New sheriff in town?

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Are the Rangers doing a better job than the police in Karachi?

Naimat Khan

 



New sheriff in town?

 


Before the recent law-enforcement operation in Karachi had begun, I met a police officer who had been relieved from a key post because of political pressure. He told me off the record that there had been no developments in the case of the assassination of journalist Wali Khan Babar because of politics.

Months later, the Rangers arrest a key suspect from the pre-dawn raid on the MQM headquarters. Faisal, alias Mota, had been convicted and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in absentia. Many believed the police could not have carried out such a raid, because they would not have the government’s permission. Faisal is now in prison.

But Amir Khan, another MQM leader arrested in the same raid, is out on bail, because of what a judge called “weak prosecution”. The Rangers had detained him for 90 days, but could find solid evidence against him.

But for many who praise such raids for subjecting the powerful to the law are not concerned with conviction rates. They credit the Rangers for restoring peace in the city, but not the police.

“You just can’t compare the two forces,” said Khurram Sher Zaman, a PTI lawmaker from Sindh. “Around 11,000 people had been killed in Karachi in six years, before the Rangers were granted special powers.” He said police was loyal to politicians, but the Rangers did not succumb to political pressures.

Atiq Mir – the president of Karachi Tajir Ittehad who led a siege of Sindh Assembly after they passed a resolution last month placing curbs on Rangers’ powers – insists only the paramilitary force deserves credit for the restoration of peace in Karachi.

“The police have been made obedient to political leaders systemically,” according to Zahid Askari, a spokesman for Jamaat-e-Islami. “A large number of political workers were inducted into the police service, affecting its performance negatively.”

The ruling PPP and its former coalition partner MQM have reservations about specific actions against their men, but publically, they too agree with the popular opinion.

“You can’t compare the two forces”

“We fully appreciate the role of Rangers, but the role of police is equally important in restoring peace in the city,” said A Rasheed Channa, a spokesman for Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. He said effective action by the police was a result of the provincial government’s capacity building measures. “We have provided them the best training, increased their salaries, and provided them with good infrastructure.”

According to a Rangers spokesman, they paramilitary force has conducted 2,410 operations since January 1, 2015, in which 4,074 suspects were apprehended. Of them, 2,198 suspects – including 887 suspected terrorists, 268 suspected assassins, 97 extortion suspects and 49 suspects of abduction for ransom – were handed over to the police. The Rangers were also involved in 69 gunfights with suspects, in which 152 suspected terrorists and criminals were killed, a report says. Twelve Rangers personnel died in the encounters and 20 were injured.

At least 67 policemen died in the line of duty in 2015. In 2014, the number was much higher, at 132.

Karachi police says it has arrested 12,235 suspected criminals and terrorists across the province in 2015. Of them, 453 were associated with Al Qaeda and Taliban, police says. Another 194 such suspects were “neutralized” in gunfights, said a police report. It also claims killing 201 suspect target killers in such encounters. Another 95 suspected assassins.

The number of murders in the city was recorded at 2,032 – a significant decrease compared with the 3,628 last year. There were only give ‘acts of terrorism’ in 2015 says the police report, compared with 22 in 2014.

A number of police officers I spoke to think the police is not appreciated. The West district of Karachi – where four industrial zones had become Taliban strongholds – are now peaceful, the police says.

On April 13, police found an explosives factory and killed five suspected Al Qaeda militants, including the suspected mastermind of the attacks on a Rangers van at the Qalandria Chowrangi. The arrest of Mehfoozullah Bhalu – made by police – proved vital in decreasing crime in the city’s hotspot, they say.

“At least 32 policemen sacrificed their lives in gunfights that killed 181 hardened terrorists, mostly associated with TTP and sectarian organizations and involved in murder and extortion,” said Feroz Shah, the DIG of the West district.

Two most important cases – Perveen Rehman murder case and Dr Shakil Auj Case – were also solved by police, another police officer said. Police arrested most of the suspects in the Safoora bus shooting, and unearthed a terrorist network previously associated with Al Qaeda and making efforts to form an alliance with the Islamic State. Raja Umar Khattab – who had been working on the group for years – also exposed a large network of women supporting and planning terrorism. Police also claim credit for arresting the suspected assassins of human rights activist Sabeen Mehmud, PTI leader Zehra Shahid, and American professor Debra Lobo, as well as the perpetrators of terrorist attacks on the members of the Bohri community, police, and Rangers.

Arrests are not the only yardsticks security experts use. “According to reports submitted in the Apex Committee meeting, 80 percent of those challaned in the court by the Rangers have either been freed by the courts or are out on bails,” according to Noman Rafique Khan, president of the Crime Reporters Association (CRA). According to Khan, the 90-day detentions of suspects by Rangers do not always translate to strong interrogation, investigation or prosecution.

