Posts Tagged ‘Karachi’


By Zia Ur Rehman

Monday, November 09, 2015


Away from the local government elections frenzy in the Karachi urban areas, the rural and coastal neighbourhoods of the city have their own politics, where an electoral alliance comprising tribal chieftains, local politicians and social activists is set to give a tough fight to the ruling Pakistan People’s Party.

In March, the PPP revived the District Council Karachi (DCK), a separate local body for the rural and coastal areas of Malir and West districts, accepting a longstanding demand of their residents.


At the time of the DCK’s revival, there was a perception that the PPP would easily win in these areas, mostly Sindhi and Baloch-populated, in local government polls scheduled on December 5 as they are considered to the party’s strongholds in the city. However, recent political developments, especially the formation of the powerful alliance, have caused worries for the PPP.

Revival of DCK 

The DCK has 38 union councils – 32 of them in the Malir district and six in the West. The rest of the city will be governed through one municipal corporation and its six district municipal corporations – Korangi, Central, South, East, West and Malir.

The DCK was formed during the Ayub Khan regime in 1960s and continued to exist until it was abolished during Pervez Musharraf’s rule and its areas were divided in Bin Qasim, Gadap and Malir towns run by the then City District Government Karachi.

At the time of reviving the DCK, some of its areas were deliberately left out to benefit the PPP in the local bodies polls. The excluded areas included Ibrahim Hyderi, Rehri, Gaghar, parts of the defunct Bin Qasim Town, Mangophir and some areas of Mauripur and the DCK was limited to 17 union councils. However, rival political leaders, terming it pre-poll rigging, submitted a case in Sindh High Court against the DCK’s delimitation. The court ordered the inclusion of all areas in the DCK which were part of the district at the time of its abolition.

Unlike the local government polls in rest of the city where residents of a union committee will cast two votes – one for the chairperson and the vice-chairperson and other for the ward councillor, voters in a DCK union council will cast three votes – one for district councillor, one for the chairperson and the vice-chairperson and the for the ward councillor.

Since 2001, the residents of the city’s rural areas have been raising the issues they are facing, but were ignored by the then city district government.

“Whether the mayor of the city belonged to the Jamaat-e-Islami or the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, nobody tried to address our civic problems,” said Ikram Ali, a resident of Ghaghar.

Now with revival of the DCK and upcoming local bodies polls, Ali feels that they have an opportunity to be heard by the new elected representatives.

PPP vs Awami Ittehad

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the JI and a few religious parties are contesting the local government polls against the PPP and the MQ in the city’s urban areas, but in the areas falling in the DCK, the electoral politics is totally different as groups are formed on the basis of biradirism (kinship, clan and caste associations) there and their politicians have formed an alliance to challenge the PPP.

The alliance, named Awami Ittehad Karachi (AIK), also known as Rajooni Ittehad in Sindhi, has been formed under the leadership of Jam Abdul Karim Bijar, the head of the Jokhio clan; Abdul Hakim Baloch, the state minister for communication; Haji Shafi Jamot, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz parliamentarian; Khuda Dino Shah, a former nazim of Bin Qasim Town; Saleem Kalmati, a leader of the Karachi Indigenous Rights Movement, and the chieftains of different clans.

The Karachi chapter of the National Party, the ruling party in Balochistan, has also announced that it would support the AIK.

MB Baloch, an AIK candidate in Old Thano union council, said as the politics of the local government polls in their areas is based on biradirism, they had opted for contesting them with the support of the clans there instead of a political party.

“The residents of Malir’s rural areas always voted for the PPP but the party has nto tried to address their civic issues,” Baloch told The News.

He said that AIK had fielded its candidates in almost all 38 union councils of the DCK.

The PPP has awarded tickets to its candidates for 15 union councils of the DCK on Wednesday at the residence of PPP Malir district president Raja Abdul Razzaq.

“Malir’s abandoned politicians and parties form alliances against the PPP but are always rejected by the people,” Razzaq told The News.

