By Zia Ur Rehman

March 7, 2016


Like a number of journalists, and political and civil society activists of the city, Arshad Kundi, a Landhi-based young Pashtun activist, and his friends would head to Lasbela Chowk every week to meet veteran political leader Amin Khattak.

Khattak’s passing of a heart attack on March 6, 2011, after being hospitalised for an extensive period, was a significant blow to Kundi and others like him who, in their own words, were deprived of a political teacher.


“Khattak sahib was at Lasbela Chowk every evening to meet people. These people belonged to all walks of life; they included journalists, members of political and religious parties, and civil society activists, all of whom would gather to discuss political developments on the national and international fronts,” recalled Kundi in a conversation with The News.   “With his death, however, ended those gatherings and the informative discussions that have helped us all develop on an individual level.”

Khattak, born in the Jalozai area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Nowshera District, moved to Karachi after completing his matriculation and spent the rest of his life immersed in political activism in the metropolis.

He served on various key positions, including Sindh president, secretary general and central joint secretary of the Awami National Party (ANP)

In his early political career, Khattak was influenced by leftist leaders including Dr Aizaz Nazir, Saleem Raza, Babu Fazal Khaliq, Riazul Hasan, Mehmood ul Hasan Usmani, and Fasihudduin Salar.

“He used to tell us that he had not migrated to Karachi to earn a livelihood; his aim was to learn and participate in the politics of social change,’’ narrated Kundi.

When a ban was imposed on the ANP and its key leaders, including Wali Khan, who was sent to Hyderabad Jail, Khattak formed the ‘Wali Khan Release Committee’, after which he became active in the National Democratic Party.

In 1982, he became the president of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in Karachi. On August 14, 1983, Khattak was arrested for a year in Hyderabad and, after his release, became the NDP’s provincial information secretary.

When the NDP was merged with the Mazdoor Kissan Party, the Sindh Awami Tehreek and the Pakistan National Party to create ANP in 1986, he became its first Karachi president and served a two-year term.

Khattak had also played a key role in the formation of the ‘Pakistan Oppressed Nation Movement (PONM)’, an alliance of the country’s nationalist and progressive political parties, in Sindh.

During the Musharraf regime, he left ANP and joined the Ajmal Khattak-led National Awami Party Pakistan but, after a few years, decided to rejoin the ANP.

Interviews with ANP members and journalists suggest that Khattak always opposed the use of violent means in politics and played a key role in ending ethnic violence in 1980s.

Imtiaz Khan Faran, a veteran journalist who also frequented the Lasbela Chowk meetings, said that during the peak of ethnic violence in the city during the 1980s and more recently, from 2007 to 2009, Khattak regularly used to meet people of all communities.

“Through his politics, Khattak practically proved that he was a true follower of the non-violence philosophy of Baacha Khan,” Faran told The News. “Various political leaders would visit him at the chowk to discuss political affairs and seek his counsel.’’

Although ANP came to power several times, Khattak never took undo advantage of its successes to change his own economic status, spending his entire life in a small house owned by his brother in Patel Para.  While the ANP’s Sindh chapter failed to organise any event to commemorate his fifth death anniversary, a number of progressive political activists and civil activists from across the city organised condolence meetings to remember and honour the veteran Pashtun leader.



By Zia Ur Rehman

March 9, 2016

Incapable of maintaining their hegemony following the Rangers-led operation, gangsters now targeting area’s political and social activists

Karachi: With nominal peace having been restored in Lyari following the Rangers-led operation against warring gangs, otherwise operating with impunity, residents of the area were, however, still wary of incidents of targeted killing of political and civil society activists and the government’s failure to apprehend the killers.


Mir Ishtiaq Baloch, a local leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was gunned down by unidentified men on January 17 outside his office located at Ahmed Shah Bukhari road in Lyari – lying within the jurisdiction of the Baghdadi police station.

The 32-year-old was popularly known as Mullah Pappu in the area and had contested local bodies’ poll for the post of chairman from UC-8 on the PML-N’s ticket; he, however, lost by only 40 votes.

He was the younger brother of a central leader of the PML-N, Mir Ashfaq Baloch.

Interviews with local residents and police suggest that a local gang leader by the name of Gulabo, associated with the area’s bigwigs Ghaffar Zikri and Baba Ladla, was behind Ishtiaq’s killing.

They believe that he was killed for the sole purpose of instilling fear of the gangs among the area’s residents.

“The operation against gangsters has no doubt brought peace to Lyari and the locals having witnessed years of bloodshed were confident that violence was finally coming to an end,” claimed Lala Fateh Nazar, a social activist in Lyari.

