Archive for the ‘Central Asia Online’ Category

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By Zia Ur Rehman

May 21, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/05/21/feature-01

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

 

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by Zia Ur Rehman

May 10, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/05/10/feature-01

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.”

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by Zia Ur Rehman

March 15, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/03/15/feature-01

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.

 

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by Zia Ur Rehman

March 11, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/03/11/feature-02

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.

 

 

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By Zia Ur Rehman

March 7, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/03/07/feature-01

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.

End

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By Zia Ur Rehman

January 24, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/01/24/feature-01

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.”

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by Zia Ur Rehman

December 21. 2012

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2012/12/21/feature-01

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.

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By Zia Ur Rehman

November 19, 2011

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2012/11/19/feature-01

KARACHI – City law enforcement agencies have arrested several suspects accused of belonging to banned militant outfits.

Outlawed sectarian outfits, especially Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), have become active in the walk-up to Muharram in Pakistan’s commercial capital, targeting religious sects they despise, senior police officials and security analysts say.

Sindh Security measures for Muharram : 

Security analysts fear a surge in sectarian violence in Karachi during Muharram, which began November 16, and the Sindh provincial government has taken strict steps to avert any incidents during the holy days.

Karachi Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers November 13 present hooded suspects accused of belonging to the banned Laskhar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) at CID Gardan headquarters. With sectarian violence escalating throughout Karachi, law enforcement agencies have arrested several suspects they linked to banned militant outfits. [Zia Ur Rehman]

The Sindh government declared Karachi, Hyderabad and Khairpur the province’s most sensitive cities during Muharram and police and Rangers are working to keep the law-and-order situation under control, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said November 13.

Sindh Police Chief Fayyaz Leghari directed police officers to step up security at airports, railway stations, consulate offices and residences, important installations, government and semi-government buildings, mosques, imambargahs and public places during Muharram, a November 14 statement from Sindh police headquarters said.

The provincial government has banned 50 religious leaders and orators from entering some of Karachi’s districts during Muharram and has ordered these individuals to skip all religious gatherings and to give no speeches during this period.

Because motorcycle-riding gunmen carried out most of the Karachi killings, the Home Department November 10 also banned pillion-riding (shared motorcycle riding) in Karachi, Hyderabad and Khairpur during the first 10 days of Muharram.

Other provinces follow suits  ; 

Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) police have declared Peshawar, Hangu and Dera Ismail Khan the most sensitive districts in their province. Tank, Bannu, Kohat and Mansehra are also areas of concern during Muharram. KP officials are conducting aerial surveillance during Muharram to ensure timely action in an emergency, Dawn reported November 15, citing a spokesperson of KP Police.

Authorities there have prohibited brandishing and carrying weapons, pillion riding and the use of loudspeakers to broadcast inflammatory pronouncements.

In Peshawar alone, 10,343 security forces personnel will be deployed for Muharram.

Similarly, Punjab police have finalised a security plan for Muharram and law enforcement agencies have started the search and scanning operation in these areas and on the routes of the Muharram procession with the help of modern scanners, sniffer dogs and human intelligence, the Daily Times reported, citing police officials.

More than 20,000 policemen and officers will protect against any untoward incidents in Lahore, the report added.

Sectarian violence in Karachi ; 

At least 54 sectarian murders occurred in the first 10 months of 2012 in Karachi, said Taranum Khan, an officer at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which compiles data on killings in Karachi, adding that the victims included members of the Deobandi and Shia sects.

But sectarian violence flared up in November, with at least 40 gun homicides reported in Karachi in the first two weeks of November, media reported Khan as saying.

Students and teachers of religious seminaries, activists and sympathisers of religious sects, and professionals were key targets in a recent wave of tit-for-tat killings on sectarian grounds, said Muhammad Raees, a security analyst who monitors religious militancy extensively.

Banned sectarian outfits have become active: 

Outlawed sectarian outfits including LeJ, Jundullah and SMP have become active in the city, fuelling sectarian violence in Karachi, Aslam told Central Asia Online, explaining that LeJ and Jundullah are collaborating with al-Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, while SMP is a banned Shia militant outfit.

These groups are taking advantage of the existing ethnic and political violence to kill each other’s workers and sympathisers, Aslam said.

Officially, LeJ was formed in 1996 when three die-hard Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) supporters – Malik Ishaq, Riaz Basra and Akram Lahori – developed differences with SSP on that group’s mission, Raees said, while SMP has been linked to a number of killings and reportedly maintains close links with a neighbouring Shia regime.

