The Legend of Rahman Dakait & Lyari Gang War

Rehman Dakait has been making headlines for some years now, and his nabbing in Jinnah Town in Quetta made front page news. In urban Karachi, he is a mythical figure from the feared but not talked about underworld.

According to the police, he is a man who killed his mother and after that never looked back. Khadija Bibi was murdered in cold blood in her own home by her own son Rahman, who was in his 20s then. The atmosphere in his home was that of a criminal. His father was Haji Dad Mohammad alias Dadal, a petty criminal with some notoriety in his time that his son would surpass, grabbing headlines many years later. And so began the notorious legend of Rehman Dakait who some people even see as a hero.

His arrest was followed by protests by some people from Lyari outside the Karachi Press Club. In this city, even someone like Rehman Dakait has supporters. He is the product of the time he spent in the war torn lanes of Lyari. At a time when he has been painted purely as a cold blooded murderer who chews taryaag (a drug that induces insomnia), kills, extorts and threatens, Kolachi investigates his past to figure out how Rehman became Rehman Dakait.

History of Lyari

Lyari is the oldest locality of the provincial metropolis, where diverse people from different sects and tribes once resided in a peaceful and amicable manner. The majority of the population is of Baloch origin, others include Sindhis, Urdu speaking and Gujrati Kathiawaris (Khachis). The Baloch have been residing in Lyari in Sindh for time immemorial. The oldest part of the city, it is little wonder that Lyari is the least developed. With narrow lanes that interconnect with more narrow lanes, it is an area where cars cannot be driven. As such it is mostly pedestrian and the somewhat well-to-do commute on motor bikes. It has rampant unemployment, water problems, sewerage problems and all the social issues that stem from a city area being congested. When people live too close for comfort, strange things happen.

The biggest and most lethal of these is the emergence of crime. When people feel deprived, they turn to guns. Lyari, an area with rampant unemployment, low literacy and menial job opportunities, was ripe for the crime wave that would culminate in the rise and fall of Rehman Dakait.

Petty criminals

Some 50 years ago in the mid 60s, Sher Muhammad alias Sheru and Dad Muhammad alias Dadal (Rehman Dakait’s father) started a drug business in the locality. Back at that time, Pakistan was still young and Karachi even younger and Lyari was not the cess pit it has now become. The distance between the have and have nots wasn’t so big and the residents of Lyari lived in relative peace.

Sheru and Dadal were brothers who liked to have a good time. Film fanatics, they worked as ushers at cinema houses across the city. In their free time which they had a lot of, they liked to smoke hashish. This lead to them dealing the drug to fund their own habit. When they started that, they came up against the uncrowned drug king of Lyari, a man called Kala Nag. This was the first experience they had of coming up against a criminal king pin and it reinforced their belief in themselves.

Those were the days of knives, not guns. The Afghan Jihad against evil communism that would flood Pakistan and Karachi with weapons was still a decade away. The rivalry between Sheru and Dadal on one side and Kala Nag on the other continued, but no lives were destroyed because there was no cross fire. Kala Nag was killed when he jumped from a building while running from the police. Sheru and Dadal resumed their drug peddling activities with greater ease, eventually dying petty criminals of natural causes.

Crime heats up

As time went by and Karachi became more overpopulated, more people moved to Lyari. The area became more cramped and congested and lay in shambles. The narrow lanes were perfect for crime to fester in and fester it did.

Allah Baksh the son of Kala Nag played a bigger game than his father and came to be known as Kala Nag II. But two greater powers were on the rise in the deprived Lyari locality who would come to play a great roll in Rehman Dakait’s life. Haji Lal Mohammad aka Laloo and Iqbal Babu Dakait were the forces to be reckoned with. Ultimately Kala Nag II joined hand with Babu Dacait and the two worked together against Laloo. Kala Nag was arrested in 1991 and to date he remains in prison.

Crime was getting bigger now. Petty drug peddlers were now armed to the teeth and realized that extortion was another way of making money. The rival gangs (Laloo Group and Babu Dacait Group) controlled their own sections of Lyari. The residents needed to be loyal to the one operating their area or else…

At this crucial point, gang wars were going to spiral out of control and this is when Rehman, Dadal’s son stepped in. The young man who would become Rehman Dakait was about to go through a life changing experience.