Analysts believe that in almost every union council, there will be a tough competition between the candidates of the PPP and the AIK.

Javed Jokhio, a Malir-based veteran journalist, said the PPP was the ruling party and had recently won the local bodies polls in eight districts of the province that took place in their first phase, while the AIK had the backing of elected MNAs, MPAs and tribal chieftains.

“We are expecting a close competition in the DCK,” he added.

Although there has been no official announcement by the PPP or the AIK, analysts and politicians believe that Salman Murad, son of a slain PPP parliamentarian, is a strong candidate for the DCK chairperson.

The DCK has nominated Bijar for the DCK’s top slot, while Kalmati and Shah are two strong aspirants for the positions of the vice chairperson.

Other political parties including the PTI, the JI and the PML-N have also fielded candidates in some union councils of the DCK. Jokhio said these political parties were active in union councils with Pashtun and Punjabi residents and challenging the PPP.



by Zia Ur Rehman

July 27, 2015


Kicking off its preparations for the upcoming local government elections scheduled in September this year, the Awami National Party has reorganised its set-up in Karachi’s West district, an area comprising many Pashtun-populated neighbourhoods.

On July 24, the ANP leadership dissolved the party’s organisational cabinet in the West district and formed a seven-member organising committee to revamp its set-up in the area. The body is headed by Usman Ghani and its other members include Murad Khan, Mian Syed Abdul Wahid, Alamzeb Alai, Alhaz Yousaf Khan, Anwar Ali and Sarfaraz Jadoon.


Hameedullah Khattak, the ANP Sindh information secretary, said the committee would run the party’s affairs in the district till a new cabinet was formed. “The party’s recent restructuring is in connection with our preparations for the local government polls,” said Khattak.

West district politics 

The West district is one of the city’s six in total and has several Pashtun localities.

It mainly comprises areas of the former towns of SITE, Baldia and Keamari. After the recent delimitation, the West District Municipal Corporation has 46 union councils, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The ANP has been operating actively in the district, and it had achieved parliamentary success in the area in the 2001 local bodies polls.

The ANP had won the nazim slots in two towns – SITE and Baldia – and emerged victorious in many union councils under the leadership of the then provincial president, Qamoos Gul Khattak.

In the 2001 local bodies polls, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had boycotted the polls and by forging an alliance with the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, ANP candidates Amir Nawab and Aurangzeb Buneri had defeated Jamaat-e-Islami-backed candidates in the two towns.

In Keamari town, independent candidate Humayoon Khan, who is now a PML-N MPA, was elected as the nazim.

In the 2002 general elections, the ANP was unable to fetch any seats from the West district as its Pashtun constituents largely voted for the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an electoral alliance of six religious parties. Three Pashtun leaders of the alliance’s two key components – the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and the JI – Maulana Omar Sadiq, Hafiz Naeem Shamozai and Hameedullah Advocate had won the seats of the Sindh Assembly in the West district.

In the 2005 local bodies polls, the MQM largely won in the towns of SITE and Baldia, defeating the ANP candidates who were backed by the JI, the PPP and the PML-N. However, at the union council level, the JI had secured most slots in the Pashtun-populated areas of SITE town. The PPP had achieved success in Keamari town.

In the 2008 general elections, the ANP had grabbed an MPA seat, after forging an alliance with the PPP. Analysts believe that the ANP mustered the support of Pashtun transporters and influential Pashtun political figures under the banner of the Pashtun Action Committee formed after the May 12, 2007 violence in Karachi. After forming its government in the Centre, the PPP had taken the ANP on board in Sindh government and handed over the provincial labour department to the party.

Taliban attacks 

However, the ANP has been on a downward journey in Karachi because of several reasons. Analysts say that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s attacks on ANP leaders and rallies are one of the key reasons behind the party’s diminishing strength in the city. The Taliban’s unabated killing of ANP leaders and attacks on their houses and businesses in Karachi, especially in the West district, have compelled the party to stop all its overt political activities in the city.

