Karachi: Two notorious gangs of criminals killing one another's members in a teeming, poor neighbourhood of a mega-city; death of innocent citizens by stray bullets in this intra-gang war; inefficient and corrupt police force unable to protect helpless residents; drug and gambling dens operating with impunity; and ruthless violence, blood and tears.
Yes, these could be some of the perfect elements of a blockbuster movie, but ironically these are the facts of life in one of Karachi's oldest neighbourhood - Lyari.
"No respite in Lyari gang-war," screams a headline in May 15 issue of English-language daily The News. "Police fail, gangsters impose virtual curfew in Lyari," said Daily Times in its May 13 issue. "Minor girl killed in Lyari crossfire," read another in The News in its May 9 issue. "Six die in Lyari firing," says one on May 7.
It has been several years now that Lyari has become one of the most crime-infested parts of Karachi. Located only a couple of kilometres from the main financial and business hub, its narrow, filthy labyrinth-like lanes are considered the most lawless and dangerous in the city.
Long considered the main stronghold of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Bhutto family in Karachi, Lyari acquired notoriety for crimes in recent years. Now many of its residents - who are predominantly Balochs and Makranis - say that they live in a constant state of fear.
"Now people are afraid to send their children out of their homes," said Ameer Khan Chandio, who was once a leader of a left-wing students group and now works for the PPP. "We have seen Lyari transforming - from a peaceful neighbourhood to where it stands now. Criminals are ruling the place now," he told Gulf News.
Police say that more than a dozen people, including a police official, have been killed only in the month of May in the sprawling Lyari Town, home to more than 600,000 people. In 2007, more than two dozen people were killed in tit-for-tat killings between gangs.
Imran Shaukat, the town police officer, said that a split in the notorious gang of Rahman Dakait (Robber) triggered the bloody cycle of violence and vengeance. "Rahman was arrested by police, but he managed to escape last year, while his rival Arshad Papu is still in prison." Supporters of both Dakait and Papu regularly clash each other and often target even innocent relatives and friends of their rival gang members. Both groups allegedly have political patronage, which has criminalised the politics of the area. A police crackdown on members of one of the gangs earlier this month was seen by many residents as a selective and biased operation, which led to protests.
While police officer Imran Shaukat claims that the operation was not a political one, official sources say that one of the gang leaders is trying to get himself pardoned from the state and is lobbying for a senate ticket. "The police force is helpless. There is no political will to tackle Lyari gangsters," said one police official on the condition of anonymity.