Poor law and order and the recent political violence in Karachi have enabled banned sectarian outfits to re-surface with renewed vengeance

By Zia Ur Rehman

Feb 5 ,2012

The News on Sunday


A wave of killings on sectarian grounds continues to plague Karachi as several people, especially lawyers, were targeted in the city during January this year.

On Jan 25, three Shia lawyers, Badar Munir Jaffery, Kafeel Jaffery and Shakeel Jaffery, were gunned down near Pakistan Chowk area. Similarly, on Jan 24, two legal advisors to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), identified as Muhammad Ali alias Mama and Noman, fell victim to target killings. Another senior lawyer Maqbool-ur-Rehman, a legal advisor to ASWJ, was killed in an attack on New MA Jinnah Road on Jan 11. Rehman had fought cases of activists belonging to the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). On Dec 31, Askari Raza, a legal advisor to Pasban-e-Jaferia, was shot dead in Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

Besides the lawyers, Taseer Abbas Zaidi, brother of famous noha Khawan Raza Abbas, was shot dead on Jan 30 in FB area. On Jan 28, Jaffar Mohsin Rizvi, a trustee of the Imambargha Aal-e-Aba, was gunned down outside his residence in Gulberg area.

“The militants are mainly targeting the lawyers who are fighting the cases of activists of their rival sectarian groups,” claims a leader of Karachi Bar Association (KBA), adding that the killings of lawyers on sectarian grounds have created fear among the legal fraternity.

This was also corroborated by a senior police official at Criminal Investigation Department (CID), who is of view that banned sectarian outfits, especially Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), have become active in the city and targeting people, especially lawyers and doctors, of rival sects. Banned sectarian outfits are taking advantage of the existing ethnic and political violence to kill each other’s workers and sympathisers, he says. It is pertinent to mention that in 2011, dozens of doctors were killed in the city on sectarian basis.

“In fact, we were busy in cracking down against other militant groups linked with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) like Al-Mukhtar group and Punjabi Taliban and succeeded to shatter their network in the city to a great extent, but now we have shifted our focus on these banned sectarian outfits in the city,” says the CID official, adding that higher authorities have ordered police officials to stop the ongoing killings.

Rehman Malik, Federal Interior Minister, had said that terrorists from Gilgit and Miramshah have become operational in Karachi to destabilise the law and order situation in the metropolis.

Political experts believe that sectarian violence has reached an alarming level in Karachi and the victims include members of the Deobandi and Shia sects. As many as 111 sectarian-related terrorist attacks, including five suicide attacks, were reported in Pakistan in 2011, killing 314 people and injuring 459, according to Pakistan Security Report 2011, prepared by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank. The report further states that Karachi was the worst-hit city with 36 attacks, about 32 per cent of the total sectarian-related attacks in Pakistan, killing 58 people and injuring another 58. The report also states that the overall incidences of sectarian violence in the country decreased significantly in 2011, but the ratio of casualties were concentrated in the cities of Karachi, Lahore and Quetta.

Raees Ahmed, a security expert, believes that law-enforcement agencies have shattered those outfits’ network in Karachi in the past, but the recent political violence in the city has enabled them to re-surface there. He says a government ban on these sectarian organisations led them to operate under different names. “Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) began operating under the names of Millat-e-Islamia and ASWJ while the SMP started working as a new organisation with a different name. Similarly, other banned jihadi organisations like Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) is now working as al-Furqan and Khuddamul Islam, while Jamat-ud-Dawaa or Lashkar-e-Tayyaba as Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation.”

Some analysts say that the May attack on Saudi Consulate in Karachi was also an effort to re-ignite Sunni-Shia discord in Pakistan, especially in Karachi. “The attack on the Saudi Consulate and the killing of its staffer clearly show that the fight for Bahrain has shifted to Pakistan and could ignite the decade-long Sunni-Shiite rivalry in the country, especially in Karachi”, Ahmed says. “Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have funded hardline Sunni militant groups like LeJ and SSP in Pakistan for years, angering the minority Shia community, while Iran has channeled money to Shia militant groups like the SMP.”

He says that in the 1980s and 1990s, Pakistan was the scene of an effective proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Karachi being a bloody battleground in the struggle. “The involvement of hardline religious groups from Afghanistan in Pakistan’s internal affairs has further complicated the sectarian conflict.” Since 1989, sectarian fighting has engulfed the entire country, claiming nearly 7636 lives, mostly from the Shia community, according to statistics compiled by South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP).

Law enforcement agencies have failed to nab 17 terrorists belonging to different banned sectarian outfits whose names are enlisted in ‘Red book’, a report published in Daily Jang, states. These terrorists include Syed Kashif Ali Shah a.k.a Shaheen (Judullah), Riaz a.k.a Afghani (LeJ), Syed Azhar Ali (SMP), Jamil Barmi a.k.a Qari Sahib (LeJ), Syed Asif Ali Zaidi (SMP), Fasi-uz-Zaman (Jundullah) and others.