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PIPS observes in its annual report that terrorist attacks reduced last year, but sectarian hatred grew.

By Zia Ur Rehman

January 6, 2016

http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/86694-Terrorists-making-inroads-into-rural-Sindh#sthash.wShneWlL.dpuf

Karachi

Although the Rangers-led crackdown in Karachi significantly decreased incidents of violence in the city last year, terrorist attacks in the Jacobabad, Kashmore, Shikarpur and Sukkur districts indicate that militant networks are now making inroads into rural Sindh, it was observed in a report published by an Islamabad-based think-tank on Tuesday.

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The Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), in its annual security report, also noted that the number of terrorist attacks across the country declined by 48 percent in 2015 – 625 – in comparison with 1,723 in the preceding year.

The highest decrease in terrorist attacks was recorded in Islamabad (79 percent), followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (61 percent), Karachi (61 percent), rural Sindh (45 percent), Punjab (41 percent), FATA (36 percent), and Balochistan (36 percent).

In terms of casualties in attacks, FATA was the most affected region of Pakistan, with 268 deaths; followed by 257 in Balochistan, 251 in Sindh, 206 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 83 in Punjab, and four in Islamabad.

Despite a decrease of 59 percent in sectarian attacks, the number of people killed in them increased by seven percent in 2015, 272 against 255 in 2014 because of some major bomb blasts in rural Sindh and Karachi.

About 98 percent of the people killed and over 99 percent injured in sectarian attacks across the country last year were concentrated in eight cities/districts including Jacobabad, Shikarpur and Karachi in Sindh; Quetta and Bolan in Balochistan; the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi; Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; and Parachinar in Kurram Agency of FATA.

Cases of ethnic and political violence in the country also went down by 23 percent, 63 against 82 in 2014.

The number of people killed in these incidents decreased by 35 percent and the injured by 58 percent.

While a considerable number of incidents of ethno-political violence were reported in Karachi (23), sporadic incidents of political violence were recorded across the country largely related to the rounds of local government elections.

The PIPS observed in the report that the “discourse of hatred in the country” had become increasingly sectarian, which militant groups could capitalise on.

The arrests of several high-profile terrorists indicate the increasing vulnerability of the major urban areas of Punjab, Karachi, and the federal capital.

In these areas, radical tendencies among educated youth, from both public and private educational institutions, have the potential to serve the purpose of global terrorist movements as well as local violent radical groups.

It was noted that one such sectarian group with global ambition to capitalise on sectarian hatred was the Islamic State, which had been luring fighters in its camp. The PIPS warned that 2016 had started with an increased influence and inspiration of the IS in Pakistan.

– See more at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/86694-Terrorists-making-inroads-into-rural-Sindh#sthash.wShneWlL.dpuf

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by Zia Ur Rehman

December 21, 2015

Karachi

Sindh has been facing poor governance, a law and order crisis and a lack of infrastructure, and it is widening the gap between the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and the people, prominent journalist and political activist Sohail Sangi said on Saturday.

“The Left and Sindhi nationalist parties seem to be waiting for a miracle that will change the situation and as a result, religious parties are filling the vacuum,” he added.

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Sangi was delivering a lecture on “Sindh post-MRD Movement: challenges in politics and thoughts” – the 14th Hamza Alvi Distinguished Lecture, organised by the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences.

Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed, the head of the Pakistan Study Centre at the University of Karachi, introduced Sangi while prominent journalist Mazhar Abbas presided over the event.

Before entering the field of journalism, Sangi played a key role in Sindh’s politics on the platform of the Communist Party of Pakistan between 1969 and 1980 and was arrested in the prominent “Jam Saqi case” along with other leftist leaders including Saqi, Professor Jamal Naqvi and Badar Abro.

The MRD Movement

Sangi said there were three large-scale movements in Sindh that had changed the political dynamics of the province – in both positive and negative ways.

First, a movement was launched to separate Sindh from Bombay in 1843 and the second one was to oppose turning West Pakistan into “One Unit” in 1956 to end the Bengalis’ majority.

The MRD Movement was started against Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship and did not spread beyond Sindh.

“The MRD Movement had influenced almost each and every family in Sindh,” he said.

With the exception of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Pir Pagara group, all key political parties including the PPP, Rasool Baksh Palijo’s Awami Tehreek, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and small leftist and nationalist groups were part of the movement.