He says the two law enforcement agencies should not be compared because they have different jobs. When the Karachi operation began, the Rangers were primarily given the task to deal with kidnapping, murder, extortion and terrorism cases, whereas police were assigned routine duty, such as street crime and other small crimes.

“Although they have both made some progress, they have not fully achieved their goals,” according to Khan.  “For example, the police report says abductions for ransom have decreased from 59 to one, but it doesn’t tell us that they have been replaced by short-term kidnappings.”

Karachi lies on fault lines of various kinds – political, ethnic and sectarian, analysts say. While Rangers are important in dealing with some of these conflicts, the police has the expertise to deal with others. The two forces will have to work together to restore peace in Karachi.

The writer is a journalist based in Karachi

Email: undisclosedtruth@gmail.com

Twitter: @NKMalazai

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HuT forms militant wing

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By: Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Hizb-ut-Tahrir – a global movement for the establishment of worldwide Caliphate – has formed a militant wing in Pakistan, sources said.

According credible sources, the group has formed a separate wing for carrying out terrorist attacks. A police official, on the condition of anonymity, told this scribe that detained members of the group have made this startling revelation.

The wing was formed after an unannounced crackdown against the group’s members, who were unhappy with the group narratives of bringing change through ‘positive’ impact from within the power corridors.

“It’s unclear whether the militant wing of HuT is enjoying the endorsement from its international leadership or it’s locally formed. It’s also not clear whether the wing has been formed by some disgruntled leaders and workers without local approval as well but they [ detained suspects] have told interrogators a group has opted for change through guns”, source told.

“Law enforcement agencies are trying to substantiate the claim of two parallel organizations with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which strives for ‘change through mind’ without resorting to violence,” source said.

The claim couldn’t be verified from the HT due to ban on coverage of proscribed organizations in Pakistan. However, the development has come to fore when according to sources a joint intelligence work between Pakistan and UK is supposed to be kicked off. Some believe that intelligence agencies of both countries are already working on averting terrorism threat from the group, which is legitimate for UK but banned in Pakistan.

A report published in this daily last month stated the group’s member were exposed to militants organization, including Islamic State (IS) to join their ranks.

“We want to replace the current ‘prohibited’ system of western democracy with Islamic Caliphate,” Pakistan head of HuT Naveed Butt, told this scribe during an interview in Karachi, weeks before his ‘alleged disappearance’ in mid of 2012.

Also read: For the revival of the caliphate

Butt, who was also the outfit’s spokesperson in Pakistan, said the current system, which has popular mass support will be replaced through a ““change of minds, especially of those who have a say in country affairs.”

We don’t subscribe to the views of the Taliban, he said, adding the organisation was working on the “powerful” of the country.

Founded in 1953 as a Sunni Muslim organisation in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, an Islamic scholar and a judge, over the years, HuT has spread to more than 50 countries, particularly the United Kingdom, Arab and Central Asian states, with an estimated one million members.

In Pakistan, the HuT was proscribed by former military dictator General (R) Parvez Musharraf in 2004. It is still among the list of banned outfits.

The HuT had a soft corner for Pakistan’s security establishment but turned critical when the military media wing, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), confirmed on August 2, 2012 Brigadier Ali Khan, Major Inayat Aziz, Major Iftikhar, Major Sohail Akbar and Major Jawad Baseer were facing charges for having links with the banned outfit.

Many HuT activists off the record have confessed that Brigadier Khan, among others were products of the ‘change of minds’ narrative.

Though HuT’s activities were never open, it somehow interacted with important circles, which came to an end after the conviction of Brigadier Khan and the disappearance of Butt. Law enforcers apprehended a number of outfit’s activists in the following days.

The proscribed organisation claims several of its activists have been arrested despite the claim that their movement for implementation of Shariah was “never violent”. Recently, police authorities disclosed the arrest of two of its senior members.

On Tuesday October 6, 2015, police told media they had arrested an engineering and business graduate, Ovais Raheel from the city’s Boat Basin area. The suspect, police claimed, was targeting educated youngsters in the Defence and Clifton areas to use them “for illegal activities” with a view to implementing “Caliphate” in the country.

“The suspect has been arrested under Section 11EEEE (1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act,” Mazhar Mashwani of the Counter-Terrorism Department told media during a press conference. The suspect’s wife claims her husband is innocent.

Later on Friday, November 27, 2015, CTD claimed to have arrested the HuT’s Karachi chief, Hisam Qamar. The suspect, police said, was working in K-Electric as a deputy general manager.

Fifteen days before the police disclosed his arrest, Hisam family held a news conference at Karachi Press Club, claiming he was ‘abducted’ by LEAs a few days ago.

Besides arrests for distributing pamphlets in favour of the militant group, wall chalking related to IS has appeared in Quetta and Lahore. Lahore police claims it was done by Hizb activists.

