PPP’s Sindh Govt wants to shut Darululoom Karachi, Jamia Uloom-e-Islamia Banoori Town, Jamia Haqqania, other top Deobandi Seminaries

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By: Naimat Khan

KARACHI: The Sindh Government of Pakistan People’s Party has recommended to place top Deobandi Seminaries across Pakistan, including the one visited by senior party leader, Senator Saeed Ghani, for support during December 2015 local government elections, on watch list, it emerged on Monday.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal’s Sindh leader Qari Muhammad Usman said Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah is “out of his mind” as he is pondering to do “silly things”. “If they want to place our Jamia Uloom-e-Islamia and other top madaris on watch list, happily do it but you will have to face consequences,” the JUI-F leader warned.

Usman said it was impossible to place Jamia Uloom-e-Islamia Binoria Town and other top seminaries on watch list. Syed Murad Ali Shah visited Jamia Uloom-e-Islamia to offer prayers whereas his father had also visited the same seminary to offer special prayers during his regime. “No power can shut the religious seminaries.”

However, Sindh Religious Affairs Advisor Dr. Abdul Qayyum Soomro, refuted that there was any such list for recommending placing these seminaries was under watch. Talking to The Frontier Post, Soomro said none of the Madressahs mentioned by this newspaper is in the list. “I will share the original list tomorrow (today)” he said. He failed to present any list despite lapse of four days.

According to the list available to this scribe, the Sindh Government has proposed to place 94 seminaries, of which 52 are situated in Karachi, 15 in Sukkar, one each in Shahdadpur, Lahore, Multan, Attock, Ahmed Pur Shirkia, Mengora, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Akora Khattak and Rajore whereas two are situated in Balochistan.

Vast majority of these seminaries belong to Deobandi school of thought whereas few belong to Ahle Hadees School of thoughts. No Madressah from Barelvi or Shia sects are included in the list sent to the federal interior ministry for action. The interior minister has already showed displeasure over the list.

Of the prominent seminaries is Jamia Binoria Site, a seminary where senator Ghani had paid visit for election support, Jamia Banoria Town Guru Mandir, Karachi, which is a center of the Deobandi school of thought, Jamia Darul Uloom Korangi, Karachi, a seminary run by Mufti Rafi Usmani and Justice (R) Mufti Taqi Usmani, both sons Mufti-e-Azm Maulana Muhammad Shafi, and Jamia Farooqia Shah Faisal, Karachi.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provincial government of Sindh believes that the Purana Tableeghi Markaz Mingora Swat, Darul Uloom Momaniya Dera Ismail Khan, Dar Ul Uloom Masoodia Tank, Darul Ul-Uloom Haqqania Akora Khattak and Shah Tauheed Sunnah Pajwar should be placed on watch list. On last Thursday, the Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had accused Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan led federal interior ministry of not cooperating with Sindh government regarding the 94 religious seminaries, which the provincial government had identified for their links with terrorism.

“Our government will never allow terrorists and religious fanatics to keep playing with the lives of innocent people even if the federal government refuses to cooperate, which is evident from the response of Ministry of Interior to 94 seminaries involved in supporting or penetrating terrorism,” CM Sindh said to the Sindh cabinet meeting that he presided over on Thursday, January 19, 2016.

Briefing the cabinet on the response of Ministry of Interior to ban 94 madaris allegedly involved in promoting terrorism, the chief minister said that in the Apex committee the list of the madaris was presented.

The Committee was told that 94 madaris were involved in terrorist activities. “They had presented solid evidences gathered from the terrorists arrested by the Law Enforcement Agencies and they had revealed startling disclosures against the said seminaries. After the interrogation the concerned agencies worked hard to collect solid evidences and on the basis of that information, evidence and recommendation a list of 94 madaris spreading over 46 pages was sent to Ministry of Interior” a handout issued from CM House reads.

“I was quite surprised that when an attempt was made to politicize the issue instead of taking action as recommended by the government,” he said and added “come what may we would go ahead and keep crushing the terrorists wherever they live or nurtured because we are the worst affected people of terrorism. At the hands of terrorists, we have lost our leadership, we have sacrificed the lives of our law enforcement agencies personnel and we have sacrificed our innocent citizens, including the children- enough is enough. It shows how much serious the federal government is to take action against terrorists”.

He told the cabinet that the reply of 46-page letter the Ministry of Interior has sent a three page reply and now “we have sent them reply of their letter and would see and definitely see what action they are going to take and this would ascertain their seriousness to eliminate terrorism from the country,” he said.

Published in The Frontier Post

Cop who arrested Aafia Siddiqui tops LeJ hit-list

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KARACHI: The arrested militants of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have revealed during interrogation that an official of the Sindh Police, they believed had arrested Dr Aafia Siddiqui, remained at top of their hit-list.

Siddiqui, a MIT trained Pakistani neuroscientist, was convicted on two counts of attempted murder of US nationals, officers, and employees, assault with a deadly weapon, carrying and using a firearm, and three counts of assault on US officers and employees.

She is serving her 86-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, USA. According to reports in local media, Aafia was arrested by Karachi Police in Gulshan-e-Iqbal area of the city and handed over to an American intelligence agency who took her to Afghanistan for showing her arrest there in order to make a case against her.

The LeJ members say the sectarian proscribed outfit  also believed that Aafia was arrested by a police officer, who later become spokesperson for the Sindh Police. The officer, they believed, handed her over Siddiqui to an American intelligence agency.

Earlier this week, Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah announced that Counter Terrorism Police of his province lead by in Charge CTD Raja Umar Khattab, have arrested two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorists involved in high profile cases, including that of Amjad Sabri Murder, killing of military policemen and firing on Majlis that had left five people dead last month.

The accused, CM Sindh said, were identified as Ishaq Bobbi and Asim Capri.

A day later the Sindh Government constituted a Joint Interrogation Team (JIT), that to be headed by SSP Intelligence Counter Terrorism Department, Omar Shahid Hamid, to interrogate the high profile cases of murder of Sufi Singer Amjad Sabri, attack on Shia Majlis, killing of Military Policemen and attacks on police personnel.

“On the recommendation of Inspector General of Police, Sindh Karachi a joint Interrogation Team is hereby constituted for the purpose of interrogation in respect of involvement in heinous high profile cases including incident of terrorism, murder of army, rangers and police personal in Karachi, resulting arrest of two personal namely Ishaq alias Boby and Asim alias Capri,” a notification issued by secretary home reads.

Sources said the militants have told interrogators that the they had been involved in  32 more cases including killing of people of Ahmadiyya community. The police will do a forensic test of the cases soon, an official told this scribe on the condition of anonymity.

The accused have further revealed that they believed a former spokesman of Sindh police of SSP rank was involved in the arrest and handing of Aafia Siddiqui to America.

“The officer has always been at top of the hit-list but couldn’t be attacked due to different reasons”. According to police, the officer has been advised to take extra measures for his security as threat still loom over his head.

It is pertinent to mention that last week the administrative judge of the anti terrorism courts in Karachi remanded Ishaq Boby and Asim Capri, both arrested a day earlier following a news conference by CM Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, into police custody for fourteen days here on Tuesday.

Both the accused were produced before the administration judge of ATCs, Naimatullah Phulphoto, which is situated in the remits of Sindh High Court (SHC) amid stern security arrangements.

The Investigation Officer submitted before the judge that the accused have been arrested in case under the charges of possessing explosive material and arms. He further told that the accused were wanted to police in the murder of Amjad Sabri, military policemen and other important case. The IO prayed that the accused should be given in 14-day police remand, which the ATC administrative judge granted.

Published in The Frontier Post 

Counter-terror experts give no credence to LEJ-A claim of Quetta police academy assault

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Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Counter-terrorism experts have rejected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Al-Almi’s claim of carrying out the Quetta police training academy attack, saying the banned outfit’s assertion meant for a mere re-branding.