In June 2012, Taliban terrorists had sent a message to ANP leaders in the city to quit the party, remove its flags and banners from their homes and shops, and close its offices.

Over 100 party activists have been killed by the Taliban in the city, mainly in the West district. The terror outfit’s Swat faction, which is headed by Maulana Fazlullah, is responsible for these killings.

Three ANP West district presidents – Saeed Ahmed Khan, Ameer Sardar and Dr Ziauddin – and general secretary – Hanif Advocate – were killed in recent years. Two members of the recently formed organising committee – Murad Khan and Wahid – were also severely injured in Taliban attacks.

Many key leaders and activists left the city and moved back to their hometowns and Islamabad. Others have joined right-wing political parties, including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the JI and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat.

In 2013 general elections, ANP was unable to win even a single seat in the West district.

Police officials and ANP leaders believe that the ongoing crackdown against criminals in Karachi has shattered the Taliban network in the city as many key commanders of the terrorist outfit operating in the metropolis have been killed.

Can ANP reclaim its lost turf? 

Despite the successful crackdown, it will be difficult for the ANP to regain its lost stronghold as, to fill the vacuum created by its absence in Pashtun-dominated areas, particularly the West district, the JI and the PPP have been working extensively to win the support of the Pashtun constituents.

Abdul Razzaq, a Pashtun JI leader who heads the party in the West district, has been assigned the task of contacting tribal elders, civil society groups and political leaders of the community.

Similarly, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has tasked Akhtar Jadoon, a former provincial minister who was elected from the West district’s Keamari area, to woo the Pashtun community elders of the city into supporting the party.

JI chief Sirajul Haq and Zardari also visited parts of district West and met Pashtun elders in the meetings.

Also, the emergence of the PTI has also become a major challenge for the ANP in the district. The fissures within the ANP and the formation of ANP-Wali faction might also divide the votes of the the party in the Pashtun-populated parts of the district, analysts believe.

Ali Arqam, a Karachi-based analyst, said Pashtun votes in Karachi are influenced by political trends and tendencies at the national level. “They have never acted as a homogenous ethnic group on the electoral front, nor has their number in the city materialised into support for the ANP,” Arqam explained.

Pashtun localities are known for their diverse political support base, as one can see flags, graffiti and offices of almost all political and religious parties there busy in their activities there, he added. “Obviously, it would divide the Pashtun vote bank in the upcoming local bodies polls.”

However, Khattak claimed that the Pashtuns of the city do not approve of other political parties. “The ANP is the only party that represents the Pashtun community in the city and raised its voice for their rights,” he maintained.


By Zia Ur Rehman

October 25, 2013

A large number of Taliban militants have been killed in a recent turf war between two of their factions in the suburbs of Karachi.

Infighting between the factions of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led by Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman began when fighters loyal to Waliur Rehman killed Sher Khan, an operational commander appointed by Hakimullah Mehsud, in the Manghopir area of Karachi on August 16.

More than 10 of Hakimullah’s key men have been killed in the city since then, a Mehsud tribal elder said. Amongst them are Soor Baba, Warghoom Kay, Spin Baba and Misray, from Sohrab Goth.  The most recent of these killings took place on September 27, when local commander Mir Hatim Mehsud died in a clash in the Gulshen-e-Buner area of Landhi.

The Waliur Rehman group has expelled the Hakimullah Mehsud faction from Landhi, Sohrab Goth, Ittehad Town, and Manghopir, amongst other areas of Karachi, according to an intelligence officer monitoring TTP activities in the city.

“The fighting between the two factions is in fact part of a larger turf war,” he said. “They had developed serious differences over money they extort from the people of Karachi.”

A source associated with the Waliur Rehman faction, who identified himself as Haji, said his men were the real heirs of Baitullah Mehsud’s TTP in Karachi. He said his group consists solely of members of the Mehsud tribe, while Hakimullah’s fighters included Swati, Mohmand, Punjabi and Mohajir men.

