Archive for the ‘Central Asia Online’ Category




By Zia Ur Rehman

June 26, 2013

KARACHI – Education has been under attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for years as Taliban militants have destroyed schools and killed teachers. But the trend now appears to be spreading, police and civil society activists say.

“It seems their campaign of violence against education has moved from the tribal areas to Karachi,” Wali Muhammad, a school principal in the Baldia Town area, said.

Karachi civil society activists May 14 console relatives of Abdul Waheed – head of the NGO Bright Educational Society and owner of a co-educational school in the Qasba Colony area – who was fatally shot by three militants in front of his school May 13. [Zia Ur Rehman]

In their effort to discourage education and to keep girls confined to their homes, militants have bombed more than 1,000 schools in KP and FATA since 2007, according to the Pakistan Security Report 2012, an annual publication by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

In recent months, however, Karachi has witnessed attacks on its schools and education advocates – a trend that is new to the city.

In response, the provincial government has ordered law enforcement agencies to better protect schools, Sindh Information Minister Sharjell Memon said, adding that the culprits will be caught and held accountable.

Militants want to deprive people of education

Others discussed the implications of such attacks.

“The attacks we are seeing today in Karachi clearly use the same tactics Taliban militants used in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA,” said Aftab Ali, a Karachi-based educator.

Targeting schools is a continuation of Taliban militants’ hatred of education, Ali told Central Asia Online, adding that the insurgents don’t want people to be able to think for themselves.

“The new trend of attacking schools and teachers in Karachi is very disturbing,” Muhammad, a leader of the Karachi school owners’ association, told Central Asia Online.

Religious scholars say the Taliban’s anti-education stance is not justified.

“Girl’ education is considered un-Islamic by illiterate Taliban militants,” Mufti Mustafa Noorani, a Karachi-based religious scholar, said. “But the fact is that Islamic teaching advised the people to send their children, especially girls, to school for getting an education.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the National Organisation for Working Communities and several other civil society groups condemned the attacks on the education system, saying the strategy will have deleterious effects on the next generation of Pakistanis and its ability to earn a living.

Attacks on schools and educators in Karachi

Some of the recent attacks involving the Karachi education system include the following:

Unknown militants in the Karimabad area May 30 fatally shot educator Syed Azfar Rizvi, head of the Dhaka Group of Educational Institutions and honorary secretary of Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Urdu Pakistan, an NGO that promotes the Urdu language.

On the same day, Rehana Rehman, the owner of a private school in the Iqbal Market area of Orangi Town, was shot in the leg, the Express Tribune reported.

Unknown militants hurled a hand grenade through a classroom window in Orangi Town, injuring three children, on May 24.

Three militants May 13 shot and killed Abdul Waheed, head of the NGO Bright Educational Society and owner of a co-educational school in the Qasba Colony area, in front of his school. His daughter and brother were injured.

In March, a terrorists invading a school in the Ittehad Town area killed Abdul Rasheed – educator and supporter of girls’ education in Pashtun-dominated areas of the city – along with a 10-year girl student during an annual awards ceremony.

Several other children, including Rasheed’s daughter, were injured in the gun and grenade attack.

And unknown culprits March 13 killed social activist Parveen Rehman in the Mangophir Road area.

TTP militants oppose girls’ education

Extremists killed Waheed and Rasheed because of their efforts to educate girls in the Pashtun-populated and impoverished areas of Qasba Colony and Ittehad Town in Karachi, their colleagues told Central Asia Online.

“Waheed … was well-known in Karachi for his education and humanitarian work. He also assisted … Parveen Rehman on the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP),” Afzal Shah, a social activist in the Qasba Colony area, said.

Waheed bettered the lives of hundreds of children by introducing modern education in madrassas, Shah said.

“Some [people] are against teaching girls; they want to snatch the pen from our females,” he said.

Rasheed started teaching school with only a mat and a shelter in Ittehad Town. His son Maaz Khan is now carrying on his work.

“My father had a passion to spread education among our people,” Maaz said. “He used to go door to door and ask the poor families of the area to send their children – especially girls – to the school.”

Nobody has taken responsibility for killing either Waheed or Rasheed, but police and local residents suspect Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants of being behind their killing.

Waheed notified police that he had received threatening phone calls just a few weeks before his murder, Pirabad Police Station House Officer (SHO) Abdul Moeed said, and police were investigating.

Rasheed, affiliated with the liberal Awami National Party (ANP), also received regular threats from the TTP, ANP leaders confirmed.



by Zia Ur Rehman

June 18, 2013


KARACHI – Calm is returning to Lyari after Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah June 11 ordered police to contain the violence.

One of the oldest areas of Karachi has become a safe haven for criminals, police and local civil society activists said.

Lyari police June 12 participate in the on-going crackdown on miscreants responsible for violence in the area. Authorities arrested several suspected gang members in the operation. [Zia Ur Rehman]

“Lyari has a history of gang wars, fighting between drug pushers and clashes between criminal groups,” Allah Baksh, a social activist living in the Agra Taj Colony of Lyari, said.

