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Criminal Hubris? Karachi’s Gangsters and the Rough Road from Strong-Arm Brokerage to Political Patronage


Since the 1970s, Karachi’s inner city "slum" of Lyari has been the stronghold of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The PPP has leveraged on ties with the criminal group of the People’s Aman Committee (PAC) to maintain local control. In turn, the PAC has secured illicit activities such as drug trafficking under the umbrella of political protection. Recently, Lyari's gangsters made an attempt to join the political fray on their own terms, building upon state institutions and resources to counterfeit state sovereignty. Building upon prolonged in situ fieldwork and interviews with local "dons", this contribution retraces the history of politico-criminal configurations in view of transformations of mobilisation and patronage networks in Lyari and Karachi. The dialectics of terror and generosity informing the PAC's political project are explored alongside its negotiation by local residents. Finally, the ambiguous role of security forces in the restoration of “order” in the neighbourhood is examined.
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