Taliban fighters from Swat and Mohmand went underground during the military operations that began in 2009, and moved to Karachi. Key Mehsud militants from North and South Waziristan also moved to Karachi to escape relentless US drone attacks on key Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in their area. In their new homes in the Pashtun neighborhoods of Karachi, they began to form groups based on where they had come from.

The three key factions of the TTP active in Karachi are from South Waziristan, Swat and Mohmand. Their networks are especially strong in Ittehad Town, Manghopir, Kunwari Colony, Pashtunabad, Pipri, Gulshen-e-Buner, SITE Town and some settlements in Sohrab Goth.

Mehsud militants of the TTP’s South Wazisitan faction, considered more powerful and fierce than others, are further divided into two organizational groups – one loyal to TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, and the other reporting to TTP South Waziristan chief Waliur Rehman, who was killed in a drone strike in Miranshah town of North Waziristan on May 29. The two groups do share the same broad agenda.

Hakimullah had appointed Qari Yar Muhammad the chief of his faction in Karachi, and the recently killed Sher Khan as the operational commander in the city. Waliur Rehman had appointed Khan Zaman Mehsud the commander of his group in Karachi.

Waliur Rehman’s successor Khan Saeed, also known as Sajna, strengthened the group in the port city after he won the support of all the Mehsud tribal elders of South Waziristan, a source said. He oversees the affairs of the Taliban in Karachi directly from Miranshah.

The Mohmand chapter of TTP has also strengthened its network in Karachi, collecting protection money from settlers belonging to Mohmand Agency. TTP Mohmand chief Abdul Wali, popularly known as Omar Khalid, and his spokesman Ikramullah Mohmand organized their network in the city to raise more funds.

In first week of October, law enforcement agencies claimed they had killed four Mohmand chapter leaders – Dr Maqbool, Abdul Rehman alias Lamboo, Kifayat, and Muhammad Sami – in two separate shootouts. Omar Khalid said in a press statement that the men were picked up from Quetta Town near Sohrab Goth and killed in fake encounter.

Another Taliban faction strong in Karachi belongs to militants from Swat loyal to TTP Malakand chief Mullah Fazlullah. Not much is known about its local leaders, but sources say it is being led by Ibn-e-Aqeel alias Khog, and Sher Muhammad alias Yaseen. Swati militants initially killed dozens of anti-Taliban elders and political leaders of Swat who were travelling to or living in Karachi. Then they began killing local ANP leaders and collecting protection money from the residents of areas in which they have influence.

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By Zia Ur Rehman

2-8 September, 2011

On August 17, Amjad Peshawari’s body was found in a sack in Nazimabad. “He was a tailor’s apprentice and had nothing to do with politics,” his sister said. “They killed him because he was a Pashtun.”

Amjad was among about 200 people killed in violence since the beginning of August, and among more than 1,400 people killed for political or ethnic reasons this year so far.

As ethnic tensions in the Karachi increase, a large number of those killed, according to statistics, are Pashtuns. Dozens of shops and restaurants that belonged to Pashtuns were set on fire.

Karachi hosts the largest urban Pashtun population that surpasses Peshawar, Quetta and Kandahar. Migration of Pashtuns from the northwest to Karachi began during Ayub Khan’s regime, when the economic boom and rapid industrialisation created new opportunities of employment, especially in the construction, textile and transport sectors. The hardworking Pashtuns were ready to take the low-wage jobs that the locals did not want. This was because of a lack of economic opportunities in their own province. The Pashtun contributed significantly to the economy of Karachi through labour, petty jobs and small trade. There were about 1.3 million Pashtuns in the city at the time of the 1998 census – 14 percent of the city’s entire population.



But the demography changed as new Pashtun migrants arrived from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Tribal Areas in the 2000s, particularly because of the 2005 earthquake and counter-insurgency operations from 2007 to 2011. According to new estimates, Pashtuns are now 22 percent of Karachi’s population. The changes in demography also change the political realities in the city.