“It is true that GM Syed was not in favour of the movement. But most nationalists become part of it,” he added.

A large number of people, including women and school-going children, were arrested in the movement.”

However, he said, to counter the growing political activism and radicalisation on the street-level in Sindh, Zia’s regime introduced the ‘Dacoit’ factor and weapon culture among the nationalist parties.

“Then, in the name of an operation against dacoits, Zia’s regime targeted political activists, intellectuals and writers.”

Sangi said now Sindh had not seen new political activists for the last three decades. “The PPP has also forgotten its political cadres and focused on the ‘electables’ who are largely tribal chieftain,” he added.

“After allotting tickets to these tribal chieftains for national and provincial assemblies, the PPP had also chosen them for the local government polls.”

Unlike their counterparts in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh’s nationalists have failed to give an alternative, he noted.

“Students’ politics in Sindh’s academic institutions played a key role in the MRD Movement. Unfortunately, students’ politics has now ended and political parties have also not been taking interest in it.”

Growing extremism

Though Sindh was famous for its religious pluralism and called Sufis’ land, religious seminaries had started mushrooming in an organised way during Zia’s Islamisation process, he said.

Deobandi religious clerics including Maulana Halijvi and Maulana Abdul Haq Rabbani fully participated in movements including the Bhattai Tehreek, the Allottee Tehreek and the Sindh Tenancy Tehreek in the 1950s along with progressive leaders including Comrade Nazeer Jatoi and Comrade Razman Shaikh, he said,

However, during Zia’s era, the leaders of the JUI abandoned its basic political thoughts and adopted lines of religious extremism.

He said, religious parties, especially the JUI-F, has been gaining strength in the province, and filling the vacuum created by the PPP and nationalist parties. “In Sindh, the religious parties have also a political agenda and try to solve the issues of local people by visiting their villages,” he added.

Sangi said since 1990s, Sindh saw mushroom growth of madrassas in every town and far-flung rural areas. “The organisers of these madrassas are from Punjab.”

New urban middle-class

In Sindh, a new urban-middle class has emerged and most of them have been migrating to urban towns from rural areas, mainly because of ban of government jobs and floods, he said.

“Now in urban towns, you can find people from rural areas to running shops, rickshaws and other jobs. They are now not under the influence of feudal landlords,” he added.

He also said shape of feudalism has been changing gradually. “The state apparatus and the PPP have strengthened feudalism.”

– See more at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/83201-Religious-parties-filling-in-leftist-and-nationalists-shoes#sthash.cqYkGWKz.dpuf

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Gawahi TV’s office in Akhtar Colony was gutted in ‘arson attack’ a month ago

By Zia Ur Rehman

December 24, 2015

Karachi

In a small, modest house in Akhtar Colony, a Christian-populated neighbourhood, Sadiq Daniel’s family regularly watches Gawahi TV that broadcasts Biblical teachings, prayers and local worship gatherings.

However, they were unable to do so for a few days because of a mysterious fire at the TV channel’s office – located near Saint Peter’s Church in same area – on November 24.

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However, Daniel’s family is happy to see that Gawahi TV has resumed its transmission ahead of Christmas.

“It [Gawahi TV] is the only source in the city through which the Christian community can watch its religious programmes,” Daniel told The News.

The Gawahi TV administration said it had recommenced transmission but there were still problems because much of the channel’s equipment was destroyed in the “arson”.

Reverend Sarfaraz William, the CEO of Gawahi TV, said as the fire had raged for over 30 minutes, most of the equipment including computers, DVDs, editing system, thousands of copies of the Holy Bible and other valuable material were destroyed.

“The arson caused a loss of about Rs2.5 million,” he added.

To continue its broadcast, especially prayers and church services ahead of Christmas, the Gawahi TV’s administration has rented the required equipment.

“Christmas is a time of peace, brotherhood and love and that’s why we have rented equipment to resume our transmission for the celebrations,” William said.

“We are doing our God’s work and continue doing it with divine help.”

Gawahi TV is a Karachi-based 24/7 cable transmission that started in February 2013 in the city’s main Christian-populated neighbourhoods.

“With a significant Christian population in the city, the Gawahi TV’s viewership is estimated to be around 500,000,” William maintained.

However, he added that in some areas cable operators did not air the channel’s transmission citing several reasons.