Increased wave of violence

A recent spike in violence, however, came after the June 8 killing of a young man, Arif Baloch, in the Kalri area, police said.

At least 24 people were killed and more than 40 were injured, with women and children among the casualties, during the June 9-13 violence, media reported.

The most affected areas of Lyari included Dhobi Ghat, Usmanabad, Bihar Colony and Agra Taj Colony, Lyari parliamentarian Javed Nagori said.

A number of Baloch families have temporarily moved to the Hub, Saakran and Gadani areas of Balochistan; meanwhile, Kutchi families moved to the Kemari and Malir areas, Baksh said.

Despite the history of violence between Balochis and Kutchis, it is clear that outside miscreants are igniting ethnic strife, police officials and local parliamentarians said.

Miscreants belonging to other parts of the city including Baldia Town and PIB Colony are destroying peace in the Lyari area, Southern Karachi Deputy Inspector General of Police Amir Shaikh said.

Four suspects among the arrested belonged neither to the Baloch nor Kutchi community and they were not Lyari residents, he said.

Baksh accused workers of the People’s Aman Committee (PAC) and Kutchi Rabita Committee (KRC) of using Lyari as a battleground to push their agendas.

PAC and KRC leaders blamed each other for fuelling the violence in Lyari.

“PAC-backed gangsters are involved in killing Kutchi people, and KRC is a representative community organisation, struggling for the rights of the community in a peaceful manner,” Kareem Shah Kutchi, a leader of KRC, told Central Asia Online.

PAC leader Zafar Baloch said the Baloch and Kutchi communities have been living in peace for several decades but that some KRC members are destroying the peace in Lyari.

Authorities’ crackdown

While seeking alms has benefitted many in need, laws are in place to confront those taking advantage of Pakistani Muslims’ generosity.

Lahore and Islamabad authorities started to crack down on offenders in March and April, according to media reports.

Karachi authorities will do the same at the start of Ramadan, Amin Khan, a local social welfare department official, said. “We will also involve non-governmental organisations in the anti-begging crackdown.”

“After two warnings, they will be put behind bars,” Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said June 21.

Begging is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment, Karachi lawyer Zulfiqar Ali said.


Outlaws holed up in different localities in Lyari used hand grenades and automatic weapons against police, media reported, but security forces remain steadfast in the fight.

Police commandos have been placed on the rooftops of 17 buildings and check-posts in violence-hit areas of Lyari, Haji Sanaullah, a senior official at the Kalri police station, told Central Asia Online.

Several suspects accused of involvement in the violence have been arrested, Shaikh said, noting that police discovered a weapons cache during the arrests.

Police June 11 also recovered a bomb weighing 1.5kg, which the Bomb Disposal Squad defused later.

“The bomb was recovered from the Chakiwara area based on information received by suspects arrested during the crackdown,” Sanaullah said.

“The overall situation is peaceful, but gunmen are still firing to create panic and chaos in some areas,” he said.

Peace committee formed

Authorities formed a 10-member peace committee under the supervision of Karachi Southern Deputy Commissioner Mustafa Jamal Qazi.

“Committee representatives from law enforcement agencies, PAC and KRC have held five meetings so far,” Qazi said, adding that both rival groups suggested establishing 17 new security check-posts in affected areas of Lyari.

In order to remove misunderstanding between the rivals, authorities also are holding conference calls with the leaders of both groups, Qazi told Central Asia Online.

The committee is meeting with local leaders of different communities of Lyari to gain their support in maintaining peace in the area, he added.






By Zia UrRehman

June 7, 2013

SWAT, Pakistan – As official voter turnout numbers are still coming in from across Pakistan for its May 11 general election, it is becoming clearer that a healthy number of voters – especially of women – testifies to the success of anti-Taliban security operations that began in 2009 in Swat and to the general public’s rejection of militant terror.

A Pakistani woman May 11 casts her ballot in the Haji Baba area of Mingora. For the first time in Swat, all women’s polling stations operated in 2013, despite societal barriers and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan threats. [Courtesy of Zia Ur Rehman]

In stark contrast to the 2008 election, when virtually no women voted in 164 of the 203 Swat female polling stations in districts NA-29 and NA-30, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) statistics show that an unprecedented number of women voted in the same districts in 2013.

In both districts, the overall voter turnout jumped from about 18% in 2008 to 35%, ECP figures showed.

Furthermore, four Swat female politicians won seats set aside for women. Musarat Ahmedzaib and Aisha will represent Swat in the National Assembly (NA), while Nadia Sher and Yasmeen Peer Muhammad now sit in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Provincial Assembly (PA).

The high turnout proves that security forces, which poured into the Swat Valley starting in 2009, have shattered the local terrorist network, Sardar Ahmed Yousafzai, a Swat-based political analyst, said.

“In the name of Islam and Sharia, Taliban militants imposed an inhumane system in Swat [starting in 2007] and influenced the 2008 general polls negatively,” Abdul Mabood, a voter in the Charbagh area, said.

“We do not want that repeated and voted democratically to elect a new government,” he said.

