Posts Tagged ‘MQM’


Weekly Friday Times , July 15-21, 2011

Karachi’s system of governance has long ignored mass migration and settlement patterns that resulted in a serious societal breakdown

Karachi is in the throes of violence yet again. More than 120 people have been killed and dozens others injured in the recent spate of violence that began on July 5. In addition, around 1,138 people have been killed between January and June 2011, of which 490 were target killed on political, ethnic and sectarian basis, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) recent statistics revealed. Observers say Karachi is becoming another Mogadishu.

Karachi is not only the largest metropolis of Pakistan and its commercial hub, it is also known as a ‘mini-Pakistan’ because of the ethnic and religious diversity of its population. The city has a history of urban ethnic and sectarian violence and there has increased since 2007. Now, conflicts in Karachi generally erupt over ethnic issues and the struggle for power and resources in the city. Relations between Mohajirs (Urdu speaking community that migrated at the time of Partition) and other ethnic communities (including Pashtuns, Sindhis and the Baloch) have remained tense.

Some analysts have said the recent violence in Karachi is a result of clashes between gangs involved in drug trade, land grabbing, extortion and gunrunning, under cover of political parties. But there are clear signs it is being fuelled by ethnic and sectarian tensions, political fragmentation, economic disparity, mass migration that rapidly changes the demography of the city, and bad governance.

During the last 10 years, mass influx of Pashtuns and Sindhis to Karachi owing to military operations and the recent flooding has changed the political realities in the city. Farrukh Saleem, an Islamabad-based political analyst, thinks Karachi’s system of governance has long ignored mass migration and settlement patterns which resulted in a serious societal breakdown, leading to even more serious conflict.

With a Pashtun population ranging from 4 to 5 million according to an estimate, Karachi is now considered the world’s Pashtun capital. After 50 years of economic migration from Khyber Pakhtukhwa and FATA, there was a new wave of displaced Pashtuns moving into Karachi particularly after military operations in the north. That has changed the demographic equation.

Pashtuns are about 25% of Karachi’s population and around 15% of the entire population of Sindh. Karachi’s Mohajir population stands somewhere between 7 and 9 million – about 45% of the total population of the city, and about 23% of the population of Sindh.

Of the 168 seats in Sindh Assembly, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), representing the Mohajir population, has 50. The Awami National Party (ANP), representing the Pashtun population, has only two seats. “Based on demographics, the Pasthuns of Karachi could have up to 25 seats in the provincial assembly, but they have only two,” Saleem wrote in The News.

According to Ismail Mehsud, an ANP leader in Karachi, Pashtuns are politically underrepresented and have been deliberately kept backwards by the district government run by the MQM. They had now started fighting for their rights, he said.

Sindhi nationalist parties have their own fears. They have expressed concerns that large-scale migration of IDPs would alter the already disturbed ethnic balance of the city.

“Sindh has become an international orphanage where refugees not only from within the country but also from the neighbouring countries including India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Burma are coming to settle. Because of that, Sindhis are on the verge of turning into a minority in their own province,” said a leader of Jeay Sindh Mahaz.

In 1947 Sindhis were 60% of Karachi’s population, but today they are no more than seven percent, he said.

The Baloch, who are among the indigenous population of Karachi, express similar fears. Lyari, one of the 18 towns of Karachi, is a Baloch majority area. It is considered one of the most neglected in terms of state-funded development in education, health, sanitation and employment, residents complain.

“From the beginning, the establishment’s policy is to keep the Baloch of Lyari hooked on drugs and other criminal activities because the residents of the area are staunch supporters of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP),” said Habib Jan Baloch, a PPP leader from Lyari. The radicalisation of these ethnic grievances is the cause of violence in the city, he said.

In a proxy war over control of Lyari, the PPP and the MQM are said to support armed gangs of criminals – the People’s Aman Committee (PAC) and the Arshad Pappu Group. This has often caused Baloch-Mohajir ethnic clashes, according to police officials in Lyari.