William said he had worked hard to run a Christian TV channel. “We are planning to spread the transmission across the country and optimistic that God will help us in fulfilling our plans.”

‘Arson attack’

Gawahi TV’s employees said the fire at their office was an arson attack and said they had been receiving threats to stop the transmission for the past several months.

“A group of people who have been trying to stop us and damage our network was involved in the attack and carried it out after much planning,” said one of the employees.

“We are also Pakistanis and have the right to spread our religious messages within our community,” he added,

The Gawahi TV management is satisfied with the police’s investigation and said they were cooperating with them.

William Sadiq, a leader of the Action Committee for Human Rights, a non-governmental rights body, is convinced that the blaze at Gawahi TV was an attack by militants who have been continuously threatening non-Muslim communities, especially Christians.

“It was clearly an act of religious intolerance and the perpetrators set the TV office on fire just month before Christmas,” he added.

– See more at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/83909-C#sthash.WBw3VC9w.dpuf

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By Zia Ur Rehman

December 30, 2015

http://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/85024-Ex-CJPs-political-party-Lawyers-see-no-fireworks-believe-its-a-dud

Karachi

Sitting at a canteen at the City Courts on Tuesday, many lawyers were discussing the political party formed by a former top judge of the country.

Some of them welcomed ex-chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s move. They say that it is high time that the political vacuum be filled. Others see bleak prospects for his political party.

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On December 25, Chaudhry formally launched the “Pakistan Justice Democratic Critic Party (PJDCP)” at a gathering in Islamabad.

He said the party would work on a 25-point agenda and its manifesto would be based on the provision of justice to the common man.

Chaudhry rose to fame in 2007 when then president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharaf had asked him to resign, but was deposed by the military ruler when the judge refused.

This paved way for a nationwide public movement against Musharraf and two years later, Chaudhry was reinstated.

Karachi’s lawyers, who played a key role in the “2007 lawyers’ movement” for the reinstatement of the then chief justice, have mixed views over the formation of the PJDCP.

Qadir Khan Advocate, a lawyer who was the Karachi Bar Association’s vice president when the lawyers’ movement started, said the 2007 campaign not only eventually restored the deposed judiciary but also founded a genuine political movement that compelled Musharraf to step down.

Lawyers say that during the movement, lawyers, civil society activists and political parties supported the cause, not Chaudhry as an individual but the former judge was still popular among the masses for defying the unconstitutional orders of a military dictator.

However, Khan said it was too early to comment on the future of Chaudhry’s political party.

“It is a fact that there is a political vacuum created by the country’s two main parties – the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz – and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has also failed to fill the gap,” he added.

“The PJDCP can fill the vacuum but it will depend on Chaudhry’s team and the party’s organisational structure.”

Political analysts believe that Chaudhry can exploit the discontent between the PTI leadership and the public.

Sartaj Khan, a Karachi-based political analyst who actively participated in the lawyers’ movement, said Chaudhry had chosen the right time to launch his political party.

“First, the government has completed its mid-term tenure and Chaudhry can now organise his party for the upcoming general polls,” he added.

“Secondly, the masses are frustrated with the PTI because of its inability to reach out to them, unsatisfactory performance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and lack of organisational structure. Chaudhry waited for the PTI’s crisis to emerge.”

PTI’s Hamid Khan and Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed, who had emerged from the lawyers’ movement, have been expressing their differences with party leaders with feudal and industrial backgrounds including Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Khan Tareen.

A section of political analysts, however, does not see any future for Chaudhry in the country’s political arena.

Manzoor Isran, a political analyst who teaches at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology in Karachi, said the country’s politics had now changed and become more competitive after the emergence of new trends and the former chief justice’s political party was unlikely to find room in it.

“In the past, many former civilian and military officials including Musharraf, Asghar Khan and scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan tried their luck in politics but did not achieve any success,” Isran told The News.

He added that after his reinstatement, Chaudhry had lost his credibility by using the media and court cases in a way that showed his political ambitions.

“Besides, the forefront leaders of the lawyers’ movement had gradually distanced themselves from Chaudhry after his reinstatement.”