2013: A vote of change : 

In contrast to 2008 – when nearly 81% of women’s polling stations in Swat were not functional – “women fully participated in voting this time,” Fazal Khaliq, a Swat-based journalist who covered the election, told Central Asia Online.

“In this election, the turnout was exceptionally high in Swat,” he said, “even in the upper parts of Swat, which was once a stronghold of Taliban militants.”

The key reason for Swat’s low voter turnout in 2008 was the presence of the Taliban militants, he said.

“Taliban militants were targeting political leaders and candidates in the 2008 polls, which created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty,” Yousafzai said. They killed several political activists and threatened many others affiliated with liberal political parties, especially the Awami National Party (ANP).

Candidates from all political parties in Swat, fearful of Taliban attacks, jointly decided to keep women from voting that year.

“We were too afraid to leave our homes,” Ayesha Bibi, a woman voter from the Barikot area, said, explaining that in 2008, women could not prevent their disenfranchisement.

However, 2013 proved encouraging for political and human rights activists.

All Swat women’s polling stations remained functional and long queues formed outside hundreds of polling stations across the district in defiance of threats by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mabood said.

Swatis, the majority of whom did not exercise their right to vote in 2008, cast their votes this time, Yousafzai said.

A security success : 

In addition to military operations that eroded the Taliban’s presence in Swat, enhanced security measures and the work of activists promoting the election helped to boost voter turnout.

A few days before the general elections, TTP militants warned voters to stay away from political gatherings organised by the three liberal political parties – the ANP, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – but no major electoral violence occurred in Swat during the election, said Khaliq.

Tough security measures were in effect, with police and army soldiers constantly patrolling across the district. Out of 617 polling stations in Swat, the ECP declared 150 as “sensitive” and 50 as “most sensitive” for security concerns, Swat-based local daily Chand reported. Those deemed more sensitive received more police and security personnel.

With security in place, woman activists of various political parties also played a role in persuading women to vote in Swat, Bibi said.

Electronic media played a positive role in mobilising women to vote as well, she added.

Despite the Taliban threats, the exceptionally high voter turnout, the full participation of women and a peaceful atmosphere contributed to a successful general election – a clear indication that the Taliban have been defeated in Swat, Mabood said.



By Zia Ur Rehman

May 21, 2013

KARACHI – Pakistan depends on natural gas to power its automobiles and heat its homes, but militant attacks on pipelines have affected the country’s ability to meet growing demand for the fuel.

Pipeline attacks are causing massive financial losses to the national economy, affecting the industrial and transport sectors, and having a bad effect on consumers, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry member Kamran Ashraf told Central Asia Online.

Vehicles May 5 wait in line at a natural gas filling station in Karachi after a one-day suspension of gas supply following terrorist sabotage of a gas pipeline. Frequent attacks on gas pipelines are severely damaging the Pakistani economy, some people say. [Zia Ur Rehman]

Gas pipelines in Balochistan have been targeted routinely, with a reported 198 such attacks in the region since 2005 – an average of about 24 per year – according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP).

Recent numbers show an increase in incidents, with 27 pipeline attacks, making gas pipelines the most frequently hit infrastructure target in Balochistan in 2012, according to the annual Pakistan Security Report prepared by the Islamabad-based think tank Pak Institute for Peace Studies. And in just April this year, 11 incidents of sabotage were reported in the area, often disrupting the supply system.

Most of the attacks have been attributed to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, police said.

In response, authorities and energy sector officials are condemning the attacks and taking steps –such as rationing fuel and making swift repairs to pipelines – to ease the burden on Pakistanis.

Fuel shortages and load shedding

Pakistan has been dealing with natural gas and electricity shortages for years, with a variety of factors contributing to the shortages.

Regarding compressed natural gas (CNG), for example, the country has witnessed a surge in the number of CNG-powered vehicles. Pakistan now has almost 3.5m CNG vehicles on the road, All Pakistan CNG Association President Ghayas Abdullah Paracha said, up from less than 100,000 such vehicles in 2000.

But the attacks are worsening the crisis, Ali Mujtaba, an official at Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC), an electricity-providing facility, said. And the interrupted gas supplies are, in turn, compelling electricity utilities to restrict supplies through load shedding – supply interruptions – of 10 to 12 hours per day. The shortages nationwide are stifling industrial and agricultural production and causing billions of rupees in losses, he said.

The effect is being felt on various levels.

“Gas supply to natural gas filling stations is suspended three days a week, which is causing serious trouble for vehicle owners,” Karachi filling station owner Azeem Buksh said.

After an April 19 attack on a gas pipeline in Kashmor, Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Ltd. (SNGPL) was unable to supply gas to power, industrial and transport sectors as well as to household consumers, SNGPL said.

“With declining local production, SNGPL is resorting to long hours of gas load shedding for all consumer categories,” one official said, adding that, in order to minimise supply interruptions, the Pakistani government has deployed security forces to protect gas pipelines and that SNGPL dispatches repair teams immediately after every bombing.