The MQM accuses the government of supporting criminals who target its supporters. “We are not afraid of any demographic changes happening due to the mass influx of IDPs in Karachi. Our party is now also becoming popular among Pashtun and Baloch people,” said an MQM legislator.

The PPP government’s recent move to revive the old commissionerate system has also angered the MQM as it will lose control not only of Karachi but also Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas. “The local bodies system was introduced during Pervez Musharaf’s dictatorship at the MQM’s behest, to weaken the PPP,” Habib Jan Baloch said. “There was immense pressure on the PPP leadership by the people of Sindh to abolish the system.”

The move has also resulted in renewed calls for making Karachi a province of Mohajirs. “The PPP’s one-sided move has created ethnic divisions in the city,” MQM leader Waseem Aftab told reporters. “These measures are forcing people to call for making Karachi a Mohajir province where they could get their rights.”

Analysts say the ghettoisation of Karachi along ethnic lines is the main reason behind the increase in violence in the city. It will be impossible to bring peace in the city without strengthening the administrative capacity of the government to deal with the change in the demographics and addressing the fears it gives rise to.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and a researcher based in Karachi


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 Jane Perlez

Zia Ur Rehman Contributed Reporting

For New York Times

Published : Nov 18, 2010

KARACHI- Pakistan, The chaotic city of 18 million people on the shores of the Arabian Sea has never shrunk from violence. But this year, Karachi has outdone even itself.

Drive-by shootings motivated by political and ethnic rivalries have reached new heights. Marauding gangs are grabbing tracts of land to fatten their electoral rolls. Drug barons are carving out fiefs, and political parties are commonly described as having a finger in all of it.

Angry Pakistanis in Karachi, responding to a political killing, set a bus on fire in August; the city has had more than 1,350 such killings in 2010, a report says.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recently reported that more than 1,350 people had been killed in Karachi in targeted political killings so far this year, more than the number killed in terrorist attacks in all of Pakistan.

That tally has solidified Karachi’s grim distinction as Pakistan’s most deadly place, outside its actual war zones, where the army is embroiled in pushing back a Taliban insurgency.

Indeed, it is the effect of the war, which has displaced many thousands of ethnic Pashtuns from the northern tribal areas and sent them to this southern port, that has inflamed Karachi’s always volatile ethnic balance. For the most part, extremists who torment the rest of Pakistan with suicide bomb attacks exploit the turmoil here to hide, recruit and raise funds.

The attack last week on the police headquarters by a suicide bomber that killed dozens was the exception, the first attack by extremists against a government institution in the city. Far more common have been killing by gangs affiliated with ethnic-based political parties hunting for turf in a city undergoing seismic demographic change.

Karachi has long been dominated by ethnic Mohajirs, Urdu-speaking people who left India in the 1947 partition and who have been represented politically by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, commonly known as the M.Q.M.

The M.Q.M. has a long association with violence. In 1992, the army moved into Karachi to suppress it, accusing it of a four-year rampage of torture and murder. During what amounted to a two-year occupation by the army, “several thousand” people were killed, according to accounts at the time.

The latest challenge to the M.Q.M.’s hold is the influx of Pashtuns who have fled the war to seek work and shelter in Karachi’s slums. Though the Pashtuns number some five million here now, they remain politically underrepresented, and the frustrations of the newcomers have increasingly been channeled into violent retribution by the Awami National Party, or A.N.P.

The two sides have set their gangs on each other. In August, after a senior M.Q.M. member was shot to death at a funeral, more than 100 people were killed in a weeklong orgy of violence.

The army, asked by some political parties to move in again and keep the peace, declined. During the by-election last month to fill the provincial assembly seat left vacant by the murder, more than 30 people were killed.

In that rampage, members of a self-styled people’s peace committee affiliated with the Pakistan Peoples Party, which leads the national government and considers this province, Sindh, its base, stormed an outdoor market on motorcycles and shot 12 Mohajir shopkeepers, the police said.