Key LeJ suspects arrested : 

Police in Karachi November 13 arrested four men accused of belonging to LeJ and of planning a wave of sectarian attacks in the city, said Aslam.

“The four arrested – who were identified as Asif Hussain alias Hakla, Yasin alias Yawer, Hafiz Mohammad Mubarak alias Omar and Hazrat Ali alias Murtaza – had targeted about 15 people on a sectarian basis in Qasba Colony, Orangi Town, Manghopir, Old Golimar, Taimuria and other parts of the city,” Aslam said, adding that they were planning to carry out a bombing before Muharram to create sectarian tensions in the metropolis.

LeJ reportedly has two factions operating in the city. The faction’s nationwide commanders are Asif Choto and Naeem Bukhari.

The CID on October 5 arrested Mahmood Babar alias Durki Shah, chief of the Choto faction’s Karachi operation, and on October 17 arrested Hafiz Qasim Rasheed alias Ganja, chief of the Bukhari faction’s Sindh operation, Aslam said.

 

 

By Zia Ur Rehman

Oct 24, 2012

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2012/10/24/feature-01

KARACHI – The Pakistani Interior Ministry has banned 40 outlawed organisations from collecting animal hides and donations ahead of Eid ul Adha (October 27).

“We will offer no concession to any banned organisation as the money from sacrificial animal hides and donations is used for terror activities,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Central Asia Online October 22.

The list of banned organisations include major groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and a host of smaller outfits.

Pakistanis take animals to a Peshawar market October 23 ahead of Eid ul Adha. The government is banning 40 militant groups from being able to collect sacrificial animal hides. A similar ban last year was called effective in limiting the number of unscrupulous collections. [Syed Ansar Abbas]

Anyone trying to violate the ban will be prosecuted, Malik said.

Conferees at an October 23 meeting to discuss Eid security and arrangements decided that any organisation collecting hides will need a certificate from a district co-ordination officer or police officer.

“The order of the federal government … should be fully implemented,” an Interior Ministry statement issued after the meeting said.

Exploiting Muslim generosity

Eid ul Adha is Islam’s second biggest religious festival, and Muslims sacrifice animals to please God and donate the hides to charity, said Abdul Waheed, a social activist who heads the Bright Educational Society, an educational charity in Karachi. Believers also make monetary donations during Eid.

Religious and social charities, religious parties, seminaries and outlawed militant groups compete vigorously for the money and the hides, Waheed told Central Asia Online. The difference is that the banned militant groups use the money to fund terrorist activities, rather than helping the poor, analysts say.

Intelligence agencies investigating the collection of animal hides on Eid ul Adha have linked money laundering to banned militant groups, according to the “Financial Sources of Pakistani Militants and Religious Organisations” report prepared by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank.

Militant groups use animal hides as a cover to legitimise funds received from abroad, by claiming they generated the money through selling the hides, the report revealed.

A banner from an outlawed charity organisation solicits animal hide donations in the Landhi area of Karachi October 20. Pakistan has banned 40 outlawed organisations from collecting animal hides during Eid ul Adha. [Zia Ur Rehman]

“They are facing a severe financial crisis and shortage of funds in wake of the measures taken by Pakistani authorities to cut off their main source of income abroad,” Karachi-based security analyst Raees Ahmed said in explaining the effort by militant organisations to collect the hides.

Donations during religious festivals can reap millions of rupees for banned terrorist outfits masquerading under different names, he said.

The public needs to be aware of where its money is going and what group it is giving to, Waheed said.

Government’s efforts 

Besides the ban on the 40 banned organisations, the Sindh provincial government has issued a code of conduct for the upcoming holiday.

“No one will be allowed to carry arms during the three days of Eid ul Adha,” Sindh Home Department official Mukarram Ali said, and authorities will not allow calls for hides from loudspeakers from mosques, seminaries and offices.

Other provincial and local governments have similar guidance in place.

Pakistan authorities imposed similar restrictions last year, and they were deemed effective.

The Punjab government, for example, enacted a ban against militants collecting hides last year and Punjab police registered 72 cases against alleged violators, including members of the TTP, LeJ, Al-Rehmat Trust, Harkat Jihad-e-Islam and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Dawn reported October 22, citing a senior police official.

This year’s ban is already making an impact, Ahmed said, noting that the number of banners and posters appealing for hides in Karachi this year is significantly lower than it has been in past years.

Still, believers are told to be cautious in deciding where they donate the hides.

