Abdul Karim Khan Sher Khan, aka Karim Lala, was a name all Mumbaikars Knew and feared in Mumbai from the 1960s.
Karim Lala was a native of Kunar province in Afghanistan, Karim Khan was born in 1911. he arrived in the Mumbai from Peshawar sometime between the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Described as a almost 7 feet tall Pashtun, in Hussain Zaidi’s book Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of Mumbai Mafia.
He opened a gambling den in South Bombay. Huge profits turned him as moneylender to most customers who came to gamble. Thus, Karim Khan was renamed Karim Lala.
Over the 1950s and 60s, Lala expanded his business to extortion, liquor dens, forced eviction of tenants, smuggling gold and hashish among other illegal activities.
Karim Lala also offered his services to ‘solve disputes’ between different parties for an amount.
Around the 1970s, Karim Lala came to an arrangement with two other dreaded gangsters – Haji Mastan and Varadarajan Mudaliar.
Varadarajan, who hailed from Tamil Nadu, sold hooch liquor, opened gambling dens and stole dock cargo with Haji Mastan’s help, reigned supreme in areas like Dharavi and Sion-Koliwada.
Karim Lala, meanwhile, operated in areas of south Bombay like Pydhoni, Nagpada, Kamathipura and Nagpada.
Karim Lala owned three legitimate businesses. He had two hotels – Al Karim Hotel and New India Hotel – and also owned a travel and passport agency called New India Tours and Travels.
Karim Lala political power reportedly increased in the 1960s after he started the Khudai Khidmatgar and Paktoonistan Jigar-e-hind organisations that helped Pathans with employment.
Karim Lala died of a heart attack on 20 February 2002. He was over 90 at the time.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut’s claim that former prime minister Indira Gandhi used to meet Karim Lala at Pydhonie in South Mumbai has the Congress fuming.