The claim by Al-Almi, an offshoot of the LeJ – a Sunni sectarian outfit with its origins in Punjab – has not been established so far, says Raja Umar Khattab, a senior counter-terrorism official in Karachi, revealing that the claim by Afghanistan-based IS-Khurasan could be substantiated through evidences the outfit has provided with its claim on Tuesday. “Both organisations are, however, being operated from Afghanistan currently.”

Over 60 police cadets were killed when three heavily-armed militants wearing suicide vests stormed the police training centre on the outskirt of the capital city of Balochistan on October 24.

Interestingly, both the proscribed groups, Islamic State and Al-Almi, claimed responsibility with the latter saying it was assisting the Khurasan branch of the Middle Eastern terrorist organisation. IG Frontier Corps Major-General Sher Afgun said calls intercepted between the attackers and their handlers suggested they were from the LeJ.

“We came to know from the communication intercepts that there were three militants who were getting instructions from Afghanistan,” Afgun told reporters, adding, “The Al-Alami faction of LeJ was behind the attack.”

Read More: Elimination of Malik Ishaq no fatal blow to sectarian killings

The Islamic State’s Amaq news agency published the claim of responsibility, saying three IS fighters “used machine guns and grenades, and then blew up their explosive vests in the crowd”. A teenage attacker killed by security forces can be seen in IS media release, supporting the IS-Khurran’s claim.

“The calls may definitely be from Afghanistan as both the IS and LeJ Al-Almi are being operated from other side of the border,” the police official said. “Though LeJ and Al-Almi claimed the responsibility, the one IS-Khurasan with evidently true claim hasn’t mentioned any assistance from the sectarian outfit,” Khattab told The Frontier Post.

This is not the first terror act with multiple claims. In August, Quetta hospital was attacked that left 70 people, mostly lawyers, dead was claimed by the IS, and also by the banned Pakistani Taliban faction, Jamaatur Ahrar. However, according to Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri, India’s premier spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was involved in the attack.

Though, Al-Alami earlier claimed responsibility for the targeted assassinations of four women of the Hazara Shia community in the provincial capital and the attack on a Shia Imambargah in Karachi, experts believe that the trend of attacking Shia community and law enforcement agencies by IS has emerged, without any role of the LeJ.

“Currently, several terrorist outfits, including IS, AQIS and TTP are found involved in sectarian-driven bloodletting,” the official said.

According to the police official, LeJ has the capability of target killing but it doesn’t seem to be capable of carrying out major terror attacks. “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was formed in 2004 by Abid Mehsud, a mastermind of Hasan Turabi murder, but the group has never excelled.”

Currently, Yousuf Mansoor is running the organisation from Afghanistan whereas its Sindh chapter’s head, Safdar alias Abu Sufian, who is also the outfit’s spokesperson, is admitting most of the terror acts to remain in the news for attracting youths with militant and sectarian tendencies.

“The organisation’s claims haven’t been verified,” Khattab told this scribe, adding that the group has been unable to establish its own camp inside Pakistan or Afghanistan and has been sending its members to camps of other terrorist outfits.

According to security experts, the Al-Alami’s mother organisation, LeJ, has almost become dysfunctional after two of its most notorious leaders, i.e. Malik Ishaq, the chief of the terror outfit, and Usman Saifullah Kurd, the head of its Balochistan chapter, were killed in encounters with law enforcers.

Moreover, Hafiz Naeem Bukhari, the head of LeJ’s Karachi chapter; Asif Chotu, the commander from southern Punjab, and Qari Ramzan Mengal, the Quetta-chapter head, are in jail.

Read More: Writing on the wall

Reports suggested that the killings and arrests of its top leadership have hampered LeJ’s operational capabilities and dented its organisational infrastructure. “LeJ has never claimed responsibility,” the official added.

Meanwhile, Balochistan government on Wednesday formed an investigation team to probe into the Quetta carnage. “The support of Punjab’s forensic agency will also be sought,” Deputy IG Quetta Abdul Razzaq Cheema said. The team will visit the incident cite, speak to survivors and present its report soon, added Cheema.

Published in The Frontier Post

‘Death squads backed by Muslim neighbor operate in Karachi’

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KARACHI: As the Rangers’ led operation against political killers and terrorist outfits like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Al Qaeda has been successful, the law enforcers are facing hardship in dealing with at least one lawlessness factor due to religious resistance and sectarian leanings within police force, it has reliably been learnt.

A report by a sensitive agency, a copy of which is available with The Frontier Post, has cited “constant power struggle between various political, religious and sectarian segments of the society” as a core of Karachi problem. “The power struggle is essentially geared towards having control over the financial resources”.

“Land grabbing, china-cutting and control over water hydrants and lucrative contracts in industrial areas remains the core of such confrontations,” the report reads. According to intelligence agencies, the problem is compounded by corruption and collusion of Sindh police coupled with lacunas in criminal justice system which are effectively exploited by such mafias.

Read more:  Writing on the wall

As much has been done on this front, including effective operation against political killers, operation against TTP, Al Qaeda and IS-Inspired Jihadi network in the city’s suburbs, a problem is unresolved due to some factors, yet to be overcome, a source told this scribe. “The city is also the target of international intelligence agencies being a port city”.

According to report Karachi has been the recruitment base of Al-Qaeda traditionally. “The presence of vast number of Deobandi and Ahle-Hadith Madressahs provide a rich recruiting base for terrorist organizations”.

According to security sources, bringing Madressah registration laws is part of the efforts to overcome this issue. “But there is another issue, which is far from being addressed,” a law enforcement officer told on the condition of anonymity.

“The presence of large Shia majority in areas such as Abbas town, Jaffer-e-Tayyar Society Malir, Ancholi Rizvia, New Golimar, Shah Faisal provides an excellent operational area for Iranian intelligence to make inroads”, informs the report. Multiple Shia death squads operate in Karachi and due to significant presence of Shia officers in police and law enforcement agencies the operations against such death squads could hardly ever be successful, the report reads.

“Furthermore, being financially well off and being a well connected community any arrests of target killers in past met with immensely powerful street agitations,” according to the report, informing that the Shia death squads are cleverly operating under the garb of Shia NGOs such as Jaffria disaster cell (JDC), PYAM, OYAM and Baqiatullah.

According to the report, Majlis-e-Wihdat-ul Muslimeen (MWM), the new political face of Shia community in Pakistan – which has been contesting elections in Karachi – has also formed its own death squad.

“Target killing has been a rampant phenomenon in Karachi. MQM-A has been the prominent political party using target killing as its favored tool. Atleast 12 death squad teams operated in Karachi further assisted by sector target killer teams”.

According to report the intelligence based operations have seriously reduced MQMA’s death squads’ capabilities however there are other actors using the same tool with resilience. “MQMA started to face serious fissures within it due to its Shia members breaking away from MOMA towards MWM.

“Latest reports indicate that MWM has also created its own death squads”.

According to a report by  Samaa News channel , Police have revealed that a man recently arrested on the suspicion of target killing had been working as a translator for the neighboring country’s consul general.

The man, identified as Mehdi Moosvi, was arrested by police from Shadman Town area of Karachi.  “Officials claim the suspected hit-man, allegedly involved in sectarian killings and terrorism, has made shocking disclosures during the investigation”, news channel reported and added, “He [the accused] disclosed that he has worked as translator of a neighboring country’s consul general, and has also accompanied his country’s diplomat during meetings with former Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and other high officials”.

The accused has also worked in the cyber crime cell of FIA after he helped the agency’s deputy director Kamran Ata in recovering fake degrees. Prior his association Mehdi was officer in the Axact.  On May 21, 2016, this newspaper reported anti-IS graffiti in Shia neighborhoods of the city amid reports of several youths having joined the Assad’s battle against the Middle Eastern terrorist group, IS, in Syria.

“Thousands of Shia youths have left for Iraq and Syria from different parts of the country, including Karachi whereas anti-Islamic State (IS) sentiments are touching its highest edge in Shia neighborhoods of the seaside city,” a senior official told then on the condition of anonymity.  On other hands the experts told this scribe that the growing trend of anti-IS wall-walking in Shia vicinities indicated that the community had been exposed to recruitments by the groups who are sending youths to Syria and Iraq for anti-Daish fighting.