The government is taking proactive measures, including an awareness campaign, in co-ordination with all stakeholders to protect the gas pipelines from terrorist organisations, caretaker Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Sohail Wajahat said.

Attacks widely condemned

The militant strikes on the natural gas and electrical systems are being widely condemned by Pakistani leaders.

Caretaker Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Sohail Wajahat has appealed to the federal government to help create awareness and curb the menace of sabotage on gas pipelines.

Wajahat in an April 19 statement reiterated his commitment to maintain continuous supply of energy resources to the masses, adding that the ministry of petroleum was taking proactive measures in co-ordination with all stakeholders to protect the gas pipelines from terrorist outfits.

“Through attacking the gas pipelines and electricity infrastructure, militant outfits are trying to destabilise the country for their own interests,” Karachi-based religious scholar Qari Abdullah Madani said.

“The unavailability of gas and electricity, caused by militants’ attacks, has made the life of the common people miserable,” Madani told Central Asia Online, adding that it is also putting everyday life – especially employment and health – at risk



by Zia Ur Rehman

May 10, 2013

KARACHI – Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), in their persistent campaign of violence and extremism against Pakistan’s May 11 general election, are following an un-Islamic path of sin, according to religious leaders.

In an effort to persuade people not to give in to terrorist threats, the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC)’s recent fatwa declared voting a religious obligation.

Passersby April 27 stand outside a bombed Awami National Party campaign office in Karachi. The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Hizb ut-Tahrir have joined hands against the democratic process in Pakistan. [REUTERS/Athar Hussain

“Every voter must come out on the polling day to cast his or her vote,” council head Allama Tahir Ashrafi told Central Asia Online, adding that more than 300 clerics belonging to different schools of thought declared the non-casting of votes a sin.

The TTP and HT’s “conspiracy to disrupt the polls” is an attack against the national interest, he said, adding that they are “misusing the name of Islam” and should be “stopped immediately.”

Militant scare tactics on the rise

After a spate of bombings that have killed more than 100 people in the last month, TTP-linked militants are now distributing anti-election propaganda.

The pamphlets falsely claim that the elections are “un-Islamic” and they threaten attacks on certain political parties, Younas Khan, an ANP leader running for the National Assembly NA-256 seat, told Central Asia Online.

The pamphlets, distributed in some Karachi neighbourhoods, follow an April 8 video message sent to media outlets featuring TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud speaking out against the democratic process and calling for a boycott of the elections. Media reported that militants distributed similar pamphlets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). One TTP leaflet aims to threaten teachers in Peshawar who vote, Dawn reported.

Like the TTP, HT is attempting to lead voters astray with a similar propaganda campaign. HT members are distributing pamphlets and holding small meetings, primarily at mosques after prayers in the larger cities across Pakistan.

Though the HT has so far relied on non-violent means, it’s still conducting an anti-election campaign that poses a security threat, Islamabad-based political analyst Nadeem Farooqi told Central Asia Online.

Banned in Pakistan since 2003, HT’s classification as an extremist/terrorist group has “remained vague.” That vagueness is “a major barrier in assessing the real threat that the group poses,” said Farooqi, who monitors HT activity.

After drawing mainstream media attention with the 2012 convictions of Brig. Ali Khan and four other army officers for links to HT, law enforcement began cracking down on the group.

Authorities have arrested a number of its activists for distributing extremist literature and attempting to dissuade voters from participating in the polls, Pakistan Today reported April 14.

Pakistan committed to election

Political parties and civil society organisations have joined the ulema council in condemning the militant campaign against the election process.

The fate of the country could be changed through votes, Maulana Samiul Haq, the head of Daar ul Uloom Haqqania in KP, told Central Asia Online.

“It is an opportunity to choose good and competent people to enter the parliament,” Karachi resident Ismail Qureshi said. “I and my family will vote without any fear.”

In preparation, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) May 7 decided to further increase security, Dawn reported, posting10 security guards instead of nine at the “most sensitive” polling stations, and nine instead of eight will be deployed to “sensitive” voting sites.

“The people will show their unity on voting day against terrorism and extremism by supporting liberal political parties,” Younas said, adding that the public would reject those so-called political parties that do not condemn the brutalities of the Taliban.

“The Pakistani people believe in democracy,” Abdul Waheed, a civil society activist and head of the Bright Education Society, told Central Asia Online. “The militants’ propaganda campaigns and attacks cannot keep them away from voting on May 11.”



by Zia Ur Rehman

March 15, 2013

KARACHI – Karachi police are investigating the March 13 killing of Pakistani social activist Parveen Rehman, the long-time director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP). The OPP works on sanitation, healthcare, education and microfinancing in poor Karachi neighbourhoods.

Two men on a motorcycle opened fire on Rehman’s car on Manghopir Road, eyewitnesses said. She died en route to the hospital, senior police officer Javed Odho told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Civil society activists protest March 14 outside the Karachi Press Club, condemning the March 13 killing of Karachi social activist Parveen Rehman. Police suspect it was another Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan attack. [Zia Ur Rehman]

Nobody has taken responsibility, but police suspect Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants of being behind the killing and identified alleged TTP member Qari Bilal as a suspect, officials said.