Karachi has a history of urban ethnic violence which has increased since 2007. Relations between Mohajirs (Urdu speaking ethnic community) and Pashtuns have remained tense. Pashtuns mostly live in western and eastern parts of city including Sohrab Goth, Mingophir, SITE Town, Qasba Colony, Landhi Insdustrial Area, Korangi Industrial Area, Kemari, Baldia Town, Sultanabad and Pipri.

Experts believe that long ignored mass migration and settlement patterns resulted in a serious societal breakdown, leading to even serious conflict. Dr Marvin Weinbaum, a researcher at the Middle East Institute, says the Pashtuns have often left the Tribal Areas to seek their fortune in Pakistan’s economic hub Karachi, and this migration has made the Mohajirs very uneasy. “Here we have two very different cultures coming into contact with one another and again fighting over scarce resources, fighting for turf,” Weinbaum said in an interview with the Voice of America. “And a lot of it, then and now, continues to be in the category of simple criminality, which gets an ethnic patina on it.”

Arif Hasan, a prominent urban planner, believes that the failure of state institutions, bad governance and ethnicisation of politics are key factors that fuel ethnic violence and tensions in the city and strengthen ethnic political groups. “Because of the collapse of the state institutions, ethnic political groups are consulted for employment or admissions in educational institutions, and other administrative issues. As a result, these ethnic parties exploit ethnic communal support for political and personal interests,” he said.

Pashtuns, despite being second largest ethnic community, are politically underrepresented and have been kept backwards by Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)-led district and provincial governments, complains Shahi Syed, president of Awami National Party (ANP) in Sindh. The discrimination against Pashtuns in Karachi was exacerbated during Gen Pervez Musharaf’s regime when he completely handed over Karachi and Hyderabad to the MQM, he alleged. “The fight in Karachi is not the fight of Pashtuns or ANP. It is a fight for control of Karachi by MQM that says Karachi and Hyderabad are theirs and no one else’s,” he claims. “According to the 1973 constitution, every Pakistani can live and do business in every city of the country. He accuses MQM of running a propaganda calling all Pashtuns Taliban. “They want this myth to be perpetuated to rid Karachi of Pashtuns.”

Karachi’s Pashtuns have traditionally aligned themselves with religious parties, but in the last few years the ethnic-based ANP has successfully projected itself as sole representative of the community.

“Rejecting the ethno-lingual politics of the ANP, Pashtuns of Karachi had voted for religious parties in 2002 general elections and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) had four Pashtun members in Sindh Asssembly and one in the National Assembly from Karachi,” said Ishaq Khan, a Pashtun leader of Jammat-e-Islami (JI), who heads the party in Karachi’s Pashtun-dominated west district. He said the ANP won two seats from Karachi this time because of an arrangement with the Pakistan People Party, and because the JI boycotted the polls.

“Of the victims of violence, around 75 percent were Pashtuns who had nothing to do with armed gangs or ANP but were killed only for basis of ethnicity,” he said.

The violence of on May 12, 2007 was a key event in Karachi’s ethnic history when dozens of Pashtuns – who wanted to welcome then-deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – were killed. ANP’s support increased after that.

“Ethnic riots and violence did take place between 1985 and 1988, but our leaders met and reached a conclusive peace accord,” says a former leader of ANP. He said (late) Wali Khan and Altaf Hussain wanted to end ethnic violence between the two communities and they did end it at that time. But the two parties are not ready to negotiate a new truce right now.

MQM outrightly rejects ANP’s claims. It also insists it does not represent only Mohajirs. “Pashtuns don’t have economic clashes with Mohajirs. It is a wrong perception,” Gul Faraz Khattak, a Pashtun member of Rabita Committee of MQM, said in an interview. “Not all Pashtuns support the ANP. Some elements fuel ethnic violence in the city to protect their illicit businesses.” Khattak said MQM was interested in talked to the ANP if that could end ethnic violence, but the ANP leadership is not interested.

Abdul Waheed, an Asoka fellow and a social activist working in education sector in Katti Pahari, one of the areas worst hit by violence, said things were worsening. “Internal migration within the city has started because of ethnic violence and people are under pressure to sell property and move to the neighbourhoods where their ethnic community is in majority,” he said.

