Taking advantage of the ongoing ethnic violence in Karachi, Taliban militants are hunting down their opponents with ease

by Zia Ur Rehman

The News on Sunday

January 15, 2011

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jan2012-weekly/nos-15-01-2012/dia.htm#2

On January 5, 2012, Saeed Ahmed Khan, district president of Awami National Party (ANP), was killed in an attack on his house in the Metroville area of SITE Town in Karachi. Belonging to Manja village of Tehsil Kabal, Swat, he was an influential political figure in both Swat and Karachi. One of the attackers was shot dead by a police constable assigned to Saeed Khan’s security while four others managed to flee from the scene.

“Swat’s Taliban militants hiding in Karachi are behind Khan’s killing,” Saifullah, head of Nekpikhel Qaumi Jirga, Swat, claims confidently, adding that the attacker killed in encounter on the occasion was a Taliban commander identified as Aminullah, who is a resident of Totano Bandai. “Aminullah was a fugitive living in Karachi,” he tells TNS.

Khan was not the first target of Swati militants hiding in Karachi. They have selectively killed dozens of elders and political figures of Swat who were travelling to or living in Karachi, TNS has learnt.

Following the military operation in Swat, a large number of militants belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), locally headed by Maulana Fazlullah, went underground and shifted to different parts of the country including Karachi. More than 5 million Pashtuns live in Karachi, a city with a population of about 18 million, where it is very easy for militants to find sanctuaries, security experts opine.

The low-profile members or simple sympathizers have fled to Karachi and majority of them have shaved their beards and cut their long hair. A large number of such people work there as petty labourers, but some of them are waiting for the right time to settle their scores with their rivals in the city, experts believe.

“Taking advantage of the ongoing ethnic violence in the city, the militants kill their rivals and in most cases the police consider these killings as result of ethnic violence,” says a Karachi-based ANP leader, requesting anonymity. He adds that the number of such killings is not more than 30 but all the killed were members of anti-Taliban peace committees, leaders of ANP or ‘informers’ to law enforcement agencies. “Majority of those killed in the ongoing ethnic violence are Pashtuns,” he says.

Anti-Taliban Swati people travelling to Karachi are being targeted and killed by these militants. On December 29, 2011, Javed Khan, member of Kabal Peace Committee, was killed in Banaras area. Muhammad Rahim, a resident of Dherai village of Kabal, was also shot dead in Karachi on December 23, 2011. Rustam Khan, a local ANP leader and member of a peace committee in Kanju, was killed in Banaras on January 2 last year. In another case, Fazal Muhammad, a constable of Swat’s Special Police Force and a resident of Charbagh, was killed on November 9, 2011, in Pathan Colony. Similarly, Nisar Muhammad Khan, a leader of anti-Taliban Peace Committee of Kabal, was shot dead on October 28 last year in Pathan Colony area. Mian Azam Shah, an anti-Taliban leader in Matta, was assassinated in Baldia Town on October 19 last year. Similarly, Humayoon Khan, former councillor and leader of peace committee in Taal area of Swat, was also killed in Karachi.

Sher Shah Khan, an elected parliamentarian from Swat valley, says, “The people killed by militants in Karachi were very helpful to the government during the military operation, and I believe they have been targeted for this very reason. Khan tells TNS killing a pro-government elder is very easy in Karachi rather than Swat.

“The militant group involved in the killings of pro-government elders of Swat in Karachi is mainly led by Ibn-e-Aqeel alias khog and Sher Muhammad alias Yaseen,” says a well-informed elder in Matta, adding that both are among the most wanted people in Swat. He says that the task of such assassinations was handed over to them two years ago by TTP Swat’s commander Ibn-e-Amin of lower Shawar area of Swat. It is pertinent to mention that Ibn-e-Amin, a most dangerous commander in Swat and linked with al Qaeda, was killed in a drone attack in Tirah valley of Khyber Agency in December 2010.

“We have nothing to do with the killing of common people. We just target our rivals who helped the security forces in the operation against us in Swat,” a militant hailing from Charbagh area tells TNS. He claims that some of their hardcore members had joined other local banned jihadi organisations linked with TTP in Karachi.

Dozens of pro-government elders of other parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas have been killed in the past year for speaking against Taliban atrocities in their respective hometowns. Abdul Manan, the elder brother of Dilawar Khan, a prominent leader of a Peshawar-based armed lashkar formed against the Taliban militants operating in Matani and Darra Adam Khel, was also gunned down in Shireen Jinnah Colony of Karachi in January 2009. Tariq Afridi-led Darra Adam Khel militants had claimed responsibility for Manan’s killings.

Similarly, Mohmand agency-based militants are also active in Karachi and killing anti-Taliban people. Haji Tor Babazai, an anti-Taliban elder of Mohmand Agency, was killed in Karachi on September 29, 2010. “Qari Shakil, deputy amir of TTP Mohmand, operates a network of Mohmand militants in Karachi which not only collects extortions from Mohmand-based businessmen but also kill anti-Taliban people,” an elder of Mohmand agency based in Karachi tells TNS on condition of anonymity.

“Law enforcement agencies have arrested dozens of TTP militants belonging to KP and other tribal areas,” an official at Crime Investigation Department (CID) says, adding that some of them had suicide jackets and huge quantities of explosives and weapons and were involved in target killings of pro-government elders of Swat.

Experts and tribal elders suggest that law enforcement agencies should launch a “selective and surgical” operation in Karachi against militants who have migrated to Karachi which will help stop the target killing of pro-government elders of KP and tribal areas.

The writer is a journalist and researcher. Email: zia_red@hotmail.com

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