A resident of South Waziristan, Bilal reportedly belongs to the TTP’s Sher Khan faction. Informers have identified him as the deputy commander of the banned TTP’s Manghopir chapter.

Police on March 15 conducted an operation in which they were trying to capture or kill Bilal, Ashfaq Baloch, station house officer at the Manghopir police station, said. At least one militant was killed in the operation, but details about who was killed could not be confirmed.

Although Rehman had no known enemies, her fight against land grabs and rampant water theft from pumping stations in and around Karachi might have angered those involved in those multi-million-rupee rackets, some of her colleagues said.

Karachi residents March 14 attend the funeral of Karachi social activist Parveen Rehman, who was assassinated March 13. [Zia Ur Rehman]

Scores of mourners from various NGOs, trade unions and civil society attended her funeral prayer March 14 in Gulistan-e-Jauhar.

Attacks ‘senseless and barbaric’

Outrage and grief followed her killing.

Civil society activists and Karachi University students March 14 protested outside the Karachi Press Club, where they held placards condemning extremist violence and chanted slogans like “Down with terrorism.”

“Rehman’s killing is a serious attempt to demoralise the forces of peace and development in the country,” said Zahid Farooq, a representative of the Urban Resource Centre, a Karachi-based civil society organisation.

Pakistani officials and civil society groups publicly condemned the act as “senseless and barbaric.”

Calling it “inhuman,” Sindh Governor Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad ordered Sindh Police Chief Ghulam Shabbir Shaikh to submit an incident report and to have law enforcement agencies examine all security camera video footage of entry and exit points near the crime scene.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the killing of Rehman in a statement that urged the public to “stand up against those who are destroying the symbols of hope.”

“Her assassination was a cruel blow to the country’s civil society and a great loss to the nation,” it read.

Devoted to helping Pakistan’s poor

Rehman devoted her life to the development of impoverished neighbourhoods across the country, to civil society and to development, her friends told Central Asia Online.

She threw herself into promoting low-cost housing plans, rehabilitating refugees from floods in rural Sindh and monitoring developers’ encroachment on scarce land in crowded Karachi, according to Farooq. The organisation she ran, the OPP, is one of Asia’s largest slum improvement projects.

Trained as an architect, she moved into aid and sanitation work and in the 1990s helped to build a sanitation system that others replicated across Pakistan, said Abdul Waheed, head of the Bright Educational Society, a Karachi-based NGO.

She never married and remained committed to her work, he added.

Militant attacks on activists a ‘crucial’ concern

Rehman’s killing highlights Pakistan’s alarming trend of militant attacks on activists and aid workers.

In 2012, Pakistan and South Sudan tied as the second most dangerous country for aid workers with 15 attacks each, behind only Afghanistan (44 attacks), according to the Aid Workers Security Database (AWSD). Somalia and Syria rounded out the five most dangerous countries.

In 2011, aid workers in Pakistan suffered 12 attacks, according to the AWSD. Before 2009, three or fewer attacks occurred annually.

NGOs and aid organisations are seen as promoting secular values and modern norms, which the Taliban vehemently oppose because of their extremist view of Islam, said Raees Ahmed, a Karachi-based security analyst. Consequently, many aid organisations have ordered their staff to restrict nighttime travel and avoid high-risk areas.

Unfortunately, the attacks are compelling some humanitarian groups to suspend their activities in the country altogether – leaving the needy to suffer, Waheed told Central Asia Online.

“Violence against aid workers is one of the most crucial humanitarian issues today,” he said.




by Zia Ur Rehman

March 11, 2013

KARACHI – The Pakistani navy March 8 concluded five days of multi-national training operations in the North Arabian Sea 32km from Karachi in efforts to bolster international co-operation and to ensure peace and stability in the region.

Twelve other countries took part, while 32 observed the AMAN-13 exercises.

Pakistani naval troops conduct a counter-terrorism exercise during the AMAN-13 multi-national naval exercise in Karachi March 5. AMAN-13 is the fourth in a biennial series of exercises conducted off Pakistan’s coast, the Pakistani navy said in a statement. [REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro]

Ships, helicopters, submarines and special forces conducted anti-piracy drills, surface-to-surface target practice, vessel personnel transfers and provisioning, helicopter-to-ship boarding manoeuvres, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue operations during the drill organised by the Pakistani navy, a navy spokesperson told Central Asia Online.

In one exercise they carried out a scenario in which “pirates” had hijacked a ship. After organisers fired a flare to mark the distressed ship’s location, special forces descended upon it by helicopter and speedboat to take control of the vessel after “clashing with the pirates.”

The exercises are designed to provide a common forum for information sharing, mutual understanding and identifying areas of common interest among regional actors, Pakistani fleet commander Rear Admiral Khan Hasham bin Saddique said March 4 during the opening ceremonies.

“The slogan for the exercise is ‘Together for Peace,’ and all nations participating in the AMAN-13 share a common objective of ensuring peace and stability in the maritime arena,” he said.