However, Nazar added, that the gang’s commanders after being left weakened because of the operation, took to targeting political and social figures who were at the forefront in supporting the law enforcement agencies’ crackdown.

“Ishtiaq was vocal in condemning the atrocities of the gangs and had also announced to organise a peace rally before he was murdered,” informed a school teacher of the area. The rally was to send out a message to the entire city that Lyari was no more a no-go area, he added.

According to Ashfaq, the government was not interested in arresting the culprits involved in killing his brother.

He got an FIR registered at the Baghdadi police station against Gulabo, and soon after a number of gangsters associated with Gulabo resorted to aerial firing in the street where Ashfaq resides.

“Over two months have passed since the murder of my brother but nobody has been arrested so far. And the failure of law enforcement agencies’ to arrest the killers has whipped up fear among the local political and social activists of the area,” added a disgruntled Ashfaq.

“Incidents of attacking and threatening social and political activists in recent months show that violence has resurfaced in Lyari,” said another civil society activist, who recently moved to Gizri area owing to security concerns.

SP Lyari, Aftab Nizamani, while commenting over Ishtiaq’s murder said police were trying to arrest Gulabo, who, he claimed, went underground all the while the operating was being conducted.

“He narrowly escaped three raids conducted by the police,” the SP claimed.

A number of locals still believed that the gangs were not in a position to regain their lost strength but would continue assert their presence through carrying out targeted attacks.


By Zia Ur Rehman

March 6, 2016

Since the past several years, Haji Sohrab, a representative of Afghan refugees in Karachi, has been actively seeking release of Afghan prisoners from various jails in Sindh province.

Most of these prisoners are ones who were arrested by the local police under Foreign Registration Act (FRA) for travelling without visa documents. With the assistance of Afghan Consulate in Karachi and Sindh Home Department, the jail administrations release Afghan prisoners for deportation. Sohrab takes them to the Chaman border where he hands them over to Afghan authorities.



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Sohrab does not remember the actual number of Afghan prisoners released in recent years. “But in the last four months, 387 prisoners have been released from various jails of Sindh after completion of their sentences and handed over to Afghan authorities at the Chaman border,” he tells TNS. “By and large, Pakistani authorities are very supportive in releasing the Afghan prisoners.”

On the contrary, the situation in Afghanistan is very different. There the local courts jail Pakistani nationals travelling without visa documents for several years — in many cases accusing them of spying, TNS learnt in its recent visit to Kabul.

It is a routine for labourers world over to cross borders, sometimes illegally in search of better wages. Because the value of Afghan currency is higher than the Pakistani rupee, there are many employment opportunities in the construction and other sectors in Afghanistan. A number of Pakistani nationals travel to different parts of Afghanistan — Kabul in particular — both legally and illegally for work purposes. Afghanistan’s law enforcement agencies treat Pakistanis in their country with mistrust — this is why they charge the Pakistanis who are travelling without visa documents with espionage.

Wali Gul, 58, a resident of Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkwha, has been visiting Kabul after every two or three months for the release of his son Tarifullah, 22, who was arrested by the Afghan law enforcement agencies in Arzan Qeemat area of Kabul in March 2013.


Tarifullah, a jobless youth, entered Afghanistan illegally as a construction worker (daily wager) in Kabul. “Pakistani nationals enter Afghanistan illegally for work, health and other purposes. Tarifullah thought he would not face any problem in Afghanistan,” Gul tells TNS in Kabul. “But he was not aware of the Afghan authorities’ hostile attitude towards Pakistanis.”

A local Afghan court jailed Tarifullah for 22 years in prison, accusing him of espionage. “Local lawyers are not ready to fight his son’s case because of spying charges. Even we are not allowed to meet him,” says Gul, adding that in the beginning, his son was kept in Pul-e-Charkhi jails and, a year ago, was moved to Bagram jail. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has been arranging Skype calls to talk with Tarifullah.

Background interviews with Pakistani diplomats and professionals in Kabul suggest that the actual number of Pakistani prisoners in Afghanistan’s jails is not known because of several reasons. Pakistani diplomats say one of the key reasons is non-cooperative attitude of Afghan authorities towards Pakistan. “Afghan authorities don’t allow Pakistani diplomats to share information regarding Pakistani prisoners nor do they allow meeting them in jails,” says a diplomat in Kabul.

According to Pakistani diplomatic sources, there are 163 Pakistani prisoners in different jails of Afghanistan, 50 and 56 among them are in Bagram and Pul-e-Charkhi jails respectively while 32 are in Afghan National Army-run detention centre in Parawan and 23 in the detention centre of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s spy agency.