“Hospitals, schools and roads are now segregated on ethnic grounds and people are reluctant to go to the neighbourhoods where rival ethnic groups live,” Waheed said. “People are just being picked off the streets and killed because of their ethnic background.”

A number Pashtuns are abandoning the city, leaving behind their property and businesses. “It was very difficult for me to stay in Karachi any longer,” said Arshad Ali, a resident of Nusrat Bhutto Colony in Karachi. “I could not go to work and my children could not go to school.” Arshad has moved his family back to Swat. Many like him are thinking of doing the same. The only problem is, there are no jobs back home.

The writer is a journalist and a researcher who works on militancy and human rights. He can be contacted at

By Zia Ur Rehman

KARACHI – Security officials have made progress against extremists, forcing such groups as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al-Qaeda to splinter into smaller cells, an indication that their network is shattered, analysts and police say.

”]Having the factions split up is an end result that has been partially achieved by such things as the deaths of extremist leaders and the cultivation of informants among the public.

“The killing of Osama bin Laden, Baitullah Mehsud and other key leaders is the main factor shattering the TTP network across the country,” Brig. Shaukat Qadir, a security analyst, told Central Asia Online. Bin Laden’s May 2 death in Abbottabad was, at the time, predicted to be a test for the militant network.

Different militant outfits collaborating with the TTP and al-Qaeda are splitting up because al-Qaeda funding has dried up, Qadir said.

“This is indeed a success of security forces against the TTP, as a large number of TTP hardcore militants as well as some al-Qaeda operatives have been apprehended in Karachi,” he said.

Hundreds of suspects caught

Police have also been working to get information from citizens.

“We have developed a strong network of … informers in militant groups that help us track down the militant outfits,” Chaudry Aslam, senior superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sindh Police, told Central Asia Online.

That has helped with the fight.

“In 2010, we arrested 163 members of the TTP while more than 200 have been arrested from the beginning of this year,” Aslam said.

Law enforcement has hindered the activities of the Karachi TTP network by arresting three consecutive alleged amirs, or TTP heads, and dozens of members, Ikram Mehsud, a TTP leader in Karachi, admitted.

The suspected Karachi TTP chiefs whom police nabbed were Akhter Zaman Mehsud, Bahadur Khan Momand (aka Sadiq) and Maulvi Saeed Anwar, he said.

Such arrests have been “a blessing for the people” as they will slow terrorist activities in Karachi until newly appointed leaders can rebuild the network, Aslam said.

Many small terror cells discovered

But a new challenge has emerged. Every month, law enforcement agencies are uncovering new and little-known militant organisations, said Ahmed Wali, a Karachi-based senior journalist who covers militancy-related issues.

“We have developed a strong network of … informers in militant groups that help us track down the militant outfits,” Chaudry Aslam, senior superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Sindh Police, told Central Asia Online.

Such groups include Jundullah, the Badar Mansoor group, Kharooj, the Al-Mukhtar group, Punjabi Mujahidin, Al-Furqan, Laskhar-e-Balochistan and Al-Qataal – all discovered within the past year, Wali said. Splinter groups typically arise in one of two ways.

“First, when some leaders form their own outfit, abandoning their jihadi group and forming direct links with the TTP and al-Qaeda,” said Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies.

Second, forming a new and little-known operational cell comprising a few members who are responsible for carrying out activities in a specific geographic location,” he said, adding that this method allows the militants to dodge security officials longer.

Karachi police discovered the Badar Mansoor faction of the TTP May 12. It allegedly consists of students from Karachi academic institutions, including the University of Karachi. Four of its alleged members were planning to attack government installations and intelligence agency offices, Karachi Police Chief Saud Mirza said May 13.

The same group, operating under the name of Punjabi Mujahideen in Karachi’s colleges, was also involved in the December 28 bombing at the University of Karachi that injured four students, he added.