– See more at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/85024-Ex-CJPs-political-party-Lawyers-see-no-fireworks-believe-its-a-dud#sthash.aWH1l22U.dpuf

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The National Party in Balochistan has remained under attack by Baloch insurgents throughout the time it was in power

by Zia Ur Rehman

December 27, 2015

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/power-shifts-in-balochistan/#.VowOGBHRurc

Halfway through five-year tenure, the National Party (NP) has handed over the slot of Balochistan’s chief minister to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

The National Party that was implementing 2013 tripartite Murree Agreement, bore the brunt of participating in parliamentary politics as its leaders and members are under consecutive attacks and targeted killings at the hands of a proscribed Baloch insurgent group.

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On December 15, unidentified armed men killed Dr Shafi Muhammad Baloch, the younger brother of Khair Jan, a central leader of the National Party (NP) and political advisor of the chief minister Balochistan, in district Awaran.

Two days later, the Baloch Liberation Front, a proscribed Baloch insurgent group, claimed to have kidnapped four political activists, including NP members, from different parts of district Kech, BBC Urdu reported. The abducted workers were returning from campaign of by-polls of vacant provincial assembly seat PB-50, which is scheduled for December 30. On December 7, two NP workers were killed in Grisha area of district Khuzdar.

Background interviews with the NP leaders and political analysts suggest there are serious threats to the political leaders and parliamentarians of all political groups, such as the PML-N, the Balochistan National Party (BNP), the BNP-Awami and the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), operating in Baloch parts of the province but the NP is the Baloch insurgents’ key target for ideological reasons.

NP leaders claim dozens of party leaders and their relatives have been killed since the party participated in the 2013 general elections. Engineer Hameed Baloch, the NP’s central vice-president, said his party has been struggling for rights of downtrodden people, especially the Baloch community, in democratic way. “Some forces differ with the party’s policy to take part in parliamentary politics to resolve the issues and thus target our leaders,” he tells TNS.

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However, political analysts who study Baloch insurgency closely believe there are several factors behind the insurgents’ attacks on the NP leaders. “In fact, the BLF — the key insurgent group led by Dr Allah Nazar — emerged from within the ranks of then Balochistan National Movement (BNM), now working as the NP,” says a political analyst in Quetta. In October 2003, the NP was formed after merger of two political parties — BNM led by Abdul Hayee Baloch and Dr. Malik Baloch, and the Balochistan National Democratic Party (BNDP) led by Sardar Sanaullah Zerhi and Mir Hasil Bijenzo.

Belonging to a middle-class family from Mashkay town of district Awaran, Nazar started his political career as a member of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO), a sister organisation of the then BNM. After parting ways with the then BNM, Nazar and his ideological friends formed Azad (independent) faction of the BSO in 2001 and openly opposed parliamentary politics and advocated an armed struggle for liberating Balochistan. After few years, he went into hiding to organise his own militant group — BLF.

Ghulam Muhammad Baloch, another radical leader of BNM, along with his colleagues, did not join the newly formed NP. In 2003, he established the organising body of the BNM which decided to struggle for the cause of independent Balochistan instead of taking part in parliamentary politics. Body of Ghulam Muhammad Baloch was found in April 2009, five days after being picked up by unknown assailants from the office of Kachkol Ali Advocate in Turbat, an NP parliamentary leader.

The Balochistan Student Organisation (BSO-Azad) and the BNM were influenced by politics of Makran belt, the area of influence of the NP and where, contrary to popular belief, the Sardari system does not exist. In the beginning, the NP workers faced criticism from the BSO-Azad and the BNM on the party’s political views in a peaceful manner, NP activists say, adding that after the BLF’s formation, the situation started deteriorating.

“The killing of Maula Bakhsh Dashti, Nasim Jangiana and Dr Lal Bakhsh, three key NP leaders, in 2010 and 2011 indicated the party is on the BLF’s key target,” says an NP lawmaker in Quetta, requesting anonymity. “Then they [insurgents] threatened the party leadership not to participate in the 2013 general polls and attacked election rallies.” Even Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, the then NP’s central president, who became chief minister later, survived in several assassination attempts during the election rallies.

The NP draws much of its support from areas such as Awaran, Panjgur, Washuk, Turbat, Kech and Gwadar, and the BLF’s area of operations also stretches largely across same region of southern Balochistan. “Most of the party leaders, parliamentarians and their relatives do not go to their hometowns because of security reasons,” says the NP lawmaker.

Journalists covering the insurgency opine Baloch militant groups target the NP leaders because they rule the province and support the ongoing military operation against the insurgents.

