By Sajjad Shaukat
Protests and demonstrations by the Shia community enveloped almost all the country in reaction to the deadly twin blasts which killed more than 50 people, and damaged various buildings on March 3, this year in the Shia-dominated Abbas Town of Karachi. Next day, Sohrab Goth area of Karachi turned into battlefield with heavy exchange of fire after the four mourners of the burial procession were killed, while several people including four personnel of the Rangers were injured, and at least 10 vehicles were set on fire in wake of complete shutter down strike in the city, plunging it into total chaos. In this regard, on the appeal of Muhttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), shutdown strikes and protests were again held in Karachi and some other cities of the Sindh province on March 6.
There has been no claim of responsibility. But suspicion falls on banned Sunni extremist organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) which has claimed major attacks on Shias in Quetta, particularly of February 17, which killed more than 100 persons of the Hazara Shias on the Kirani Road.
In this respect, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, while stating in the National Assembly on March 5 that four activists of the LeJ, involved in Karachi’s Abbas Town bomb blasts have been arrested, assured the Assembly that he would present a fact sheet that apart from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TPP) some other outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are also involved in recent terrorist activities, while LeJ is openly holding its meetings in Punjab. Earlier, he disclosed that Punjabi Taliban of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi which had its headquarters in Punjab were behind the terror attacks in Karachi’s Abbas Town and Quetta’s Alamdar Road and Kirani Road. He elaborated that the Punjab government’s ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was in an electoral alliance with the banned organisation. Therefore it has taken no action against the militant group. Former Governor, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Barrister Masood Kausar expressed similar thoughts on March 5. Notably, in the 2010, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer (The Late) revealed that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has links with Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
Although various sorts of subversive activities continue in different cities of Pakistan, yet Karachi needs special attention where sporadic terror-acts such as target killings, suicide attacks, hostage-takings, intense exchange of firing between two ethnic groups and workers of political parties in wake of setting buildings, shops, vehicles on fire and sectarian violence have kept on going since the last year, killing more than 2,200 people including several personnel of Police and Rangers.
In the end of April, 2012 in the areas of Lyari more than 20 people including police men have lost their lives as the gun-battle between police and gangsters continued for eight days. The criminal militants had been using heavy-weapons like rocket-launchers, hand grenades, machine guns. Besides these arms, police also discovered anti-aircraft guns from some places. In this context, Rehman Malik had disclosed, “There is someone behind the scene who is providing modern weaponry to culprits in Lyari,” and militants, belonging to the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Baloch Liberation Army were creating disturbance in Lyari.” He told the National Assembly on February 2, 2012 that the aggravated situation in Karachi was the result of a well-planned conspiracy. He also revealed links among these militant outfits in carrying out joint terrorist activities, while the former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had also indicated “foreign hands” behind the Karachi unrest.
However, in 2012 besides other innocent people, leaders and members of the Pakistan PPP, MQM and ANP were murdered in the target killings, while dead bodies were also recovered from various places. In February, 2012 three Shia lawyers, two activists of the Sunni Tehreek (ST) and a doctor including Baluch MPA Nawabzada Bakhtiar Khan Domki’s wife were brutally killed in separate assaults. Especially, the year of 2012 shows that the foreign-backed terrorists who had gone underground for some months due to the collective operation of Rangers and Police reappeared in Karachi.
The wave of various kinds of terrorism continues unabated in Karachi in 2013. Recently, sectarian violence erupted in different areas, killing more than 30 people after a terror assault on a leader of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and the killing of four men of the group believed to be the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan.
It is notable that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan have claimed responsibility for a number of terror-related incidents.
In April 4, 2012, leaders of the three coalition parties, PPP, MQM and ANP attended a joint meeting hosted by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, and they ensured indiscriminate action against miscreants in Karachi. While heads of these parties have repeatedly appealed for peace in the city, so question arises, who are putting Karachi on fire?
In this context, in 2011 when terrorists took the lives of more than 1500 people in Karachi, the city was handed over to the Rangers and Police whose personnel conducted search operations in various phases, and seised weapons, suicide jackets, explosives and hand grenades from fugitives’ custody. A number of insurgents along with huge cache of arms and ammunition, made of US, India and Israel had been caught.
In this connection, on July 18, 2011, Rehman Malik, while indicating foreign hands in Karachi, had openly stated, “Over 200 miscreants have been arrested…Israeli-made weapons including AK-45 rifles have been recovered from them.” Police investigations have also proved that the culprits, who disturbed law and order situation in Karachi, were not permanent residents of the city. In the recent months, weapons of foreign origin were captured, and insurgents belonging to TTP were also arrested.
Nevertheless, we cannot see the civil-war like situation in Karachi in isolation as it is part of various subversive acts, being arranged by secret agencies like American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad in other regions of the country. These agencies are in connivance to ‘destabilise’ Pakistan for their common strategic interests.
These intelligence agencies have recruited smugglers, criminals, employees of the security companies, experts of the psychological warfare, and journalists in order to fulfill anti-Pakistan designs of America, India and Israel. A majority of the insurgents who are committing terror-acts especially in Karachi are receiving training in terrorist camps located in India and Afghanistan.
As regards Karachi, due to political instability, poverty and unemployment—the jobless youth fall into the hands of criminals who are assisted by the external elements which use them for conducting targeted killings and other violent activities. These internal culprits, some Indian Muslims and insurgents who are particularly backed by RAW have joined the ranks and files of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, the Tehreek-e-Taliban, Sipah-e-Sahaba and other militant groups. They have also got the membership of MQM, ANP and PPP. Besides killing the leaders and persons of the rival religious parties, and attaking the offices of the opponent political parties, these are real miscreants who target the Pushtuns, Urdu-speaking people and even the people, belonging to the interior Sindh. In fact, CIA, Mossad and RAW have succeded in creating and manipulating the ethnic, linguistic and sectarian divisions in Karachi through their paid-agents, while leaders of ANP, MQM and other religious sects accuse each other for murdering the people of their-related communities.
In the past few years, aside from gang warfare, criminal acts, violent rioting and target killings, Karachi has witnessed a steady increase with some high profile deaths. Each murder sees a retaliatory attack. The situation has so deteriorated that leaders of some major political parties requested to Pak Army for intervention to save the lives of people.
Notably, Karachi is Pakistan’s largest port and financial hub with the largest commercial markets, collecting 70 per cent of the country’s tax revenue. So, besides causing unrest in the city, creating instability in Pakistan, another aim of the foreign hands is to cripple the economy of the city as Karachi is intermittently brought to a halt with shutdown strikes—many shopkeepers remain reluctant to open their shops due to violence which is fuelling the flames.
At present, aggravated law and order situation demands a programme of de-weaponisation and detection of foreign-backed terrorists which is essential to curb violence in Karachi. Now, security forces are coping with sporadic battles with the militants in some tribal areas, while our external enemies which are putting Karachi on fire also seeks to engage Pak Army in the city.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations