Posts Tagged ‘Voilence’

By Zia Ur Rehman
For CentralAsiaOnline.com
2011-06-09

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.


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By Zia Ur Rehman
For CentralAsiaOnline.com
2011-01-20

KARACHI — Thousands of devotees gathered at the Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai shrine to participate in the three-day urs (anniversary) January 19.

Urs attracts tens of thousands of devotees every year from as far away as Europe to pay homage to the Sufi saint. Bhitai’s themes included love, religious tolerance and humanistic values.

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The Auqaf Department (AD) has set up a unique cultural village for artists and writers to display their work, said Shams Jafrani, an AD officer. Awards and shields will be given to the writers in recognition of their writing, creativity and texture of thoughts, he said.

Jafrani said they have also set up a literary conference for Sufi scholars from Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Punjab.

Sufi University Sindh to open soon

The 267th urs of Sindh’s famed Sufi saint and poet has started in Bhit Shah – the town where the Sindh government will establish Sufi University Sindh.

The university is scheduled to open in a few months at an initial cost of Rs. 65m (US $ 758,000). The curriculum will include music, literature, linguistics and religion but the study of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, will be the primary academic pursuit, said Dr. M. Abid Shah, head of Department of Sindhi at University of Karachi, who has also done his Ph.D. in sufism.

According to the university proposal, there will be three major wings of the University – Sufi thought and practice, mystic poetry and literature, and South Asian Arts (fine arts, folk music, performing arts and architecture). There will be a regional admission quota for all provinces to ensure geographically diverse admission.

Urs comes with increased security

Abdul Shakoor Bozdar, an AD official responsibile for urs security, told Central Asia Online that arrangements for the three-day festival include at least 2,400 policemen and Rangers.

Pakistani Sufi shrines have been frequent targets of militant groups whose hard-line interpretation of Islam clash with sufi spiritual practices. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility for most of these attacks.

In the past three years, KP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas have witnessed attacks on different Sufi shrines by militants. A number of faith healers and caretakers have also been targeted.

“Sufism has been targeted by Tailbanisation, a new faith embedded by anti-mystic jihadi forces which has nothing to do with Islam,” said Muhammad Fayyaz Khan, Secretary General of Jamiat Ulema Pakistan, a pro-Sufism religious party, in KP.

Can Sufism solve militancy?

Adherents of Sufism said Sufism is the solution to today’s militancy.

“The menace of terrorism and militancy could be eliminated from the country by promoting the teachings of Sufi saints,” said Dilshad Bhutto, a renowned Sindhi intellectual and head of Pakistan Secular Forum.

Sufi religious leaders and poets like Bhittai, Rehman Baba and Bhulay Shah enjoy respect and influence over the local population, Bhutto told Central Asia Online.

“Islam spread in the Sindh region through preaching of Sufis, not by Arab fighters like Muhammad Bin Qasim,” Bhutto said. “Sufis came and spread the religious message of love, peace and harmony.”

He suggested that the KP government should also try to establish a Sufi university in that province as Sufism had made a deep impact on Pashtun society and Sufi shrines dot the landscape.

“Taliban militants now consider Sufism as a big threat to their radical brand of Islam”, Khan said, adding that Sufism adherents have always condemned the Taliban’s un-Islamic acts, like beheading the innocent and bombing mosques and shrines.

“In the last few years, first we are seeing them blatantly attacking the Sufi symbols like shrines by Taliban only in KP and FATA, but now they are targeting the shrines in Sindh and Punjab too,” Khan added.

The federal government formed a Sufi Advisory Council (SAC) in June 2009 to slow the spread of militancy and fanaticism in the country. A few days later, a suicide attack at a Lahore mosque killed noted religious scholar Allama Sarfaraz Naeemi, who was known for labelling the activities of the Taliban “un-Islamic.”

Naeemi was also struggling for establishing a Sufi studies institute in the country, said Maulana Ahmed Qadri, a religious leader in Karachi. He said the Sindh government is fulfilling the wish of Naeemi by establishing Sufi University in order to spread the messages of love and peace.