Karachi police discovered the Al-Mukhtar group by arresting one of its suspected key leaders in a raid April 26. Police accuse the Omar Baloch-led group of involvement in bombing a gambling den April 21. They have since learned it is a splinter group of Laskhar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) whose militants trained in South Waziristan, Fayyaz Khan, a senior CID official, told Central Asia Online.

Sindh Police’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) also arrested Abdul Qadir Kalmati (aka Rocket) April 4. They accuse of him belonging to Lashkar-e-Balochistan (LeB), a Baloch separatist group involved in attacking police stations and security installations. Kalmati has admitted under questioning that LeB is working with the TTP, said Raja Omar Khitab, the SIU’s senior superintendent of police.

Kharooj is another new and little-known militant organisation operating in Karachi that has been recruiting the young, especially students of academic institutions, the Daily Express reported May 11. The group’s leaders are hardcore militants who separated from the TTP and the LeJ after feuding with their leadership, the report added.

Dispersion may help militants

Jundullah, the Asian Tigers, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami, Jundul Hafsa and the Punjabi Taliban are the main groups that split off from the LeJ and are carrying out its subversive activities from Karachi to Waziristan, a report published last November in the Express Tribune stated.

The article stated that the LeJ is the biggest group operating in Karachi and that of 246 suspected terrorists arrested in the city since 2001, 94 belonged to the LeJ, according to a secret CID report.

However, some say breaking up and scattering the militants may improve their chances of survival.

The small cell strategy makes each cell responsible for carrying out activities in a specific geographic location, said Rana.

“And the main purpose is to divert the attention of security officers,” he said. Indeed, because so few people are in the cells and they are so scattered, their existence comes to light only “when law enforcement agencies arrest their members.”

By Zia Ur Rehman

KARACHI – Standing united against ongoing killings in Karachi, Sindh lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution June 7 demanding the government de-weaponise the province.

The resolution won support of all the political parties, including the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP). It stressed the need to carry out an indiscriminate operation across the province to recover illicit weapons before asking the public to surrender its licensed weapons, said Syed Bachal Shah, a PPP parliamentarian who introduced the bill.

“The criminals involved in targeted killings and lawlessness have taken refuge in political parties and now it is high time that the government take concrete measures to curb the violence,” Shah told Central Asia Online. He requested all political parties expel criminal elements who had destroyed peace for their own benefit.

He urged the Law Ministry to ensure that those convicted on charges of possessing illegal arms spend at least three months in jail before they can be released on bail, he said.

Last year was one of the most violent for Karachi, with 1,247 people killed, according to a Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) report. That is the most murders since 1995’s 1,742 killings, the CPLC report said. In the first five months of this year, some 400 murders have taken place, according to media reports.

Karachi murders in 2010 outnumbered the 335 suicide bombings last year that claimed 1,208 deaths, media reported. The number of violent incidents in Pakistan fell 11% from 2009 to 2010, but violence in Karachi rose 288%, according to a report by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank.

Karachi’s crisis demands a well-thought-out de-weaponisation campaign, observers and anti-gun campaigners contend.

Every new wave of violence adds pressure on the government and political parties to take concrete measures, said Mir Zulfiqar Ali, an officer at the National Organisation for Working Communities (NOWC), a Karachi-based rights group.

The NOWC is running an anti-gun drive titled “Campaign for Peace” in the city and has also formed the “Karachi Peace Alliance,” consisting of civil society and professional organisations, traders, media and political parties.

Some victims of the violence were activists of political parties, but most were apolitical daily wage labourers, he said, adding that the criminal elements have joined the ranks of all political parties.

Law enforcement agencies need to keep an eye on check posts and all exit and entry points as smugglers are shipping in weapons from other provinces, said Syed Sardar Ahmed, an MQM lawmaker.

“The MQM has already tabled a de-weaponisation bill in the National Assembly with a timetable to make the entire country free of illegal weapons within three years,” Ahmed said.