On Feb 7, Afghan security forces arrested five Pakistani doctors; two of them were women, in Baharak and Kesham district of Badakhshan province, alleging that they were spying for Pakistan, Tolo News reports.

Wali Gul, father of Tarifullah.

Ansar Burney, a leading Pakistani human rights activist, who has been working for the release of prisoners in various countries, says millions of Afghan refugees openly roam in Pakistan, do businesses, but Pakistani authorities are comparatively not as harsh towards them.

“We are not demanding the release of prisoners who are actually involved in any sort of terrorism but to strengthen ties between the two countries, Ghani should release Pakistani workers arrested under false charges of espionage,” says Burney. He also demands the United States and other rights group to pressure Afghan government to release such Pakistani prisoners on humanitarian grounds.

Shariq Hussain, a Pakistani accountant working with an international firm in Kabul, says harassment of Pakistani professionals and workers by Afghan authorities is very common but they experience a rise in it after any terrorist attack in Afghanistan. “It is similar to Afghan refugees who face such a situation in Pakistan but the behaviour of Afghan government and even the society is very hostile towards us,” he says.

Relatives of the Pakistani prisoners want the Government of Pakistan to take up the release of prisoners in their talks with Afghan government. Gul says Pakistani Pashtun nationalist parties, including Asfandyar Wali, Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Afrasyab Khattak, regularly visit Afghansitan and meet their leaders in Islamabad. “They should play their role in the release of Tarifullah and other prisoners.”





By Zia Ur Rehman

January 11, 2016


With the Muttahida Qaumi Movement set to easily form its governments in Karachi’s municipality and three districts, other political parties have formed an alliance to stop it from grabbing the top slots in other districts of the city, The News has learnt.

Although the three stages of the local government polls in Sindh have completed, the dates for the election of mayors, deputy mayors and the seats reserved for women, non-Muslims, labourers and youth have not been announced so far.


However, political parties, especially the MQM, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have been busy mustering support for the district level elections.

Winning 136 of the total 208 seats, the MQM is in a position to form its government in the Karachi Municipal Corporation without entering into an alliance with any other party.

Likewise, it does not need to join hands with any other party to form its governments in the district municipal corporations (DMCs) of the Central, East and Korangi districts as it has a comfortable majority in each of them.

However, a tough fight is expected in West and South, where the PML-N has fetched just enough votes to help another party form its governments in the two districts.

In DMC Malir, the MQM has won only one of the 13 seats there and is out of the contest.

In late December, the MQM and the PML-N had agreed to form an electoral alliance. But after the formation of anti-MQM alliance, the PML-N was forced to back out of the agreement.

Delay in polls

The MQM has also expressed its concerns over the delay in the election for the mayors and reserved seats. The party’s deputy convener, Dr Farooq Sattar, said the delay was aimed at allowing the PPP the opportunity to rig the polls.

“Independent candidates, who supported the MQM, are continuously being harassed,” he said at a press conference on Sunday.


There are 46 union committees in the DMC West, comprising the defunct Keamari, Baldia, SITE and Orangi towns.

The MQM has bagged 22 seats there while the PML-N and the PTI have won nine and five seats respectively.

The strength of the PPP, which won four seats, has increased to five after an independent candidate announced joining the party.

The Awami National Party and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl each have fetched two seats and the Jamaat-e-Islami one.

A larger alliance has formed against the MQM in the DMC West in recent weeks, but its members have yet to agree on the distribution of seats including the chairman, the vice-chairman and the reserved seats for labourers, women, youth and non-Muslims.

Dawa Khan Sabir, the PTI Karachi spokesperson, who is elected vice-chairperson in the DMC West’s Metroville UC, said all political parties in the alliance had agreed to stop the MQM from grabbing the top slots in the district and in upcoming meetings they would decide as to how the top seats would be divided among them.

“It was also decided in a meeting that no one would form alliance with the MQM,” Sabir told The News.

Party leaders said they had decided to give the slot of chairperson to the PML-N, but there a differences over the seat of the vice-chairperson between the PTI and the PPP.

However, they added that the MQM had secretly succeeded in mustering the support of two members of other parties and could easily form its government in the district.

MQM leader Aminul Haque also said as much in a talk with The News on Sunday, “We have secured the numbers required for a simple majority and we are confident that the both, the chairman and the vice-chairman of District West, would be from the MQM.”


There are 31 union committees in the South district, comprising Lyari and the Old City area. The MQM and the PPP both claimed that they had won 12 of the union committees in the DMC South and needed only four more votes for a simple majority.

In this scenario, the PML-N, which has bagged four seats, has emerged as a kingmaker in the DMC politics.

Last week, the MQM had signed a written agreement with the PML-N under which the latter had agreed to give the slot of the vice-chairperson to the former after supporting each other in the DMC polls.

However, PML-N insiders told The News that forging an alliance with the MQM had caused an internal rift within the party and several elected members of the party had refused to follow the agreement.

A few days ago, PML-N MPA Humayoon Khan, at a press conference, had refuted reports of an alliance between his party and the MQM in the South and West DMCs. In this regard, Aminul Haque told The News that the MQM still had an agreement with the PML-N’s District South chapter, according to which, the chairman of the district would be from the MQM and the vice-chairman from the PML-N.

The PPP has announced Malik Fayyaz, a former nazim of Lyari Town, for the slot of the DMC South chairperson. The MQM has not announced its candidate so far.

Both the PPP and the MQM claimed that they had the support of 15 members in the DMC polls. However, local analysts monitoring the DMC South politics said the situation would become clear when the DMC elections were announced.


In DMC Malir, there are 13 union committees and the PPP, which has won five seats, has managed to achieve a simple majority by mustering the support of the ANP and the JI, each having one seat.

The PPP has been trying to gain the support an independent candidate, who had succeeded in the Sharafi Goth union committee.

Interestingly, unlike other districts, the MQM is out of the contest in Malir as it has grabbed only one seat and the PPP’s main competitor is the PML-N, which has secured four seats.

The PPP has nominated Jan Muhammad Baloch and Abdul Khaliq Marwat for slots of the chairperson and the vice chairperson. Baloch has twice remained the UC Nazim in Ghazi Dawood Brohi Goth.

The PPP will distribute the seats reserved for labourers, youth and women among its coalition partners – the ANP, the JI and the independent candidate.

However, a PML-N provincial leader said his party would ask the PPP to give the slot of the vice-chairperson to the party in the case a city-level larger alliance was formed.

– See more at:


By Zia Ur Rehman

January 15, 2016


In the ongoing countrywide crackdown against the Jaish-e-Muhammad, a banned Jihadi group, law enforcement agencies have arrested a number of its members and sympathisers in different parts of Karachi, The News learnt on Thursday.

Law enforcement agencies reportedly arrested JeM chief Maulana Masood Azahar on Wednesday in the Bahawalpur district of Punjab in connection with an attack on the Indian airbase in Pathankot, besides detaining dozens of members of the group, according to media reports.


Interviews with members of various religious and Jihadi groups and seminaries’ officials in Karachi suggest that law enforcement agencies have picked up a number of people associated, currently or previously, with the JeM and its charity front, the Al-Rehmat Trust, from different parts of the city.

The crackdown on the JeM also forced a number of its members to go underground, because of fear of arrests, said an administrator in a seminary in Karachi. “A large number of the JeM members have joined other religio-political parties and Jihadi groups, such as the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat because of the JeM’s long hibernation.”

The JeM, on its official Facebook page, Maktab-ul-Ameer, said in its brief message that the law enforcement agencies’ arresting its member cannot affect the activities and cause of the organisation, the BBC Urdu reported.

However, officials of the police and other law enforcement agencies refused to confirm the arrests. “In their regular policing, law enforcement agencies pick up suspects affiliated with banned militant outfits. We don’t know which specific law enforcement agency is behind arresting the JeM members in the city,” said a senior police official, requesting anonymity.

In Karachi, the JeM had an active and strong organisational set-up. After the government’s imposition of a ban on the JeM in 2002, the group started working under new names – the Tehreek-ul-Furqan and then the Khuddam ul-Islam. However, in 2003, the group split after Azhar expelled its 12 leaders, including the group’s Karachi head, Abdullah Shah Mazhar, who, along with commander Abdul Jabbar, later took the name of the Tehreek-ul-Furqan.

The split led to violent clashes between the groups over the control of assets and funds. “The most violent clash between the two groups was over control of Masjid Bataha in the Sakhi Hasan neighborhood, in which a number of their members were injured,” said a seminary teacher, who is aware of the differences. Abdullah Mazhar, who is now part of the JUI-F, had also escaped an assassination attempt in the Bahadurabad area.

– See more at:


by Zia Ur Rehman

January 19. 2-16

Karachi: The Sindh government announced on Monday that it would issue uniform Friday sermons to mosques to curb extremism and promote sectarian harmony in the province.

However, religious leaders and civil society activists said the step was infeasible.

Abdul Qayyum Soomro, the adviser to the Sindh chief minister on religious affairs, said the government would issue Friday sermons to mosques across the province.