 


By Zia Ur Rehman
For CentralAsiaOnline.com
2011-01-18

KARACHI — Worried about ongoing targeted killings and growing gun violence, civil society organisations have started a de-weaponisation campaign in Karachi, and the Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has filed a bill in the National Assembly seeking de-weaponisation across the country.

Last year was one of the most violent in Pakistan’s history, with 801 people killed in Karachi alone. That is the most murders since 1995, when 1,742 people were killed, a Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) report says.

Some 40 people have been killed in targeted killing since January 13, which led to a partial curfew in parts of the city.

The MQM filed a bill in the National Assembly on January 17 seeking de-weaponisation across the country. The proposed law would ban the production, smuggling, import and use of firearms, ammunition and weapons throughout Pakistan, said Dr. Farooq Sattar, a key leader of the MQM.

The party also suggested forming a parliamentary committee to oversee the process, he said. A public outcry for de-weaponisation has been raised with every new wave of violence in Karachi.

“The present waves of anarchy and lawlessness have necessitated a need to launch a comprehensive de-weaponisation campaign to cleanse the city from the menace of illicit weapons,” said Farhat Parveen.“The present waves of anarchy and lawlessness have necessitated a need to launch a comprehensive de-weaponisation campaign to cleanse the city from the menace of illicit weapons,” said Farhat Parveen, head of the National Organisation for Working Communities (NOWC), a Karachi-based rights organisation.

The disarmament drive — “Campaign for Peace” — is run by NOWC with the collaboration of Oxfam-Novib Pakistan, Parveen told Central Asia Online last week. Civil society and professional organisations, traders, political parties and peace activists are part of the campaign, she added.

“Even though it is a difficult task, the disarming of the city is the need of the hour and has to be perused from some point,” Parveen said. Some of the victims of the violence were political activists, but most were apolitical daily wage labourers.

Crime statistics on rise in Karachi

From 2006-09, criminals and terrorists committed 6,894 attacks with illicit arms across the country, killing 9,634 people and injuring 18,788 others. Thousands of others were kidnapped for ransom, Sattar, who is also a federal minister, said.

The number of incidents of violence 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.

Targeted killings in Karachi killed more people than suicide bombings did nationwide in 2010, media reported. Last year 1,208 people died in 335 suicide bombings, while 1,247 were criminally murdered. About 95% of “hit-and-run shootings” in Karachi were carried out with 9mm and .30 calibre pistols, police sources said, adding that these small arms are readily available on the black market.

Some Karachi residents keep around 50 weapons on a single license, Rehman Malik, Federal Interior Minister, said. He added that the government is devising a strategy to stop such abuses.

“The present waves of anarchy and lawlessness have necessitated a need to launch a comprehensive de-weaponisation campaign to cleanse the city from the menace of illicit weapons,” said Farhat Parveen.

Central Asia Online has learned that the Sindh Interior Ministry has forwarded a recommendation to the Chief Minister to increase the penalties for possessing illegal weapons and make the possession of illegal weapons a non-bailable crime.

The government is amending Arms Rules 1924 and Pakistan Arms Ordinance 1965, and suggests that the penalty for keeping illegal weapons be increased to 10 years in prison, a senior Interior Ministry official told Central Asia Online.

Security affects businesses, medical care

The worsening security situation has prompted 150 businessmen and their families to leave the country, said Majyd Aziz, former head of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI). Targeted killings affect businesses as commercial areas close because of violence and riots, Aziz, who is also a leader the campaign to disarm Karachi, said.

A number of physicians from Karachi have also left Pakistan because they were victims of violence, said Dr, Samreena Hashami, an officer of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA).

The continued re-enforcement of the ideas of militarisation in the educational curriculum, and society’s emphasis on militancy were the main reasons behind the weaponisation of society, said Javed Jabbar, a former federal Minister, involved in the campaign.

“We have to focus on traditional and non-traditional education because non-traditional education including media is promoting violence,” Jabbar said. He added that law enforcement needs to be reformed to make it able to effectively de-weaponize society.

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 and Javed Mahmood
For CentralAsiaOnline.com
2010-11-12

KARACHI – Four officers of the Sindh Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who shattered the network of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other banned organisations in Karachi, were key targets of the November 11 bombing of the CID building but escaped injury, Central Asia Online has learned.