“The NP in Balochistan has been in the same situation as Awami National Party when it was in government from 2008 to 2013. In Balochistan, Baloch insurgents target the NP while in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Taliban targeted the ANP,” a veteran journalist comments.

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By Zia Ur Rehman

January 3, 2016

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/karachi-operation-centre-tussle/#.VowMWxHRure

As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif landed in Karachi on December 28, it was expected that both federal and Sindh governments would hold a meeting on the controversy regarding powers of the paramilitary Rangers. The issue had made relations between Islamabad and Karachi tense since early December when the Pakistan People’s Party’s provincial government decided not to extend the Rangers’ powers.

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In a gathering organised by the industrialists’ body, PM Sharif praised the National Action Plan (NAP) and gave Sindh Rangers and Police a pat on the back for curbing terrorism and restoring peace in Karachi, in the absence of Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, the ongoing operation’s captain. The prime minister did not acknowledge him or the Sindh government in his speech. Also, in a brief meeting at airport, Sharif asked the chief minister to come to Islamabad to hammer out the differences on the issue of Rangers’ powers in the presence of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar.

The PPP leaders say its central leadership has noticed Sharif’s attitude in his recent Karachi visit, how he ignored the Sindh government and the chief minister, and claimed the success of operation as a success of the PML-N policy. “The federal government is challenging Qaim Ali Shah’s authority on the operation and relations between the two have been deteriorating since after Dr Asim Hussain’s arrest,” says an advisor of the chief minister Sindh on condition of anonymity.

However, on December 30, the chief minister did meet Sharif in Islamabad and discussed the special powers of Rangers. The meeting concluded with the PM directing the interior minister to visit Sindh to sort out the issues regarding the Rangers’ powers. Some voices in the media think it amounts to failure of the meeting.

Since 1989 when the then PPP government at the centre first called the Rangers and the Frontier Constabulary to curb rising political violence in Karachi, the Rangers have been assisting the police. Ever since, consecutive provincial governments have kept extending their stay from three to six months, every time the deadline approached.

However, the federal cabinet empowered the Rangers in September 2013 to lead a targeted operation in Karachi with the support of police against criminal syndicates, Taliban and sectarian groups and groups involved in target killings, extortion and kidnapping for ransom. In the beginning, all political parties, especially the PPP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) were satisfied with the Rangers’ targeted operation that claimed to have dismantled the networks of Taliban groups and criminal syndicates in the city.

But both parties started levelling allegations of political victimisation and accusing the Rangers of overstepping their mandate, when the Operation’s dragnet was thrown wider. This happened especially when activists of the MQM were arrested and Dr Asim Hussain, former president Asif Ali Zaradari’s close aide was arrested by Rangers in August, on charges of funding terrorists. Several key leaders of the PPP left the country, fearing arrest over charges of corruption.

Officials in the Home Department say the Rangers want extension of their jurisdiction beyond Karachi in the light of intelligence reports about the presence of several militant networks in rural Sindh. However, the Sindh government wants to limit their role only to Karachi and cases of targeted killings, extortions and kidnapping for ransom.

In mid-December, the Sindh Assembly adopted a resolution to limit the Rangers’ powers and sent a summary to the centre. However, the latter has turned down the request and notified a 60-day extension in the Rangers’ authority as per the previous arrangement.

Waqar Mehdi, special assistant to CM Sindh, says the federal government should respect Sindh Assembly’s resolution and avoid encroaching upon the provincial administration’s powers. “Rangers should focus on their basic sphere of action — cases of targeted killings, extortion, kidnappings for ransom and sectarian killings. Dealing with the corruption cases is a provincial matter and there is an anti-corruption department,” Mehdi tells TNS.

Interestingly, the MQM, which has won the city’s local government polls in an overwhelming way following the Operation, is also not supporting the PPP in its tussle with the Rangers.

A senator from the PML-N, requesting anonymity, said that the city’s key stakeholders, especially traders and all political parties, except the PPP and the MQM, are satisfied with the Rangers’ operation. “The PML-N will not come under pressure of any political party to halt the operation in the city,” he tells TNS. “The federal government will relax on the Rangers’ issue after a few weeks when there will be severe tussle between the PPP and the MQM over powers of mayors of Karachi and Hyderabad,” he maintains.