Sharpened skills and collaboration counter maritime threats

The key objectives of the naval exercises include displaying a united resolve against terrorism and crimes and contributing toward regional peace and stability to bridge between regions, naval officials said. The exercise mainly focused on issues related to piracy, sea terrorism, human trafficking, and protection of marine interests and international trade.

Such multi-national exercises can clear shipping routes of such threats, observers say.

“Several threats complicate the security matrix in the Indian Ocean,” said defence analyst and columnist S.M. Hali. Shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean have been plagued by attacks by Somali pirates, who have hijacked dozens of ships and demanded millions of dollars in ransom for their release.

Piracy in the Indian Ocean, supported by Al-Qaeda-backed militant groups including Al-Shabaab, has become a huge global problem that threatens the international shipping industry, Pakistani seamen’s trade union leader Amajd Ali Shah told Central Asia Online. “It needs a globally joint and concentrated effort to curb it,” he said.

“Piracy and pirates are the most rising threat, which could be countered by collaboration of navies and by sharing tactics with each other,” Saddique said.

The Pakistani navy has always supported international efforts against terrorism and piracy, and the navy and other maritime forces of the country are proactively engaged in maintaining and further improving their capabilities, he said.

Hali agreed.

Successful execution of AMAN-13 is a significant demonstration of Pakistan’s commitment toward peace and stability through collaborative maritime security between navies of the different countries, he said.

Growing co-operation

This year’s event marked the fourth bi-ennial AMAN training operation since its inception in 2007, Saddique said. It provides a platform for information sharing, for developing tactics against asymmetrical and traditional threats and for boosting interoperability among all navies working in the region.

“All continents of the world are represented in the exercise to promote peace and stability in the region,” he said.




By Zia Ur Rehman

March 7, 2013

KARACHI – After continual attacks on Sufi spiritual leaders and shrines, the Sindh government devised a strategy to provide security to the shrines and spiritual leaders across the province.

On February 25, a blast tore through the Ghulam Shah Ghazi shrine in Marri village in Shikarpur District, killing four people on the scene and wounding more than 27 others. Pir Syed Hajan Shah – a spiritual leader and Gaddin Nasheen (spiritual descendant) of the saint honoured at the shrine – later succumbed to his wounds March 4.

Members of Sufi groups, religious groups and civil society outside the Karachi Press Club February 26 protest against recent attacks on Sufi shrines and spiritual leaders in Sindh. The Sindh government has devised a strategy to protect Sufi shrines and spiritual leaders across the province. [Zia Ur Rehman]

After news spread of Shah’s death, markets, businesses and trade centres across Sindh closed down March 5 voluntarily to honour him, media reported.

Militants also attacked the convoy of spiritual leader Syed Hussain Shah – popularly known as Saeen Hussain Shah Qambar – February 20 with a remote-controlled bomb in the Ahmed Deen Brohi area of Jacobabad District. He escaped unharmed, but the bomb killed his grandson Shafiq Shafi Shah and injured eight others.

Besides prompting more aggressive security measures, the attacks have elicited broad condemnation.

Government security measures

In a February 28 press release, Sindh police chief Fayyaz Ahmed Leghari called for reinforced security at the Sufi shrines, dargahs (a Sufi shrine built over a religious figure’s grave), mosques and imambargahs (Shia congregation halls) in the province.

“[Cell phone] jammers, walk-through gates and security barriers have been installed in all shrines, while officers in charge of all police stations have been directed to increase police patrolling in the areas where Sufi shrines are situated,” Pir Muhammad Shah, a senior police officer in Sukkar, told Central Asia Online.

Authorities also arranged meetings with caretakers of various shrines and spiritual leaders to work out security strategies, he said.

Leghari also ordered deployment of plainclothes police to be deployed and for security upgrades for spiritual leaders.

Police raids resulted in the arrests of six militant suspects in connection with both attacks, Sindh media reported. Officials are interrogating the suspects, said Parvaiz Chandio, a police official in Shikarpur.

Intelligence agencies have declared 15 Sufi shrines of Sindh “sensitive” and asked the provincial government to provide them with fool-proof security, said Nasir Shaikh, a Hyderabad-based journalist, citing some official reports.

Shrines honouring Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (Bhit Shah), Laal Shahbaz Qalandar (Sehwan), Sakhi Abdul Wahab Shah (Hyderabad), and Baba Salauddin (Kotri) are among those declared sensitive, he said.

Attacks draw broad condemnation

Additionally, the Sindh Assembly February 27 passed a resolution condemning attacks on religious scholars and shrines.

“The recent attacks on spiritual leaders in Sindh were carried out by banned organisations and were a continuation of the vicious campaign against the Hazara community in Balochistan,” said Imran Zafar Leghari, a parliamentarian belonging to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), who presented the resolution in the assembly.

“Sindh is the land of Sufis and saints who preached peace and love,” he told Central Asia Online, adding that the provincial government is devising a strategy to protect Sufi shrines and religious scholars from banned extremist outfits.