”]The deadly attack began as an armed assualt and ended with a truck bomb that killed at least 20 people and wounded about 100 others, including women and children. The police reportedly used the building to detain and interrogate suspects accused of belonging to TTP and other banned organisations.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Chaudry Aslam Khan, SSP Fayyaz Khan, SSP Omar Shahid and SP Mazhar Mashwani were the main targets, a CID official told the Central Asia Online.

That four-man team oversees the anti-extremism cell and runs counter-terrorism operations in the city. It arrested hundreds of key leaders of the TTP, Lashkar-e-Janghvi (LeJ) and other banned jihadi organisations in a massive crackdown in Karachi, the official added.

“At the time of attack, luckily the four officers were not present at the building,” said the official.

First four attackers’ fates unknown

The four terrorists who entered the building before the blast might be dead, police officials said November 12.

“Four attackers penetrated the CID building by jumping over the wall a few minutes before the blast, and they exchanged bullets with the police,” Iftikhar Tarar, deputy inspector general of investigation in the CID of Karachi, told Central Asia Online.

“We believe that all the four attackers have also lost their lives in the bomb blast,” he said. “It would be premature to say anything about the attackers who remained outside the building.”

So far authorities know of nine policemen among the dead, he said.

He said the death toll could rise if rescue workers recover more bodies under the debris.

The initial investigation showed that ten attackers hit the building, Sindh inspector general of police Salahuddin Babar Khattak said. Investigators are tracing the culprits’ identities, he added.

Counter-terror team had solid resume

The four-man CID counter-terrorist team had arrested six LeJ activists November 10. It linked the suspects to Asif Ramzi’s faction, which allegedly was involved in deadly attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas. The arrested suspects allegedly were planning sectarian killings in the city during the Islamic holy month of Muharram.

On the same day, Aslam Khan arrested Iqbal Bajauri, a militant leader from Bajaur Agency and a close aide of Maulana Faqir Muhammad, TTP’s central leader, from Minghophir.

In 2002, militants sent parcel bombs to some senior police officers, including then-Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil and Fayyaz Khan.

Fayyaz Khan was critically injured. Some credit him with arresting more than 100 high-profile terrorist suspects linked to the TTP and LeJ this year.

The CID has largely broken the TTP’s network in the city by arresting several consecutive amirs (heads) appointed for Karachi, including Akhter Zaman Mehsud and his successors, Bahadur Khan Momand (alias Sadiq) and Maulvi Saeed Anwer, a CID official said. The official said Aslam Khan and his team snatched them all.

The TTP swiftly took responsibility for the blast, saying it was meant to avenge “the arrest” of its comrades. However, Interior Minister Rehman Malik November 12 disputed that claim, saying the LeJ committed the bombing.

“By attacking the CID building, they want to give us a message that they are still alive and could strike back,” Shahid told Central Asia Online, adding that the CID will continue its anti-militant crackdown.

The militants raise funds through extortion, armed robberies and kidnappings and send the money to tribal areas where the TTP-linked militants plan terrorist acts, Shahid said. Dozens of arrests by the CID have disrupted militant fund-raising in the city, he added.

Some police sources theorise that the militants were trying to free Bajauri. However, he was not in the building.

CID attack harms civilians

Civilian casualties in the neighbourhood were numerous. A dozen houses in the nearby Civil Lines residential neighbourhood sustained damage, Moqeem Alam, a local MPA, told Central Asia Online. Most of the civilians injured were women and children, he said. Authorities have suspended gas, electricity and water service because of damage to pipelines.

Police, military and paramilitary contingents have closed off public access to the area. Authorities are searching the neighbourhood for any attackers who escaped.

“We were watching the news on TV when the firing started, then suddenly lights went out, and we heard a massive blast,” said Zarshad, a local resident who is hospitalised after a concrete slab hit him.

Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, accompanied by provincial Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, visited the blast site to review the rescue and relief work. Shah gave assurances of the government’s all-out support for the victims and said the government would keep fighting terrorism.

By Zia Ur Rehman
For CentralAsiaOnline.com
2010-10-26

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.

End

By Zia Ur Rehman
For CentralAsiaOnline.com
2010-07-28

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.

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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.

End

First published at Central Asia Online