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Uzair Baloch the lonely gangster

Uzair Baloch was on Monday produced before an antiterrorism court after Pakistan army handed him over to the prison authorities. He had been in the army’s custody for three years.

Uzair Baloch is the last living boss of the decades-long Lyari Gang War. All his friends — and enemies — have over the years been killed by security forces. There is no one left, at least none of his calibre and fame.

Rehman Baloch aka Rehman Dakait, his mentor, was killed by encounter specialist Aslam Chaudhry, who was himself killed by the the Taliban in a suicide attack. Arshad Pappu, Rehman’s and then Uzair’s biggest rival, was allegedly killed by Uzair himself. Ghaffar Zikri, who became his enemy number one after Arshad Pappu’s death, was killed by the Rangers. Baba Ladla, once his top lieutenant turned biggest enemy, was killed too. Jabbar Jaingo is also dead.

Uzair Baloch rose to fame when he was declared chief of the powerful Lyari Gang after Rehman’s death. Not much was known about him outside Lyari before that. He was then sworn in in a ceremony and became Sardar Uzair Jan Baloch. It’s not quite clear he was the Sardar of which Baloch tribe, but he enjoyed near-absolute power in the affairs of Lyari at that time.

Lyari is a poor Baloch neighbourhood in Karachi and traditionally supports Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which some believe has supported the gangs and used them as proxies. Uzair Baloch supported PPP too and tried his hand at politics. But it was not his thing and soon developed differences with the party.

He had to flea from Lyari after a Rangers operation. Some observers say he was dumped by the PPP because he had become too ambitious and powerful. He ran out of the country. He was arrested from Dubai in 2014 and brought back to Pakistan.

In 2017, the Pakistan army took him into custody on espionage charges and “leak of sensitive security information to foreign intelligence agencies.” Uzair was once considered in the good books of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies.

Lyari is a much more peaceful place these days as compared to the gory days of the gang violence. Uzair Baloch was responsible for much of that violence.

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