Sheedi adolescents develop taste for crime
By: Saher Baloch
Karachi: With guns hanging from their shoulders, boys as young as 18, roam around the streets in Manghopir, looking for drug addicts.
For the past six months, five men have been gunned down in Manghopir’s Sheedi Goth. The boys there have been assigned to shoot anyone, who looks like a drug addict Abdul Ghani, a resident and an activist of the area, said that incident was one of the many cases, where people were shot without even being asked for their names and what they did.
“Both the seller and the buyer [of drugs] are shot dead without any questions asked,” he added.
The growing criminal tendencies in the Manghopir area have become apparent among the seventh generation of the Sheedi community – Pakistanis of African descent – residing in Sheedi Goth as well. With the passage of time, the gypsies, who were just interested in enjoying the four-day Sheedi Mela in the area, have been found guilty of murder and shoot-outs, deeply embarrassing the ones whose purpose to attend the festival was purely religious.
This is the third consecutive year that the Sheedi Mela could not be held. The residents, who usually welcomed the Sheedi community members from all over Sindh, recently attacked the Sheedi Goth and forced the visitors to leave.
Some of them, who stayed back, are involved with the groups that usually get into brawls with those affiliated with the gangs of Lyari. The basic aim is to keep the residents in a state of fear.
Recently, two more people were killed near the Garam Chashma in Manghopir. The locals said the men were found using drugs and shot dead.
Ghulam Akbar Sheedi, the organiser of the Mela, refused to speak about the number of incidents in which his community was involved. Ghani later said it was Akbar’s son, who started the trend of equipping community members, known for their peaceful ways, with arms and ammunition.
“Though Qadir Sheedi [Ghulam Akbar Sheedi’s son] is dead, the whole community has become involved in criminal activities just because of his antics,” Ghani added.
Thirty-two-year-old Abdul Qadir Sheedi was killed last month in broad daylight near a bus stop in Surjani Town by ‘unidentified men’. Even as those who did not know the man were shocked to see him murdered, many who did and silently wished to see him dead were happy to learn about his fate.
For many years, the four tribes of the Sheedi community from all over Sindh travelled to Manghopir in hordes and settled in makeshift camps beside the shrine of Baba Mangho.
The Mela had everything that people coming from far away had heard of. The community sang songs that locals said were reminiscent of their African roots, and possessed people predicted future in slurred voices.
“What went wrong was the increasing presence of gangsters, who harassed Sheedis by taking over their lands and building boundary walls around them,” said Ghani.
One incident, in which the sacred Alam was pulled down and set on fire, was etched in everyone’s mind. “The constant tiff did not go down well with Qadir,” Ghani added.
“It was a routine thing then. Not that much has changed now as one or two people are killed every day, either by ‘mistake’ or deliberately.”
Amid all this turmoil, the police are the last to know about the killings. Even when the Manghopir police was called to speak about the increasing crime rate in the area, they refused to comment on the issue.
Manghopir SHO Choudhry Mohammad Bashir was dealing with some ‘technical issues’. He kept disconnecting calls made by The News, saying he could not hear properly.
“They [the police] see only one reason for the killings in the area: family dispute. That’s all we ever hear from them,” Ghani said. That attitude forced many of the residents to turn towards gang lords for protection.
The influence of ‘Lala’
Qadir was subsequently sent to jail on the basis of the “fake cases” registered against him by one of his rivals in 2010.
After staying in prison for a year, the first thing he did was to get back at the people who were responsible for putting him there. He created his own gang in Manghopir, but moved to Lyari. During the time he was in jail, the use and sale of a drug named “Crystal” shot up in the area.
“With the increasing drug addiction in the area, some people went up to him and asked him to help control the trend,” said Ghani. The residents, who could not openly name politically-backed gangsters responsible for spreading the addiction in their area, thought Qadir’s gang could be their saviour.
However, Qadir had no such plans as he made a gang of his own including young boys and armed them with guns. The adolescents looked up to him, eager to follow every command of their “Lala” (big brother).
“Their first task was to shoot anyone smoking drugs,” said Saeed Baloch, a resident of the area.
At present, there are three to four groups active in the area. Interestingly, none of them have any names. Instead, their groups are known by a number, for instance 555 or 420 etc.
Even after Qadir’s death, murders and lootings are taking place as smoothly and brazenly as they did before. Ghani said doing anything about the area looked like a lost cause so far.
“Education falls last on everyone’s priority list, as there is no money to eat, and so do sports. With poverty rampant in the area, young people are willing to do anything for a few thousand rupees. We can only wait and see the remaining of the sane people in the area getting killed as well,” he added dejectedly.