifarious crimes.  Political parties are engaged in turf wars to further their influence or cement grip on the areas they hold. On average, about 12 people lose their lives to the ongoing bloodletting every day.

The PPP-led coalition government appears itself aloof to the ongoing bloodshed in the financial hub of the country, which contributes about 70percent of the total revenue generated.

The authorities have fallen abysmally short in taking concrete measures to control the situation. Karachi police has become virtually dysfunctional in the face of ethno-political groups and gangs roaming the city.

It is instructive to analyze the city as per the Capital City Police Karachi’s administrative division of the city and the groups and stakeholders who control these areas.

 Karachi Capital City Police has divided the city into three zones:

West Zone: Has 30 police stations and areas falling under the jurisdiction are SITE Town, New Karachi Town, North Nazimabad Town, Gulberg Town, Liaquatabad Town, Orangi Town and Baldia Town.

East Zone: Has 34 police stations and areas under its jurisdiction, include Gulshan Town, Shah Faisal Town, Landhi Town, Korangi Town, Bin Qasim Town, Malir Town and Gadap Town.

South Zone: Has 32 police stations and areas under its jurisdiction are Kemari Town, Clifton, Saddar Town, Jamshaid Town and Lyari Town.

West Zone

The West Zone is the most affected by the ongoing ethno-political violence. Sindh Industrial & Trading Estate SITE was established in 1947 and has grown into the largest industrial area in Pakistan with more than 2,000 industrial units spread over 4,500 acres (18 km2), west of the Lyari River. This industrial area is one of the favourite hunting grounds of extortionists.

SITE is a Pakhtun-dominated area with Banaras Colony, Frontier Colony, Haroonabad, Islamia Colony, Metroville, Purana Golimar, Qasba Colony and Pathan Colony.

Awami National Party, Jamaat-e-Islami and Muttahida Qaumi Movement have a strong footing here while Pakistan People’s Party and several religious organizations also have a presence. Banned sectarian organizations are also active.

According to intelligence reports, almost every political and religious party operating in the area has armed wings involved in fund collection or extortion.

A law enforcement agency officer told Pique on the condition of anonymity that over Rs100 million are being collected every month by these groups from this area in extortion or funds.

The armed outfits of political parties are engaged in turf wars. Hundreds, including activists of different parties, have been killed as a result. A group of criminals with more than a hundred armed members is being supported by MQM while Akber Khattak is the head of the armed group of ANP. Baloch criminals, who are also active in the area, are being led by Naeem Baloch alias commando.

The armed group of Pakistan Sunni Tehrik is fighting with rivals under the stewardship of Amin alias Bhora, who is a resident of Choona Bhatti but operating in the area on the instruction of his party command.

Different political parties are operating in Orangi Town but primarily, the turf war is between MQM and ANP. The area has witnessed a large number of ethnic, political and sectarian killings during the last few years.

According to data collected by the police, more than 2,000 people have been killed in this town alone since 2008.

Baloch Goth, Iqbal Baloch, Benazir  Colony, Ghousia Baloch  Colony, Iqbal Baloch Colony are belts where the Baloch community is in a dominant position while Gabool Town, Khyber Mohalla, Madina Colony, Pakhtunabad, Banaras Chowk, Toori Bangash Colony are Pakhtun-dominated areas.

Ghaziabad, Gulshan Bahar, Hanifabad, Haryana Colony, Shah Khalik Colony form the dominant Urdu speaking population.

In these areas, activists of ANP and MQM are locked in a fight with Balochs supporting the former. The majority of other communities like Punjabis, Seraikis and Kashmiris also back anti-MQM forces.

The ANP armed group is led by Tariq Tareen, the former president of Pakhtun Student Federation, while the MQM group operates under the command of Ajmal Pahari, the arrested terrorist, whom is now running his gangs from the Central Jail.

More than 500 terrorists of both sides with heavy weapons operate in their strongholds. Sunni Tehrik is led by Sikandar Qadri alias Quetta Wala in this area. All groups boast hundreds of activists armed with sophisticated weapons.

Liaquatabad Town is an MQM stronghold but some areas, including Ilyas Goth, Haji Mureed Goth and others are ruled by Baloch and Sindhi communities. Balochs support the PPP while the majority of Sindhis in these areas actively back Sindhi nationalist groups. 

All domineering communities retain armed groups, which are engaged in heavy fighting. On the other hand, Liquatabad has several markets from where these groups collect extortion money.

The situation is the same in Gulberg Town, Nazimabad Town and North Karachi Town, where MQM dominates. There are only street crimes in these areas while sporadic incidents of targeted killings have also been reported. In these towns, ANP and MQM are locked in a fight.

In Mujahid Colony, Pahar Ganj, De Silva Town, and other surrounding areas of Nazimabad Town, both parties are baying for each other’s blood. The bordering Katti Pahari is the flashpoint with armed groups attacking each other’s positions routinely.

In North Karachi Town, MQM and Sunni Tehrik routinely engage in armed clashes to wrest control of the town’s industrial area. The groups are also involved in land grabbing and occupying plots and parks. Imran Qadri and Owais alias Kaka are leading the armed ST group against the MQM.

Baldia Town is host to multi-ethnic communities with MQM, ANP, PPP vying to seize control while other criminal groups are busy in loot and plunder. Baldia Town has Mohajir, Pakhtun, Baloch and Sindhi-dominated areas.

Armed groups of each party have constructed pickets in the areas which can be identified by the flag hoisted atop. Asif alias Dhaga, Ali alias Babu and Amir alias Bapu are commanding the ST group while Naeem Chota, Shahbaz and Kamran run the People’s Amn Committee. The ANP group is steered by Yasir Kabari, Mohabbat Khan and Ameerzada.