Army General Raheel Sharif, who reportedly sought British government’s help against the outlawed HuT during UK visit in January last year, has also time and again said “not even a shadow of Daesh” will be tolerated in Pakistan. Similar stance has been conveyed by the country’s Foreign Office.

“Though no proper connection between the two has been established, workers of HuT remain vulnerable to IS, which has the same goal but through the use of force,” says Muhammad Amir Rana, security analyst, who is also a director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) in Islamabad.

Published in The Frontier Post

Terrorist moms

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Police unveils a large network of women jihadists

Naimat Khan

Terrorist moms


Counter-terrorism officials in Karachi believe more than 100 women from affluent households are part of a lethal terrorist network that lies somewhere between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

The revelation came as police made new arrests related to the Safoora terrorist attack in May, in which 43 Shia Ismaili passengers of a bus were shot and killed one by one.

In July, police had arrested Sadia Jalal, a university teacher and the third wife of a leader of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, accusing her of “facilitating the suspects of the Safoora carnage.” The woman “had been brainwashing students for recruiting them in a terrorist outfit” police said. The involvement of a woman, who is also a university teacher, in a high-profile terrorist attack caused concerns.

On December 18, the counter-terrorism department (CTD) said new arrests had been made. “We have arrested people who had been providing financial support and facilitation to, and brainwashing terrorists since long,” the department’s chief Raja Umar Khattab told reporters in a news conference. Among the detained suspects was Khalid Yousaf Bari, a former employee of Pakistan International Airlines. Bari told interrogators that his wife Naheed Bari had established a religious group – Al Zikra Academy – whose top members include more than 20 well-off women.

Naheed Baji mentored more than one hundred women

The network is accused of collecting donations, brainwashing new members, proliferating jihadist propaganda, and even helping alleged terrorists find suitable spouses. As police expand their probe, intelligence sources say many of the women suspects are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and daughters-in-laws of male suspects linked to the Safoora terrorist attack.

“They brainwashed women in the name of Islamic education,” Raja Umar Khattab said, “and collected Zakat, alms and donations for financing terrorism.”

Naheed Baji, as she was called by other members of the group, mentored more than one hundred women, Raja Umar Khattab told me. “Many of the group’s active members have been identified,” he said. “Almost every member of about twenty ‘Jihadi families’ carried out one task or another for the terrorist group. These families are strongly tied to each other through intermarriages.”

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Naheed collected around Rs 215,000 a month in donations, chiefly from such affluent localities as Baloch Colony, Bahadurabad and PCEHS. Other identified female suspects include Tahmeena, the wife of a male suspect Adil Masood Butt, who has been accused of providing financial help to the group that carried out the Safoora but attack.

The mother and wife of a key terror suspect Saad Aziz are also alleged members of the network.

Although such women have largely been seen as only facilitators in the past, Islamabad-based journalist and militancy expert Hasan Abdullah said in a previous interview that female members of such groups often played part in active warfare. “They range from suicide attackers, to teachers, spies, technical experts, doctors and much more.”

“The San Bernardino shooting has shown that women are equally capable of doing brutal murderous things, under the influence of a warped ideology,” said Reem Wasay, the op-ed editor at Daily Times.

“The family structure of modern Jihadists and the role of their women had largely been hidden from the eyes of law enforcement officials so far,” Raja Umar Khattab said, adding that it took him several years of investigation to expose the network.

“The women preachers first give lectures on the basics of Islam to affluent women, and then use their influence to stress the importance of establishing a Muslim caliphate,” he said. “Those who are receptive are made part of their circle.”

“They are suicide attackers, teachers, spies, technical experts, doctors and more”

“It is alarming that such a large number of women are involved in helping in the planning and financing of terrorism,” one investigator said. “It is equally alarming that highly educated men, including many who studied abroad, are being indoctrinated to carry out such acts.”

Tahmeena’s husband Adil Masood Butt, who the CTD has arrested for financing terrorism, went to Indiana University for a BBA and the New York Fordham University for an MBA. When he came back, he set up the College of Accountancy and Management Science with some friends. “The institute has three campuses, where 2,000 students are enrolled at various levels,” police says. He met Naheed’s husband Khalid Yousaf Bari, and another Safoora attack suspect Sheeba Ahmed, when he was part of Dr Israr Ahmed’s Tanzeem-e-Islami. He left the organization subsequently to join Al Qaeda. He had also been associated with the proscribed Hizbut Tahrir.

“Tanzeem-e-Islami pursues a non-violent agenda, but its advocacy for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate is sometimes used by groups who turn to violence,” said Muhammad Saqib, a Karachi based journalist covering militancy. At a time when Pakistan is trying to develop counter-narratives against terrorist ideology, he said religious groups will have to strive to protect their teachings from being misused by terrorists.

The writer is a Karachi based journalist

Email: undisclosedtruth@gmail.com

Twitter: @NKMalazai