Political analysts opine that PM Sharif has no reason to accept the Sindh government’s demands for cutting the Rangers’ powers. Manzoor Isran, a political analyst who teaches at SZABIST says the Karachi operation, better economic performance and full support of army has made the PML-N a popular party.

“Now, at a time when operation in Karachi is at its peak, the PML-N is unlikely to trim the powers of Rangers as it will undermine their performance and morale,” says Isran. “Sharif cannot afford to annoy Rangers at this point in time”.

 

 

 

 

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By Zia Ur Rehman

January 4, 2016

Karachi

The Shia groups in Karachi organised peaceful protest rallies on Sunday against the execution of prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr by the Saudi authorities.

However, law enforcement officials fear the conflict in the Middle East can an outbreak of sectarian violence in the country, especially in Karachi.

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They are concerned that militants affiliated with sectarian outfits might target Saudi and Iranian installations in the city.

The Majlis-e-Wahdat Muslimeen (MWM), a key Shia political party, organised protest demonstrations and rallies on Sunday in the different Shia-populated neighbourhoods, of the city including Malir, Incholi, Abbas Town, Shah Faisal Colony, Rizvia Society and Gulistan-e-Jauhar to condemn al-Nimr’s execution.

Holding placards and banners and shouting slogans, the protesters at Numaish Chorangi described the execution as a “brutal” act carried out by Saudi rulers.

On the other hand, Deobandi and Ahle Hadith groups are planning to organise rallies in the city to express their support for the Saudi rulers.

However, their leaders have not announced the dates for their rallies.

Pro- and anti-Saudi rallies

This is not for the first time that rallies in favour of and opposing the Saudi and Iranian governments are being staged in Karachi.

The deployment of Saudi troops in Bahrain in 2011 and the turmoil in Yemen in 2015 had angered Pakistan’s Shia community and caused protests, mainly in Karachi.

Responding to Shia groups’ protests, the Deobandi and Ahle Hadith groups had organised pro-Saudi rallies in the city.

“The day Shia groups organise rallies against the Saudi rulers, the next day Deobandi and Ahle Hadith groups stage pro-Saudi and anti-Iran rallies,” said a journalist who has covered these protests in the past.

Attacks feared

Security analysts and police officials fear that the current turmoil in Yemen will exacerbate the existing sectarian strife in the country, particularly in Karachi.

They also fear that militants of banned outfits belonging to both sects could target Saudi and Iranian interests, especially its diplomatic staff in the city.

When Saudi Arabia had deployed troops in Bahrain in 2011, an employee of its consulate in Karachi, Hassan al-Qahtani, was gunned down on May 16 that year. A few days before that, the consulate was attacked with grenades. Following the attacks, the Saudi government had recalled its essential duty staff and the families of diplomats stationed at its Karachi office for a while.

On December 30, a Karachi court had sentenced Zaki Kazmi , a militant belonging to the Mehdi Force, a little-known Shia militant group, to 14 years in prison for hurling a grenade on the Saudi consulate.

According to the prosecution, Kazmi, along with his accomplice Tabish Hussain alias Asif Mamu, had lobbed grenades at the consulate.

In November, police had killed Hussain in a shootout in Gulistan-e-Jauhar.

On Sunday, the security of Saudi and Iranian consulates in Karachi was beefed up.

“After the execution of Sheikh al-Nimr and the torching of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, the authorities have decided to increase for the consulates,” said a senior police official in the South Zone.

Sectarian hotspot

Karachi is among the four hotspots for sectarian violence in the country and the current situation in the Middle East is likely to increase sectarian killings in the city, security experts believe.

Muhammad Amir Rana, the director of the Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), said sectarian groups had been weakened because of the ongoing crackdown on them. However, he said, protest rallies by sect-based religious parties against or in favour of Saudi rulers could become violent and worsen the situation.

Apart from the killing of top leaders of violent sectarian groups at the hand of law enforcement agencies since the announcement of the National Action Plan, the ongoing Rangers’ operation too has weakened Sunni and Shia groups in Karachi, it was observed in a recent PIPS’ Conflict and Peace Studies journal.

Police officials have similar views. “Karachi is a key battleground for a decades-long proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” said a police officer conducting an operation against sectarian outfits in the city. “Their recent war will obviously affect the security situation in the city,” he added.

– See more at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/86136-Saudi-Iran-tensions-may-affect-Karachi-law-and-order#_