East Zone consists of six towns of which Gulshan Town is MQM-dominated but the rural and some central areas are controlled by ANP. Safoora Goth and Pahlwan Goth are under the control of ANP while in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, ANP and Sindhi nationalists are jointly fighting MQM.

The central areas of Gulshan Town, including Hassan Square, Sabzi Mandi, Ghareebabad and others are controlled by ANP. Muneer Khan and Akhter Khan alias Murghi wala are leading the armed wing of ANP in this area with more than 50 activists.

The 80 percent areas of Shah Faisal Town are controlled by the MQM while surrounding areas and Goths have a strong presence of Baloch and Sindhi communities.

Malir also boasts multi-ethnic communities but most of the area is controlled by the MQM. Rural Malir hosts a large number of Sindhi and Balochs, which offers stiff resistance to the MQM. The net result is strong deterioration in law and order.

Bin Qasim and Gaddap Town comprise over 80 percent of rural areas and are dominated by Sindhi and Baloch communities. In these areas, the Sindhi Nationalist Groups are fighting with each other for lead in extortion and land grabbing. Government land worth billion of rupees on National Highway has been grabbed by these groups.

Landhi and Korangi Towns are also multi-ethnic towns with the MQM in control. Some areas like Quaidabad, Dawood, Shairpao Colony, Chakra Goth, and the rural belt are dominated by ANP and Baloch. Armed groups of these parties are fighting over industrial zones of both towns, which accrue large sums of extortion.

The South Zone is the worst affected by the ongoing law and order situation. It seems like a la-la land. Armed groups of political parties are fighting only for sway over extortion here.

The zone boasts the largest business area of the city with 70 percent revenue generated by Karachi coming from here alone. Keemari, Saddar and Lyari Towns are known as old city areas. All groups are involved in an armed conflict to wrest control of the towns.

Huge amounts of extortion are collected from this area while businessmen are routinely kidnapped for ransom. Criminal elements in Lyari are supported by PPP and, in Saddar Town, the militant wing of MQM holds sway. The ANP rules the roost in Keemari town.

The police conducted an operation in Lyari Town in May this year but faced strong resistance for days. More than 1,500 people, including innocent Balochs and Urdu speaking citizens, have fallen victim to the gang warfare so far.

Basically, the war among the groups is only to seize the control of the markets as millions of rupees in extortion are being collected from this area.

The other two towns, Jamshaid Town and Clifton Town, house the elite. Clifton Town falls in the Red Zone while Jamshaid town is facing street crimes only.


Some areas are in the grip of severe violence. Gulistan-e-Jauhar is one. It was under the control of MQM but in 2009, ANP made inroads into the area and a strong group headed by Liaquat Bangash seized control of half the territory.

But the turf war has resulted in the killing of more than 300 people during last three years. Now, another group led by Mudassir alias Chief, is fighting the ANP with the support of MQM. Mudassir Chief was arrested a few months ago but released on bail at the behest of MQM.

On June 17, Liaquat Bangash was killed in an encounter with Rangers and after few hours, the MQM-backed group tried to seize control but failed in the face of strong resistance by the ANP group.

In PIB Colony, the armed group of MQM is fighting criminals of the banned People’s Amn Committee. PIB is a stronghold of the MQM but one belt of Pakistan Quarters is under the control of Balochs. Ahmed Ali Magsi controls the area. More than 35 people belonging to both sides in this area have been killed within months.

In the rural areas of the city, the activists of Sindhi nationalist parties hold sway. Land is rife and after converting land into plots, the same is being sold with fake documents. Land worth billions of rupees has been sold so far.

The groups of nationalist parties, including Jeay Sindh, Sindh National Party, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, and several others are fighting over land and have killed dozens of rival activists and innocent citizens.

These groups are active, especially in Mosmiat, Gulistan-e-Johar, Khokhrapar and other rural areas. A strong group of land grabbers led by Safdar Sarki, Ameer Ali Rind, Akhter Barohi and the leaders of Jeay Sindh operates here.

On the other hand, extremist religious groups are also active in the city. They are involved in sectarian violence, including Tehrik Taliban, Lashkar Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Muhammad. These organizations are working in pockets.

TTP and LJ activists operate in Banaras, Sohrab Goth, Quaidabad, Sherpao Colony, Keemari, Baldia and other areas. Sipah-e-Muhammad is active in Jaffer Tayyar Society, Abbas Town, Hussain Hazara Goth, Rizvia Society, Ancholi and several other areas.

Sunni Tehrik prevails in Poorana Golimar, Nazimabad, Garden, Morton Quarter, Jamshaid Road, Godhra, Qasba Colony, areas of Korangi, Landhi, Shah Faisal and other areas while the rival of ST, the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba, is also operating under the aegis of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat.

The mutually destructive conflict between the LJ and SMP has led to the killing of more than 2,000 activists in the last half-a-decade.

Several religious scholars of both groups, including Ahsan Ullah Farooqi, Mufti Saud Ur Rehman, Maulana Aslam Shaikhpoori and several others of SSP while Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Ammeni, Dr, Zakir Hussain, Imran Ali Zaidi of the Shia community have been target-killed in sectarian violence.

The main activists of LJ like Waseem alias Baroodi, Usman Kurd were arrested before being released on bail. Police and CID have arrested more than 600 terrorists of banned organizations but due to affiliation with political parties, security forces have been forced to let them go.

The writer is Karachi-based crime reporter.

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The gangs of Karachi

The gangs of Karachi

A sharp study on who controls what — backed by political parties — in the ‘city of crime’