Who were the Truckanwalas and how did their criminal enterprise get three generations murdered?

They made their initial money in Punjab's transport business. But their criminal enterprise was involved in much more.

When the first shot rang out, most people thought it was fireworks. By the time the assassin’s fourth bullet thumped into Ameer Balaj Tipu there was pandemonium. One can only wonder what thoughts were going through the young crime boss’ mind as he slumped to the floor in the middle of a wedding. 

Was he thinking of his father? How Tipu Truckanwala, famous for his booming laugh, love of pet lions, and steely gaze, was chased around the parking structure of Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport before being gunned down in a hail of bullets? Did he think of how his father lay lifeless but breathing for two days at Mayo Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit despite six bullets inside him; the two dozen bottles of blood given to him by the doctors all in vain? 

Perhaps he thought even further back, to the murder of his indomitable grandfather Billa Truckanwala. How the gigantic man from Ichraa had been gunned down near his Dera in the walled city whilst exiting his local masjid after the fajar prayer. Maybe the young Balaj wished that his turn had come at a similarly pious moment. 

Or perhaps his final considerations in life were about the future. Were his two infant sons on his mind as he lay dying in a pool of blood? Did he wonder if years from now they would meet the same fate? The dying musings of Balaj Tipu will forever remain between him and his maker. By all accounts, the young scion of Lahore’s most famous crime family succumbed to the bullets without uttering any final words. 

The days since his murder have been marked by an eerie silence completely different from his father and his grandfather before him. No sprees of revenge shootings have been reported, and a blanket of silence has fallen over Lahore’s underworld. It is perhaps testament to the changing nature of criminal enterprise. After all, blood feuds are exhausting and expensive, and even gangsters have to worry about their bottom lines. But could this simply be the calm before the storm? 

Already Balaj’s younger brother Musab has taken over the family’s Dera in the Walled City where lions roam freely. For three generations this Dera has served as sanctuary, courtroom, prison, and home all wrapped into one for the damned, the wicked, and the undesirables of Lahore. But perhaps more than anything else, it has also been a hub of business ranging from transport to security and extortion. Inextricably tied with this business of crime is a network of bureaucrats, senior police officers, and politicians that have at different points given this family their patronage.

To understand this web of violence, malfeasance, and blood rivalry we must go back to the very beginning. As far back as the birth of Pakistan, when Billa Truckanwala was what his name suggested — an up-and-comer in the transport business.


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Abdullah Niazi
Abdullah Niazi
Abdullah Niazi is senior editor at Profit. He also covers agriculture and climate change. He can be reached at [email protected]


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