“One of our key objectives is to promote sectarian harmony,” Soomro told reporters.

“The Sindh government has been planning to legislate it and a bill on the issue will soon be presented in the provincial assembly,” he added.

After a National Action Plan was announced in the wake of a terrorist attack on the Peshawar Army Public School in December 2014, the federal and provincial religious affairs authorities have been working together to counter hate speeches and extremist material.

A religious affairs official said the draft of the bill on government-issued Friday sermons was ready to be presented in the Sindh Assembly in the coming weeks.

“For Friday prayers, the government will release sermons containing purposeful messages, mainly about humanity, peace, morality, and sectarian and interfaith harmony,” he added.

However, religious leaders belonging to different schools of thought said the government’s decision was impractical.

Mufti Muhammad Naeem, the principal of the Jamia Binoria International, a key Deobandi seminary in Karachi, wondered how the decision would work.

Talking to The News, he said that government had not taken religious leaders into confidence while making the decision.

“These are only suggestions without practical steps which are not enough to curb sectarianism and will only create more confusion among the masses,“ Naeem added.

“We don’t know how the government will enforce it. It hasn’t explained it yet.”

Allama Amin Shaheedi, a prominent Shia scholar, said the provincial government had continuously been hoodwinking the public.

“The National Action Plan was introduced to curb militancy and sectarianism, but the Sindh government, instead of taking strict action against militant groups, has been discussing petty matters, he told The News.

Shaheedi added that the PPP-led government should tell the public as to how many seminaries involved in militancy and brainwashing youth had been shut down and how many terrorists arrested.

“The Sindh government’s lack of seriousness in dealing with militancy has caused a rapid increase in and lawlessness in the province.”

Civil society activists praised the Sindh government’s decision but also criticised it for being ambiguous about its implementation.

Last year, the federal government had announced that it would implement the Nizam-e-Salat in the federal capital. Under the plan, the azaan (call for prayers) and salaat (prayers) were to be offered at a fixed time. However, no progress was made in this connection.

“When the government couldn’t even enforce the Nizam-e-Salat in federal capital, how would it be able to implement the decision of state-run Friday sermons in the province,” said a civil society activist.

In the past, the Milli Yakjehti Council, an alliance of various religio-political parties including the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamia Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, had worked to monitor Friday sermons in mosques so that prayer leaders could be restrained from delivering hate speeches but failed to achieve success.

– See more at:


By Zia Ur Rehman

January 30, 2016


With the sixth national population and housing census scheduled to be held in March this year, political activists and civil society members announced the formation of a committee, at a multi-party conference held on Thursday, to see the survey through as a means to ensure transparency.


Organised by the Awami Jamhoori Party (AJP), the meeting was attended by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz minister for communication Abdul Hakeem Baloch, Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Taj Haider, head of the United Sindh Party Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah, AJP head Abrar Qazi, prominent Sindhi nationalist leaders Niaz Kalani, Dr Mir Alam Marri, Qamar Bhatti, economist Dr Kaiser Bengali and other civil society members.

Being organised after a period of 18 years, the exercise was observed to be crucial for determining future allocation of resources and representatives’ seats in all tiers of the government in accordance with population figures.

While relaying concerns over the alleged gradual conversion of locals into a minority due to illegal immigration, the meeting attendees observed that illegal immigration was giving rise to socio-economic problems in the region.

The speakers adopted a resolution demanding the Federal Statistical Department to count Seraiki, Katchi, Balochi and Dhatki-speaking communities, including various others, as Sindhis.

The practice of clubbing together the various communities under the head of ‘non-Sindhis, “to intentionally present Sindhis as a minority” was also called to be strictly resisted by the participants.

The meeting’s participants also called on the federal government to at least allocate seven days for the house-count exercise so that those residing in islands off the coastal belts were also enumerated; whereas the provincial government was asked to set-up complaint centres in all headquarters of the district.

“The PPP would not allow anyone to interfere with the process of the census; it is a federal party which has always stood by every province’s right to equality,” claimed Senator Haider, while addressing the meeting.

Dr Bengali urged for the authorities to ensure all provinces were equally represented and that the process of the survey was open to public scrutiny.

USP leader Jalal Mehmood Shah also urged political parties and civil society organisations to mobilise and encourage the public for participating in the exercise; he also demanded of the federal government to allocate funds to Sindh in accordance with population statistics.

Except for the first two census’ 1951 and 1961, Pakistan has been unable to fulfil the 10-year obligation to hold the survey with the third being carried out in 1972, the fourth in 1998 and the fifth after a period of 18 years.

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