On May 2, 2016 Iran passed a law to grant citizenship to families of Pakistani ‘martyrs’ fighting in Syria and Iraq. It’s also pertinent to mention that an earlier report published in this newspaper informed that thousands of Pakistanis have left for Syria to fight alongwith Assad’s forces. In its letter on 13th August, 2014 National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) wrote to provincial governments that over 2000 Pakistani Shia students were studying in Madaris of Najaf, Iraq where they are “brainwashed and motivated against Sunni on sectarian line and Pakistani government for alleged killing of Shia in Pakistan.”

Tariq Habib, an Islamabad based journalist, told The Frontier Post in May 2016 that known faces of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who are being placed in fourth schedule, had been advised by leadership to leave for Syria via Balochistan.

“The Shia youth recruited under the banner of ‘Al-Zainabun’ and Sunni youth fighting alongwith Diash are sent to Syria and Iraq for three and seven months, respectively. If proper strategy wasn’t adopted to counter them the sectarian violence will break all past records of Pakistan,” Habib told.

Writing on the wall

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What does the anti-ISIS graffiti in Karachi’s Shia neighborhoods mean?

By Naimat Khan

Graffiti in Karachi supporting the Islamic State, known locally by its Arabic acronym Daesh, have raised concerns about the Middle Eastern terrorist group’s expansion into Pakistan recently, but locals say they have now seen slogans against the network painted on the walls of the city’s Shia neighborhoods.

Residents of four major Shia localities – Abbas Town, Ancholi, Rizvia and Jafar-e-Tayyar Society – said the killing of Shias and the targeting of their holy sites by the IS in Syria and Iraq has given rise to strong anti-IS feelings among the community in Pakistan, surpassing even their anger towards the Taliban.

“The assertion is true for a number of reasons. While the Taliban have also targeted the Shia in Afghanistan during their rule, the Islamic State group specifically targeted the Shia on ideological and strategic grounds,” says Hasan Abdullah, an Istanbul-based Pakistani security expert.

Athar Mehdi, whose brother Akhter Mehdi was killed in the March 2013 Karachi bombing in Abbas Town, says terrorist groups that target innocent people are equally cruel, “but we see IS as more dangerous.” He was talking to me in his shop on the ground floor of a reconstructed building that had been destroyed by the 2013 bombing. “Buildings have been rebuilt, and our business is flourishing again, but the emotional wounds of that bombing by the Taliban are still fresh.”

Sajjad Haider, from same neighborhood, says the Shia community had been targeted by the Taliban in the past, but the emergence of Islamic State had increased their worries. “Remember the Safoora shooting by IS-inspired youths that left 46 people of the Shia Ismaili community dead?”

“If Taliban are killing everyone, militants of the Islamic State are specifically targeting our community in Iraq, Syria and even in Pakistan,” says Kamil, a resident of Ancholi.

Some of the concerns of Pakistan’s Shias also come from their religious affinity with Syria and Iraq, according to Dr Abbas. “Those holy sites really matter to us,” says Irtiza Rizvi, a resident of Jafar-e-Tayyar Society.

But the spokesman for the organization Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), Ali Ahmar, says the problem of terrorism is more widespread. “We don’t differentiate between the Taliban, Al Qaeda and IS,” he says. “They share the same approach, and they target both Shias and Sunnis.”

There are concerns that this rivalry towards the IS may translate into participation in the war against the group, especially in Syria in Iraq. Shia community leaders sternly deny that.

On May 2, AFP cited the Iranian state-run news agency IRNA to report that Tehran had passed a law to grant citizenship to the families of Pakistani ‘martyrs’ fighting in Syria and Iraq.

The MWM spokesman said the words of the source agency had been twisted. “The law applies only to those who had taken part in the Iran-Iraq war.”

The concerns are not new. On August 13, 2014, the National Counterterrorism Authority in Islamabad wrote a letter to the provinces that more than 2,000 Pakistani Shia students at the seminaries in Iraq had been “brainwashed” on sectarian lines. But there has been no substantiation of this allegation.