Training days

With trade coming in fast and furious to Lyari there were more chances of extortion. Haji Laloo and Babu Dakait were gunning for each other – literally! Babu hired Hanif Bajola, a contract killer to kill Laloo. Simultaneously, Laloo was training his friend Dadalís orphan son to make a hit on Babu.

To people familiar with what happened in those times, one story adds to the Rehman Dakait myth. It is said that Rehman went to kill Babu armed with a klashnikov. When the two were face to face, Babu laughed at him and said “You may have Dadal’s name, but ultimately you are my son.” He revealed to Rehman that he had been having an affair with Khadija Bibi, Rehman’s mother for years. Rehman left in a rage and shot his mother instead. The day was September 18, 1995. This was the probably the day when Rehman Dakait was truly born.

With all the papers reporting that the first person Rehman Dakait killed was his mother, the image that forms is that of a cold blooded killer of the worst kind. But imagine the shock and anger of a young man making his way up the ranks of the Laloo Group in Lyari who goes in for the ultimate hit – to take out his godfather’s nemesis and has his mother’s adultery thrown in his face. It is a story straight out of a Ram Gopal Varma pot boiler, but Rehman Dakait bears testimony to the fact that these things really happen. When souls are fractured beyond repair, killers are born.

Haji Laloo wins, Rehman Dakait rises

The gang wars in Lyari went on and in the ensuing struggle for power, it was Babu Dakait who emerged as the greatest loser. Four of his sons perished in the conflict. Haji Laloo also had a son, Arshad Pappu, but he kept him in the background. He had a far superior ally in Rehman Dakait who was truly coming in to his own. Perhaps there was no need for him to put Arshad Pappu’s life on the line. The game was getting dirtier and as concern rose over the gang wars in Lyari, the police stepped in.

In 1996, Babu Dakait suffered a paralytic stroke and was arrested. In the same year, Rehman Dakait and Yasser Arafat (Haji Laloo’s son) were also arrested. At that time, there were 20 cases against Rehman, out of which Haji Lal bailed him out of 19. Crime lords have their ways and means so it wasn’t surprising when Rehman Dakait managed to escape in 1997 when he was being taken to a court hearing.

After escaping, Rehman along with Haji Laloo started purely criminal activities. Kidnapping for ransom, extortion, hired killings and of course, the staple trade drugs. The two worked together and rose in power, but the ultimate battle for supremacy was inevitable. The only thing stopping it was that Rehman owed much to his mentor, who must have been somewhat of a father figure in his life. However, tensions between Laloo and Rehman started to show in the late ‘90s when Rehman kidnapped one Saleem Memon from Kharadar. Haji Laloo called Rehman and asked him to release Saleem, saying that he knew his family. Rehman did exactly that, only to later discover that Haji Laloo had taken the ransom money for Saleem and cut him out of the picture and robbed him of his share. Rehman did not retaliate, but he must have felt uneasy, because at that time, the other power on the rise in the Haji Laloo Group was Arshad Pappu, Laloo’s son and therefore heir apparent to the Lyari King throne. Rehman was slowly learning how to read the writing on the wall and soon it would all become very clear.

The last straw

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the death of Faiz Mohammad who was also known as Faizoo. He was a transporter by profession and a friend of Rehman Dakait. However, he was not a criminal, but being a resident of Lyari and a friend of Rehman, he came into the cross fire. Arshad Pappu asked him for extortion money , which Faizoo refused to pay, saying that he was friends with Rehman. Arshad Pappu and his henchmen shot him and then kidnapped him. Faizoo’s body was found later; he had bled to death.

Rehman held on to his horses for some time more. In 2001 Laloo was arrested and sent to jail. Arshad Pappu took over his father’s gang and came head to head against Rehman Dacait. The cycle was complete. There were two rival gangs trying to control Lyari and making money in the process.

From 2001, till today over 20 policemen have been killed in the line of duty. Other than them over 350 people have lost their lives to the gang war that ensued. Many efforts were made to clean up Lyari but till Rehman Dakait’s arrest in Quetta, the efforts seem to be too little too late.

Operation Cleanup

To end the gangwar more than six Town Police Officers were changed because they could not accomplish the monumental task of ending this gang war. Two or three times, a designated force was established whose sole purpose was to clean up Lyari, but to no avail. In 2004 the ICU (Industrial Crime Unit) was created to finish extortion. It was disbanded in November 2005 for reasons unknown. It was replaced by the the Lyari Task Force, which is responsible for arresting Rehman Dakait. Arshad Pappu is still in hiding.