Archive for March, 2016


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.”