Illegal arms are smuggled by land and sea to Karachi, a main port in Pakistan, ANP parliamentarian Amanullah Mehsud said.

“To stem the growing rate of killings in Karachi, the disarming of the city is the need of the hour and has to be pursued with political will … even though it is difficult,” Mehsud told Central Asia Online. He said he has survived three attempts on his life.

The unanimous approval of the de-weaponisation bill clearly shows that all political parties are willing to cleanse the city of the menace of illicit weapons, Ali said.

The government should amend Arms Rules 1924 and Pakistan Arms Ordinance 1965 and should increase the penalty for possessing illegal arms to 10 years in prison, said Iqbal Shah Khattak, a law teacher at Urdu University. Under current law, offenders get less than seven years and they are eligible for bail. A person charged with a crime that carries a 10-year term is not eligible for bail.

Various governments have taken several steps in the past to disarm the city, but they failed because those campaigns were politically motivated or targeted only a rival political group or ethnic community, Khattak said.

By Zia Ur Rehman

KARACHI – Two blasts that damaged the main railway track in the Shah Latif Town area of Karachi, and interrupted rail traffic for an hour February 17, are the latest in a recent wave of such attacks.

Two unknown men travelling by motorbike planted .5kg of explosives in Shah Latif and set them off manually, police said.

In the past week bombs throughout Sindh Province have targeted railway tracks, disrupting upcountry train service. The blasts are the work of the Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (SDLA), an underground terrorist organisation linked with the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a security official said.

The SDLA collaborates with the TTP and BLA and exchanges weapons and terrorists with them, the official said. Central Asia Online has previously reported on the links between the BLA and TTP.

More than a dozen low-intensity blasts halted train service for hours, an official of Pakistan Railways (PR) told Central Asia Online.More than a dozen low-intensity blasts halted train service for hours, an official of Pakistan Railways (PR) told Central Asia Online. On February 11 two blasts damaged the track in Karachi near the Baloch Colony area; four blasts occurred in Mehrab Pur; two were set off in Hyderabad; and four occurred in Nawab Shah. In Khairpur on blast was set off February 13; and followed one in Kotri a day earlier, the PR official said.

The explosion near the Baloch Colony bridge area in Karachi injured two people, but no injuries have been reported in the other explosions, the official added.

Rail attacks lead to financial losses

The February 11 attacks compelled PR to halt trains carrying cargo up-country, causing a loss of Rs. 5m (US $58,700), the official said. All of the damaged track have been repaired and service restored, the official said.

Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza has ordered the inspector general of police Sindh to investigate and to arrest the culprits, a government statement said.

Mirza ordered the formation of a special team to investigate and demanded a full report, according to the statement.

Officials already have created a security plan to protect the tracks with the assistance of the Sindh police and round-the-clock patrols have begun, said Superintendent of Railway Police Muzaffar Sheikh.

Law enforcement agencies have arrested dozens of suspects from Karachi, Hyderabad and Nawab Shah, Sheikh said.

The railway attacks are linked to the militancy in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and are meant to disrupt communications and foster panic, said Sharfuddin Memon, a consultant at the Sindh Home Ministry.

The locally made bombs used against the railway each contained about 1.1kg of explosive, bomb disposal officials said. They described the blasts as similar in nature and seemingly co-ordinated.

PR police found SDLA leaflets at the explosion sites, and Darya Khan, an SDLA commander, has claimed responsibility for the railway bombings throughout Sindh, a senior police official in Hyderabad told Central Asia Online. Khan also took responsibility for four explosions damaging the Guddo railway tracks in November.

The SDLA is an underground Sindhi terrorist organisation comprised of different splinter factions that broke away from various Sindhi nationalist groups. Its main commanders are Khan and Ghulam Hussain Chandio, said Ibrahim Shah, a Sukker-based Sindhi journalist.

The SDLA has bombed railway tracks in the past. It has always left pamphlets at the scene denouncing alleged atrocities against the Sindhi people and vowing to continue its struggle until Sindh gains “freedom,” Shah added.