Hours later, seven men of ethnic Baluch origin were killed, apparently in revenge for the deaths of the Mohajirs, said Zafar Baloch, a spokesman for the peace committee.

Amber Alibhai, the secretary general of Citizens for a Better Environment, said: “If our government is not going to wake up, I fear Karachi will have ethnic cleansing like Bosnia. There’s no one to stop it. Who’s going to stop it? The police? The army? They can’t.”

The cost of Karachi’s violence hurts all of Pakistan. More liberal than the rest of the country in decorum and religious belief, Karachi is the economic engine of the nation, home to petrochemical plants, steel works, advertising agencies and high-tech start-ups.

The rich live in grand houses in gated communities paved with broad boulevards. The poor live in neighborhoods like Lyari, a slum with little sanitation, fleeting electricity and hardscrabble roads that sits under an expressway.

Other megacities in the developing world — like Shanghai and Mumbai — manage law and order through political leadership that is absent in Karachi, said Farrukh Saleem, a political analyst who writes in The News, a national newspaper.

A scared, understaffed and in some cases complicit police force compounds the problem. That was the message of a new report by a parliamentary committee that said 603 police officers had been assassinated since 1996. This year, 33 officers have been killed, the report said.

Many of these senior police officers were targeted, the report said, as retribution for the military action against the M.Q.M. in 1992, a sign of the long memory of the M.Q.M.

But it is the persistent lack of Pashtun representation in the city and provincial governments that underlies the troubles, said Abdul Qadir Patel, the chairman of the committee that wrote the report and a Pakistan Peoples Party member of Parliament. “The Pashtuns are frustrated and the A.N.P. says, ‘We’ll fight back,’ ” Mr. Patel said.

In rare candor for a Pakistani government document, his report said “ethnicity, sectarianism, perceived insecurity due to demographic changes, gang war between mafias and clash of interests among workers of political parties have been the real cause of violence in Karachi.”

Of 178 boroughs in the 18 towns of Karachi, only 4 are controlled by the Pashtuns. Of 168 seats in the provincial assembly of Sindh, where Karachi is located, the A.N.P., the party of the Pashtuns, has just 2.

Based on Karachi’s demographics, Pashtuns “could have up to 25 seats in the provincial legislature,” Mr. Saleem wrote. “That is political power way out of sync with demographic realities.”

As part of the push and pull in the demographic war, the major political parties use armed thugs to commandeer public land so they can gerrymander election districts, said Mrs. Alibhai of the citizens’ group. One of her group’s workers was killed last year trying to protect a park.

“Land grabbing is used by political parties to increase their electoral mandate and enhance their financial position,” she said.

A recent former M.Q.M. mayor of Karachi, Syed Mustafa Kamal, denied that his party, which has long been favored by Washington for its secular outlook, was involved in the killing of Pashtuns.

Mr. Kamal, who as mayor from 2005 until this year is credited with extending running water to several Pashtun neighborhoods, said Karachi was the rightful home of the Mohajirs. The Pashtun, he said, harbor the Taliban and foment terrorist attacks. “We are the victims,” he insisted.

The gruesome clash between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns has spread recently to the stalls in Gulshen Town, a Mohajir-dominated area, where people sip tea and chat.

There, Pashtun waiters who deliver hunks of roasted lamb to truck drivers at curbside tables, have become targets, said Noorullah Achakzai, the chairman of a union of hotel workers.

In April, Abdul Rehman, 35, said he was eating lunch with a friend when six men on three motorcycles fired at them. “I got one bullet, my friend got one, the others were scattered,” he said.

Mr. Rehman showed a long scar across his stomach. His friend died, one of the first, Mr. Achakzai said, of 52 outdoor waiters killed in Karachi this year.

By Zia Ur Rehman

KARACHI – Karachi’s anti-gun campaigners, civil society and political parties have asked the government to launch a de-weaponisation campaign during International Disarmament Week, October 24-30.

They say it is essential to stem the growing rate of assassinations in the city, and; governmental officials have hinted they are considering a de-weaponisation programme.

“We are planning for a de-weaponisation campaign as there are sufficient reports about caches of arms in different areas of the city where lawbreakers have been creating a law-and-order situation,” said Karachi Police Chief Fayyaz Ahmed Leghari.

Initiated by the UN, Disarmament Week seeks to educate people about living peacefully without weapons. Pakistan adopted the UN’s Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons in 2001.


”]Citizens, civil society groups and political parties are urging the government to disarm the city as a wave of violence continues in Karachi. Since the beginning of the year, more than 1,250 murders have occurred, most committed with illicit weapons, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and media surveys.


Targeted killings are top cause of death in country

Targeted killings in Karachi alone claimed more lives than suicide bombings did nationwide in 2010, media reported, with 1,208 people killed in 335 suicide bombings this year, compared to 1,233 assassinations during the same period.

Some of the victims were activists of political parties, but most were apolitical daily wage labourers, Tarentum Khan, an HRCP Karachi officer, told Central Asia Online. “Last year, 844 people were killed and the rate of slaying has doubled this year,” Khan said.

“Various governments had taken several steps in the past to de-weaponise the city, but they failed to attain the desired objective as these campaigns were politically motivated and targeted only a specific ethnic group,” Jamal said.

The HRCP, Sheri – Citizens for a Better Environment and the non-governmental organization National Social Forum (NSF) are some of the organisations trying to curb weaponisation by organising public gatherings, forums and media campaigns.

“Present waves of lawlessness have necessitated a need to launch a comprehensive de-weaponisation drive in under to cleanse the city from menace of illicit arms, which is the main … factor in the perfect state of anarchy and lawlessness,” said Iqbal Jamil, president of the NSF.

The NSF is running a gun awareness campaign during International Disarmament Week.

“Various governments had taken several steps in the past to de-weaponise the city, but they failed to attain the desired objective as these campaigns were politically motivated and targeted only a specific ethnic group,” Jamal said.

De-weaponisation has been tried before

The first campaign against illicit weapons began during the mid-1980s when an operation took place in Sohrab Goth, a Pashtun neighbourhood in the city.

The area was a supply hub for illegal arms, according to the government, but the operation failed because many law enforcement officials tipped off arms smugglers before the operation started, intelligence sources said.

Pashtun community leaders called that long-ago operation politically motivated.

“When police forces carried out the operation in the area of Sohrab Goth, they found only a few old weapons and some ammunition,” Manan Baacha Advocate, a Pashtun political activist and intellectual, told Central Asia Online. To hide their failure, the police demolished the Sohrab Goth markets, owned mainly by Pashtuns, which aroused fury in the community, he said.

A second de-weaponisation campaign took place in Karachi in the late 1990s. It targeted a political party that had attained a sizable arsenal and allegedly challenged the writ of the government. Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Qamar Mansoor described that campaign as a politically motivated effort to weaken the MQM.

The government of Mian Nawaz Sharif in his second term launched a third de-weaponisation drive, but that government buckled and cancelled it under political pressure.

Under Pervez Musharraf’s regime, authorities did seize illicit weapons – but only several thousand, considered a fraction of the guns on the street.

Pakistani government considers harsh punishments for violations

Karachi’s crisis demands a well-thought-out strategy for launching an effective de-weaponisation campaign, observers contend. All the political and religious parties, especially the PPP, the MQM and the Awami National Party (ANP), agree on disarming the city.

The federal government is considering a law that would impose a maximum of life in prison for carrying illegal arms and would send suspects to an anti-terrorist court, Rafiq Engineer, a provincial minister, told Central Asia Online.

A draft law for de-weaponisation to free the country from illegal arms has been prepared, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, adding that the law’s backers have transformed it into an Ordinance to speed up the seizure of illegal munitions and arms.


By Zia Ur Rehman

KARACHI – Disarming Karachi is essential to control the city’s skyrocketing rate of assassinations, analysts say.

Worried about increases in targeted killings, political observers are demanding that the government de-weaponise the city and divert funds into economic policies, such as reducing poverty and increasing job opportunities, to curb the violence.

The government has formed a committee to look into implementation of a de-weaponisation programme, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said, adding the government has ordered a judicial enquiry into the increase in targeted killings from January 2010 until the present.


About 42 people were killed July 21-26. Some of the dead were affiliated with the Awami National Party (ANP), the Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Punjabi Pashtun Ittehad (PPI); most were not political activists.

The MQM and ANP have blamed each other for the recent violence, but Federal Home Minister Rehman Malik rejected accusations of either party’s involvement and instead denounced the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

“People from different castes, creeds and backgrounds live in the city in harmony, but terrorists want to spark violence on an ethnic basis in order to achieve their dirty motives,” Malik said.

Karachi killings blamed on illegal arms trade

Despairing citizens have held protests across the city to denounce the assassinations but to no avail. In recent years they have endured surges of killings every two or three months that take scores of lives; law enforcement agencies have failed to control them.

“In the first six months of this year, 889 people have been murdered, of which some 260 were targeted in the city,” Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) data indicate.

Last year, Karachi saw 884 homicides; 184 of them were targeted killings, the report added. “The rate of killings in the city has doubled this year”, Abdul Hai, provincial co-ordinator of the HRCP, told Central Asia Online.

“The presence of illegal arms is the main reason behind the violence destroying law and order in the metropolis,” Iqbal Jamil, president of the Karachi-based National Social Forum and an activist for a weapon-free Karachi, told Central Asia Online.

Small arms – including automatic rifles and handguns – are readily available on the black market and find their way into the hands of various political parties and militant groups, Jamil said.

About 95% of “hit-and-run shootings” in the city were carried out with 9mm and .30-calibre pistols, media reported, citing police sources.

Though there is no official figure, nearly 125,000 – 9mm pistols were sold in the city in 2009, the report added.

In the courts, the number of cases involving illegal arms is higher than that of any other type of crime in the city, Makham Khattak, a lawyer, told Central Asia Online.

Currently, lower courts try those accused of illegal arms possession, which is also a billable offence, Khattak said.

“The incumbent government has proposed a joint course of action devised by the coalition partners to de-weaponise Karachi,” Engineer Muhammad Raffiq, a minister of the Sindh government, said.

Pakistan considers harsher penalty for arms charges

The federal government is considering an act that would impose a maximum punishment of life in prison for carrying illegal arms and would send suspects charged with possession to an anti-terrorism court, Jamil said.

Most targeted killings are committed with illicit weapons, Raffia said. “A huge cache of illegitimate weapons has been seized in a recent crackdown against the anti-peace element,” he said.

Economic frustration, particularly youth unemployment, is one reason behind the rise in violent crime, said Akhter Hussain Baloch, a journalist-cum-activist associated with the Society for Development and Human Rights (SDHR), a Karachi-based rights group.

“Political and religious parties … exploit feelings of economic frustration in order to harden support for identity-based mobilisation,” Baloch said.

Targeted killings linked to ethnic differences

A “Say No to Target Killings” peace committee has been formed to curtail the growing violence and to educate city residents. Intellectuals, citizens, political and peace activists, and trade unionists are on the committee.

“Some elements are putting an ethnic colour on the violence, which is increasing fear among Karachi dwellers belonging to different ethnic communities, but we, as concerned citizens, will resist it,” said Saleha Aapa, a noted women’s rights activist and member of the committee.

The Pashtun (from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Muhajir (who migrated from India during the partition) communities are two groups that have suffered from ethnically focused violence.

“I am a labourer and not linked with any political party,” said Ashraf Khan, 33, a Pashtun who grew up in Karachi. “But for the first time, I am afraid that I could be killed.”

A Muhajir community member echoed that sentiment.

“(Now) we are scared to go into … other communities,” said Atif Raza, 38.


First published at Central Asia Online