When I was in high school, I had this very eccentric driver. His name was Shaukat Baloch and what a character he was. With a cigarette in his mouth at all times, which I’m pretty sure was filled with something other than tobacco, Shaukat loved to tell tales of the notorious gangsters in Lyari. I’m not sure if most of his anecdotes were true, but they were definitely interesting enough to make me want to do a little research of my own about the mythical Lyari neighborhood of Karachi.
Here are some interesting stories I found out about some of the most renowned badass gangsters of Lyari:
Kala Nag literally translates into Black Cobra. He is said to be one of the first gangsters, if not the absolute first one, in the area that made it to the big leagues. He came from a life of poverty like a lot of people who end up joining the underworld. Kala Nag‘s real name was Nabi Baksh started his career as a pick pocket and a petty criminal back in the 1960’s.
According to stories, Kala Nag, unlike all the others, used to micro-manage everything alone. For him having control over everything was the real kick. Soon after he joined the underworld, he started peddling hashish that was being smuggled from Afghanistan. Later on, he expanded his operations, running an entire network of pick pockets and drug peddlers. He went on to train two bandits Shehru and Dadal (their story is discussed below) that eventually became the reason of his fall.
Kala Nag 2
Fazlu aka Kala Nag 2 emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the Lyari scene. His ascension to power was rather quick and swift. Fazlu was easily able to defeat two brothers Sheru and Dadal (who we’re going to talk about below) who had, by that time, started to fight among themselves. Joining hands with another influential underworld player Iqbal Babu, Kala Nag 2 was able to overcome the brothers and put himself on top of the gang hierarchy.
By then, gone were the days of knives and fists. Lyari was arming itself with sophisticated weaponry. Mind you, this was the 1980’s now and the Soviet-Afghan war was in full force. As a result, some of the weapons meant for the mujahadeen were being smuggled back into Pakistan and ending up in the hands of gangs of Karachi. Kala Nag 2 and Babu were at the forefront of this new wave of violence in Lyari with Haji Lalu standing in their way.
Sheru and Dadal
These two brothers just had a thing for raising hell wherever they went. According to lore, they had a weakness for whiskey and American movies. Their infatuation with cinema resulted in them scalping movie tickets outside theaters. Perhaps all the Westerns they saw might have been an inspiration for them to start a career of crime and violence.
Kala Nag took the two brothers under his wing and taught them the tricks of the trade. However soon these two began to encroach Kala Nag‘s territory and seceded from his organization. This was the birth of the notorious gang wars that still plague Karachi’s bastard child. At the time, gang fights mainly were done through knives and fists. They became a formidable force in Lyari following Kala Nag‘s death which people say was at the hands of the Police.
Haji Lalu, you could say was one of Dadal’s formidable disciple. Lyari, during the 80’s, was divided between his gang and that of Fazlu and Babu. Gang violence had reached a new high with Lyari being a constant battlefield. Also, the gangs had graduated to heroin trade with extortion as an additional revenue stream. While Babu was hatching plans to kill Lalu through hired guns, Lalu was grooming Dadal’s orphaned son Rehman Dacoit to do vice versa. Rehman was fueled by a thirst for revenge the motive to bring down the guys responsible for his father’s death. Before either of the hits could take place both Fazlu and Babu were sent behind bars in 1996 and 1997, respectively.
Salman Brohi was Lalu’s new adversary now and by virtue the only thing standing between him and the throne of Lyari. He successfully got Salman assassinated through Rehman Dacoit and became the undisputed king of Lyari underworld.
Arshad Pappu was Haji Lalu’s son and heir to the gang throne. Following his father’s arrest in the early 2000’s Arshad was quick to name himself king. By this time Rehman Dacoit, the son of Dadu (one of the brothers, Sheru and Dadal that were discussed above. Yeah, keeping up with the characters of the gangs of Karachi are as tricky as the Game of Thrones) had split with his former mentor and Godfather Haji Lalu. So the cycle of in fighting and power struggle carried on with Arshad Pappu taking on Rehman.
Tensions rose exponentially when Arshad’s men decided to desecrate the grave of Rehman’s father, Dadal. It is also said that both Rehman and Arshad were loosely connected with two rival political parties in Karachi. The opening act of war between both gangs came when Arshad killed a transported named Faiz Mahmood in 2003. Faiz was an ally of Rehman and father of Uzair Baloch. Arshad Pappu met his demise in 2013 and is said to have been tied to a car naked and dragged on the streets of Lyari. It is said that Baba Ladla and Uzair Baloch both of whom by that time had ascended to power played football with Arshad’s head.
Perhaps the most notorious of them all, Rehman Dacoit spread terror in the hearts of even those living far-off from Lyari. Born in 1974 (according to some sources 1980), he was embroiled in the cycle of gang violence, from birth. He received his basic education at Trinity Private School only to drop out at an early age. He, however, did receive his matriculation, in prison. Rehman started out peddling drugs and committed his first murder at the age of thirteen. By the next four years, him and his comrades had successfully killed many of Iqbal Bau’s men. These included Iqbal’s four son.
During 1995 Rehman killed his own mother Fahmida Shireen. Legend has it that Rehman went on to kill Babu only to find out that his mother had a long standing affair with his dad’s arch rival. Certain rumors suggest that Babu laughed to his face and suggested that he, in fact, was Rehman’s father. Meanwhile, Fahmida’s relatives suggest that the death was caused by an accident when Rehman was cleaning his Kalashnikov.
Rehman was a folk figure in Lyari from the start. He successfully escaped from police custody on several occasions earning him an aura of invincibility. Additionally, Rehman also had a Robin Hood status in the eyes of certain residents of Lyari. Unlike other gangsters, he wanted to directly enter the world of politics. Starting the People’s Aman Committee, he went on to form a political presence of sorts but couldn’t manage to the hit the mark. The organization was banned in 2011 and declared a terrorist organization. Rehman met his demise in 2009 in a police encounter. During his funeral, clashes erupted and resulted in two deaths and 8 injuries. He had a total of 80 cases registered against him upon death.
And that, ladies and gentlemen is just a tip of the iceberg of gang wars that are a part of the saga of ‘Gangs of Karachi’. If you’re interested to find out more, let us know and we shall dig deeper and bring you a more comprehensive guide to everything gang-related.
If you have anything to add to these stories, or want to share any other such crazy ones, just reach out to us.
Cover image via: sluderlaw.com