Sindh’s civil society and progressive political parties also denounced the attacks and have started a joint campaign against militancy in the province. Even before the Ghulam Shah Ghazi shrine bombing, they were reacting with outrage.

Nine progressive political parties of Sindh and civil society organisations February 24 conducted province-wide protests.

The people of Sindh typically reject aggression, militancy and extremism, said Ilahi Buksh Bikak, a leader of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz political party who attended a protest that day held outside the Karachi Press Club.

“Islam spread in the Sindh region thanks to great Sufi preachers, not because of Arab fighters,” Bikak told Central Asia Online, adding that Sufis spread a message of love, peace and interfaith harmony.

Militants target Sufi shrines

Taliban militants have frequently targeted Sufi shrines in Pakistan, especially in the Pashtun regions, and have now started targeting them in Punjab and Sindh, Sufi leaders say.

The militants justify their attacks on shrines and other cultural symbols as attempts at constructing a new culture and identity, said Abdul Majid Baqi, a Lahore-based Sufi researcher, adding that such extremists often follow a philosophy that conflicts with Sufi Islam.



By Zia Ur Rehman

January 24, 2013

KARACHI – After the Taliban assassinated two party leaders and amid an onslaught of militant-driven violence against Pakistan’s liberal parties, the rival Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have united to fight terrorism, leaders of both parties say.

“We [the ANP and the MQM] are political rivals, but we stand united against extremism and terrorism,” said Bashir Jan, the ANP’s secretary-general in Sindh Province. “We have to realise that we have a common enemy that we need to combat together.”

Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leaders greet one another at the January 18 Karachi funeral of Manzar Imam, an MQM lawmaker slain by Taliban militants a day earlier in Orangi Town. [Courtesy of MQM]

“Friendship with the ANP is a good omen, which would help restore peace in Karachi besides removing misunderstanding between the two parties,” Pakistani Senator and MQM member Tahir Hussain Mashhadi said, referring to a stepped-up campaign by militants to assassinate or attempt to assassinate leaders in Karachi.

The longtime rival parties, who have fought bitter political battles in and around Karachi, have forged a new alliance in the aftermath of the assassinations of Manzar Imam and Bashir Ahmed Bilour.

Imam, an MQM-affiliated parliamentarian in Sindh Province who was elected from Karachi’s Orangi Town neighborhood, and three of his bodyguards were shot dead there January 17.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility.

Imam’s assassination came about a month after Bilour, a seasoned ANP leader and an anti-Taliban crusader, was among nine people killed in a suicide bombing in Peshawar.

Coming Together : 

After Bilour’s assassination, the MQM announced three days of mourning for the rival party’s fallen leader. And, in the wake of Imam’s killing, the ANP Sindh chapter reciprocated, with the ANP’s Karachi leadership participating in funeral prayers for him January 18.

“The ANP and MQM realised that the threat of militancy and terrorism requires a collective strategy to counter it effectively,” said Bushra Gohar, the ANP’s central vice-president and a National Assembly member.

Militancy and terrorism are the biggest threats to Pakistan’s liberal political parties, especially the ANP and the MQM, party officials and security analysts say.

Most recently, ANP local leader Muhammad Din Afridi and his nephew survived a January 20 motorcycle bombing in the Khyber Chowk area of Ittehad Town, but four passers-by were injured. Initial investigations led police to suspect TTP militants of committing the assassination attempt, media reported, citing police officials.

Besides targeting the ANP, the TTP also threatened the Urdu-speaker-dominated MQM, which openly denounces killings perpetrated by the Taliban.

Imam’s assassination was the second Taliban attack on MQM activists this month. On January 1, four men died and 40 other people were injured in a motorcycle bombing of an MQM rally near Ayesha Manzil.

“In the beginning, the militants from the tribal areas were in line with a TTP policy to use Karachi only for fundraising and rest and recuperation,” said Hakim Khan, a Pashtun tribal elder based in Karachi. “But now they seem to have changed their strategy and started targeting leaders of political parties.”

Already, law enforcement agencies, the Karachi Criminal Investigation Department (CID) chief among them, are acting on the threats and have arrested several suspected militants in an on-going crackdown on terrorism in the city.

A CID team January 9 arrested five TTP suspects in the Ittehad Town area in connection with the January 1 bombing of the MQM rally and with the August 13 slaying of four ANP members, Ghulam Shabeer Shaikh, a senior CID official, told Central Asia Online January 10.

Curbing ethno-political violence in Karachi


Political analysts see the recent unity of the ANP and the MQM against militancy as a breakthrough, saying it is a step forward in improving the deteriorating security situation of Karachi.

“It is indeed a good sign,” Abdul Waheed, head of the Karachi-based civil society group Bright Educational Society, said.

“We hope the restoration of a good relationship between the MQM and the ANP will help in curbing ethno-political violence and targeted killings in Karachi.”

Politically motivated killings and clashes were a prominent feature of insecurity and violence in Karachi in 2012, according to the Pakistan Security Report 2012, published by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies. As many as 176 incidents of ethno-political violence occurred in Karachi last year, claiming 275 lives and injuring 144 people.