“Pakistani people are generally not aware about such extremist charities and generously donate in the name of Islam and humanity,” Waheed said. “People should donate only to genuine charities and aid organisations whose credentials in humanitarian work are known.”

End

 

 

 

By Zia Ur Rehman

Oct 23, 2012

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2012/10/23/feature-01

PESHAWAR – As the Taliban continue to oppose those who symbolise peace, they are actually fanning the flames of popular desire to achieve harmony in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

That has frustrated the Taliban’s efforts to spread terror among the local residents, observers and tribal elders say. “Instead of becoming terrorised from the attack, Swati people not only condemned the coward act of targeting a young peace activist but also show their unity against the terrorism and militancy,” Swat human rights activist and analyst Sardar Ahmed Yousafzai told Central Asia Online.

A woman October 11 holds a picture of Malala Yousafzai and a candle during a Karachi rally to condemn the October 9 attack on Malala, who survived. Taliban militants in a state of frustration are attacking peace activists to spread terror, analysts say. [REUTERS/Athar Hussain]

Most recently Taliban militants in Mingora October 9 boarded a school bus and shot Malala Yousafzai, a 15 -year-old who earned international fame for blogging about the atrocities of the Taliban during their reign of terror in Swat in 2007-2009. She and two wounded schoolmates are recovering.

Though the Taliban might have temporarily silenced Malala, they have amplified her message of peace, Sardar said.

“The terrorists wanted to send a wrong message to rest of the country and the international community that there is no peace or security in Swat,” Sardar said. In reality, though, the attack on Malala sparked anger in Pakistan and worldwide support and sympathy, he said.

Militants not interested in peace process

The targeting by Taliban militants of several influential Pakistani peace-seeking figures who disagree with their version of Islam indicates that the Taliban are not interested in the peace process, Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies security analyst Muhammad Nafees said.

“Although the violence is getting utterly inhuman and sickening, there are hopeful signs as well,” Nafees said. “More and more are joining the struggle to end the menace of terrorism.”

For example, there is a broader support for peace lashkars. Ethnic Pashtuns traditionally raise lashkars (armed peace groups) or amns (unarmed peace committees) when they face a common enemy.

Over the past few years, tribes have organised lashkars in Bajaur, Peshawar, Dir, Buner, Lakki Marwat, Khyber Agency and other areas with support from the government. The Salarzai tribes have also made a more active commitment to fighting terrorists.

With the increase in militant atrocities, the Taliban have crossed the line, Salarzai peace committee member Malik Shah Zaib said.

“We’ve seen in the past in both Afghanistan and Pakistan that when the Taliban commit heinous and barbaric acts – like bombing mosques and funerals, targeting schools and killing tribal elders – it galvanises popular opinion against them,” he told Central Asia Online.

“We have paid a heavy price to maintain peace in our area as dozens of our elders and young members have been martyred by the militants,” he said. “We will not allow them to sabotage peace in our area.”

Assaults on peace activists

But taking a stand for peace carries a risk.

Although no official statistics are available, at least 89 attacks – 32 in KP and 57 in FATA – on peace activists and lashkars were reported in 2011, according to the Pakistan Security Report 2011, prepared by the Pak Institute of Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank.

The actual figures may be much higher, according to tribal elders, as many cases go unreported. Militants have killed tribal elders in public places, in their houses, during jirgas, and at mosques and funerals, they said.

Besides Malala, militants have conducted the following attacks on peace activists:

On October 6, at least five lashkar members in the Akakhel area of Bara Tehsil, Khyber Agency, were killed and seven others were injured.

A remote-controlled explosion July 14 killed Kamarkhel tribal lashkar head Rasheed Khan and injured his associate in the Takhtaki area of Tirah Valley, Khyber Agency.

An unknown attacker July 12 fatally shot Afzal Khan Damghar, who played a key role in maintaining peace in the Swat Valley.

Pro-government tribal chief Malik Abdul Wazah Khan was gunned down July 7 in the area of Buggan in Para Chinar. A June 19 bomb in Nawagai Tehsil, Bajaur, killed tribal elder Malik Atta Khan and critically injured his nephew Fauji Khan.

Tribal elder Sultan Baachazad was shot to death May 13 in the Mamonzai area of Kurram Agency.

And Malik Waris Khan, a pro-government Ferozkhel Amn Lashkar chief and presidential award recipient, was killed March 9 in Jalaka Mela Ferozkhel, Orakzai Agency.