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Is Kutchi Rabita Committee any good in a peaceful Lyari?

February 29, 2016

Failure in recent LG polls shows KRC has lost its appeal;leaders reorganising committee’s structure to regain lost turf

Karachi

After failing to make a mark in the recently-held local government polls in Karachi, the Kutchi Rabita Committee has decided to regain its turf by reorganising its structure.

As part of its efforts to revive its appeal, the KRC organised a massive rally in Malir’s Khokhrapar neighbourhood on February 22, marking its seventh founding day.

Members of the Kutchi community from various parts of the city participated in the rally in large numbers.

Abdullah Hussain Haroon, Pakistan’s former permanent envoy to the United Nations and also the KRC patron-in-chief, and leaders of many Sindhi nationalist parties, spoke at the rally.

Akhter Hussain Kutchi, a central leader of the committee, said the rally showed that the KRC was still an influential political group in the city and enjoyed the support of the Kutchi community.

“The Rangers-led crackdown against criminals in the city has provided us with a great opportunity to re-launch our political activities,” he told The News.

Kutchis are one of the indigenous communities of the city and mainly concentrated in Lyari, Malir, Baldia Town, Keamari, Ibrahim Hyderi, Mowach Goth and New Karachi. Belonging to the Kutch area in the Indian state of Gujarat, they have been living in Karachi and other parts of Sindh for decades and call themselves Sindhis.

Gul Hassan Kalmati, a researcher specialising in the history of Karachi, believes a large number of Kutchis had come to Karachi during the development of the city’s port between 1901 and 1905.

Kutchis have their jamaats (social organisations) based on family and caste relationships. Their important castes are Kutchi Memon, Khatri, Hingora, Loharwada, Hangoro, Soomro and Mundara.

KRC leaders say that there are around 2.5 million Kutchis live in Karachi.

They also have relatives living in the province’s rural districts of Thatta and Badin.

Kutchis either own small businesses or opt for skilled and semi-skilled professions.

A large number of them are fishermen. Those living in Lyari work in the Old City area, Karachi’s central business district

In Lyari, Kutchis live in Nayabad, Kharadar, Moosa Lane, Khadda Market, Hingorabad, Baghdadi, Chakiwara, Kumhar Wara, Agra Taj Colony, and Bihar Colony neighbourhoods.

KRC: a profile

The KRC, a platform of various organisations representing the Kutchi jamaats, was formed in 2009 to protect the community from the gangsters of the People’s Aman Committee.

The gangsters extorted money from Kutchi businessmen and harassed the overall community in Lyari.

The KRC leadership comprised the elders of the jamaats and prominent businessmen. To run the group’s affairs, a 107-member supreme council was formed.

After the formation of the KRC, the situation worsened as the People’s Aman Committee gangsters started harassing ordinary Kutchis.

In July 2011, the conflict forced over 1,000 Kutchi families to flee their homes in Lyari and shift to other Kutchi-populated neighbourhoods of the city and the Badin and Thatta districts.

The residents of Lyari still shudder when they recall the days when gangsters were attacking the homes and shops of Kutchis in the area with rocket launchers, automatic rifles and grenades.

The KRC maintained that since 2009, over 400 Kutchis, including women and children, had been killed by the gangsters.

“We are a peaceful community and active in the field of philanthropy,” said Amjad Hingora, a community elder who lives in Agra Taj Colony, Lyari.

“Our response to gang attacks was only peaceful protests and sit-ins. Instead of protecting our community, police and the Sindh government provided shelter to People’s Aman Committee’s gangsters who carried out coordinated attacks on Kutchi mohallahs,” he added. However, a section of analysts and police officials familiar with the violence in Lyari said the KRC was a reluctantly violent formed to fight back the gangsters.

“In fact, Kutchis are a very peaceful community in general and its members have been victims rather than being perpetrators gang violence,” said a police officer who was deputed in Lyari between 2009 and 2011.

He added that the KRC had also sought help from anti-People’s Aman Committee groups including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Arshad Pappu-led gang to protect the community from the gangsters. Sindhi nationalist parties too assisted the displaced Kutchi families and pressured the Pakistan People’s Party’s Sindh government to take some action.

No need for KRC?

The KRC and the Kutchis are satisfied with Rangers-led operation in Lyari. The restoration of peace in the area seems to have diminished the importance of the KRC and that clearly reflected in the recent local government polls.

Many Kutchi jamaats and individuals preferred to contest the polls on the tickets of the PPP, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or as independent candidates, instead of the KRC’s platform.  I

Riaz Sohail, a journalist who covered has extensively covered the gang violence in Lyari violence, said the KRC was not a political party and formed on a temporary basis to protect the community.

“That’s why after peace returned to Lyari, Kutchi jamaats and individuals opted to contest the polls on the tickets of political parties instead of the KRC,” he added.

KRC leader Akhter Hussain Kutchi said the committee dwindling popularity had compelled it to dissolve its supreme council at the February 22 gathering.

“The community is unhappy with the PPP for supporting Lyari’s gangs. The KRC is the only platform that can address the issues faced by the community,” he added

“We are in the process of reorganising the group and using all forums available to address the community’s issues.”

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