By Zia Ur Rehman

November 19, 2011

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.