Taking advantage of the ongoing ethnic violence in the city, TTP militants killed dozens of Karachi Pashtun elders and political figures or those who were travelling to Karachi from KP, especially from Swat, Yousafzai said.

“The coalition partners [the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the ANP and the MQM] are not only together against religious militancy but also ethno-political violence in the city,” Najmi Alam, Karachi secretary-general of the ruling PPP, told Central Asia Online. “We will defeat the enemy together.”


by Zia Ur Rehman

December 21. 2012

KARACHI – Karachi police remain committed to fighting the militancy, cracking down on insurgents and shattering the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) network in the city, despite an increasing danger to law enforcement personnel.

Criminal Investigation Department officials November 25 present seized arms and ammunition in the Manghopir area of Karachi. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has been targeting security personnel, but police are determined to fight the militants. [Zia Ur Rehman]

“The TTP has decided to target all those officers who are involved in the crackdown against it,” Superintendent of Police (SP) Mazhar Mashwani said, “but we have decided to target it, too.”

The militants have announced huge rewards for anyone who kills police officers on their list, Mashwani said, but the situation will not deter the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)’s resolve.

“The militants target the policemen to scare them into backing out of their duties, but the law enforcers will continuously work to root them out,” Mashwani told Central Asia Online.

Incidents of violence against police

Militant outfits in Karachi killed 27 CID personnel between November 1 and December 15, Sindh Police Chief Fayyaz Leghari told Central Asia Online, adding that the attacks are in response to the on-going crackdown against the militant groups. So far this year, 113 law enforcement personnel have been killed.

The TTP is working off a hit list that includes police officers involved in the arrests and deaths of a number of militants, including its key commanders in Karachi, said Raees Ahmed, a Karachi-based security analyst, adding that the insurgents still pose a threat to security personnel.

Leghari recognises the threat but said police are responding well.

“These are dangerous times, but we are ready to deal with them,” the chief said. “The cold-blooded murders of policemen will not shatter our determination.” Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah in a December 14 meeting asked Leghari to let him know what additional resources are needed to continue the crackdown, state-owned media reported.

“The police must remain alert at all times and perform their duties with responsibility,” Mashwani said.

Attacks condemned

Leaders of various political parties have denounced the killing of law enforcement personnel.

“Such cowardly acts will not shatter government’s resolve in fight against terror,” Latif Mughal, Karachi secretary of information of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, told Central Asia Online.

In tribute to their sacrifices, Mughal said the names of the martyred law enforcement personnel will be written in gold in history.

It is because of the sacrifices of police and Rangers that the backbone of the militancy is broken today, said Khurram Bhatti, a Karachi leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).

Terrorists have become frustrated and now are resorting to such cowardly acts out of frustration, Bhatti told Central Asia Online.

Origins of TTP hit list

The TTP’s aggressive stance dates back a couple of years, when the militants set their sights on Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Chaudhry Aslam Khan. After repeated attempts over the course of about a year to kill him at his office, insurgents attacked his house September 19, 2011, killing eight people, but Aslam was not among the victims.

Two days later, TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan issued a hit list that included the names of then-Karachi Capital City Police Officer Saud Mirza and Karachi police senior officers Raja Umar Khitab, Farooq Awan, Mashwani and Khurram Waris.

Killed in the line of duty

Militants are suspected in the deaths of at least eight law enforcement officers since December 12.

Khurram Manzoor and Sohail Yousuf – two CID officers who had been missing – were found fatally shot in the Garden and Maripur areas on December15.

On the same day, gunmen riding a motorcycle shot Assistant Sub-Inspector Muhammad Mohsin and Constable Rizwan Khan in the Peerabad police jurisdiction, killing Mohsin.

Constable Ali Hassan died from gunshot wounds sustained during an attack in the Arambagh police jurisdiction two days earlier.

On December 13 in two separate incidents, men on motorcycles shot and killed Constable Syed Shamim Ahmed and Constable Kaleem Anjum.

An unknown motorcyclist December 12 killed Sub-Inspector Mukhtiar Ahmed Ghumman in the Dawood Goth area of Baldia Town. On the same day, a bomb blast killed police Constable Malik Zahid and two other people in the Landhi area.

Leghari announced a compensation package of Rs. 2m (US $20,419) and payment of each victim’s pension to his bereaved family and is offering employment to willing and capable relatives.

Rangers also attacked

The Rangers, a paramilitary force that has assumed a more active role in the war on terror, have also been targeted recently.

Four men riding two motorcycles opened fire near the Al-Asif police picket on Abul Hasan Ispahani Road on December 10, killing Sepoy Inayat Ali and Hawaldar Hakim Ali of the Sindh Rangers’ Ghazi Wing and injuring Traffic Sub-Inspector Qamar Pirzada and Police Constable Khadim. Qamar later died of his injuries.

Three Rangers also died in a November 8 bombing that injured 21 others near the headquarters of the Sachal Rangers, in the North Nazimabad area of Karachi.