“Shia student and political groups in Pakistan do have a strong anti-IS sentiments. Some are actively campaigning against IS, while groups may have supplied manpower to anti-IS groups in Iraq and Syria,” says Asfandyar Mir, a US based researcher. “Boys from Kurram Agency’s Turi tribe have also joined anti-IS groups in Syria and Iraq, according to reports.”

Shia groups deny these reports.

The concerns about the emergence of sectarian fighting in Pakistan may have been fueled by the general interest among Pakistani Shias in the politics of the Middle East.

“For instance, there were widespread protests recently against the execution of Sheikh Nimr in Saudi Arabia. In 2011, there were protests against repression of the Shia community in Bahrain,” says Mir.

“Shias have differences with the Saudi Najdis and the Saud kingdom because of several reasons,” the MWM spokesman said.

There have also been reports of Sunni youth from Pakistan joining the IS in Iraq and Syria. A senior police officer told me two such young men had been appointed Qazis, or judges, by the group in a stronghold in Iraq.

According to Tariq Habib, an Islamabad based security expert, suspects from anti-Shia groups in Pakistan have been told by their leadership to leave for Syria via Balochistan.

If Shia and Sunni youth are joining the battles in Syria and Iraq, he is concerned that “sectarian violence will break all past records of Pakistan” when they return.

“Malik Ishaq’s extrajudicial killing was Pakistan’s way of stopping IS from consolidating itself in the country,” according to Mir.

Published in The Friday Times 

Present at ECP, proscribed lists, ITP shows its presence in Karachi by-polls

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Allama Sajid Naqvi
File Photo of Allama Sajjid Ali Naqvi, Chief of the Islami Threek Party (ITP) declared proscribed by the Interior Ministry in November 15, 2013

By: Naimat Khan

KARACHI: With mainstream political parties nowhere in the race with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – which has also lost some grounds – the banned sectarian organizations are showings footprints, the Thursday by-elections and last local government polls show the new trend.

The MQM retained the Sindh Assembly seat, PS-117 – which became vacant when the disgruntled Dr Sagheer Ahmed resigned from it after announcing to join Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) .

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However, the turnout was historic low as only 14156 of the 163746 registered voters made it to the polling stations. The MQM’s Syed Muhammad Qamar Abbas Rizvi bagged 10738 votes; however, the runner was neither mainstream Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf nor the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party.

Islami Tehreek Party (ITP) – a Shia group is registered with Election Commission of Pakistan at 75 number of the registered political parties’ list and also placed on the list of proscribed organizations of the interior ministry, which declared it outlawed on Moreover 15, 2013 – secured 1018 voters and its candidate, Ali Raza, surpassed both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Rafaqat Umar, who bagged 950 votes and Pakistan peoples Party’s Javed maqbool Butt, who could get only 924 votes.

According to a notification of the interior ministry issued on November 15, 2013 – a copy of which is available with The Frontier Post – the Islamic Tehreek Party was declared as banned outfit alongwith other 59 organizations.

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Islami Tehreek Party originally founded as Tehrik-e-Jafaria Pakistan in 1979 under the name Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafaria to resist anti-Shia laws, according to reports.

Arif Hussain Hussaini – founder of the group who was a student of Ruhollah Khomeini who led the Iranian Revolution – changed the name of T.N.F.J to Tehrik-e-Jafaria (T.J.P). After his assassination in 1988 in Peshawar, Alama Sajid Ali Naqvi took the charge and is heading the group now. The group also remained part of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a conglomerate of the religious political parties, that won 53 out of 272 elected members in legislative elections held on October 20, 2002.  Several months before the general polls, on January 12, 2002, the T.J.P. was banned by the government of Pakistan. It was again banned on November 5, 2011.

In last local government elections the Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM) – another major Shia but not among the banned organizations and the Islami Tehreek Pakistan (ITP) contested polls as rival parties.

“But interestingly Majlis Wihdatul Muslimeen, which has failed to leave marks in the city, supported Islami Tehreek Party (ITP), which it was considering as rival”, Says Wakeel ur Rehman, a Karachi based analyst.

According to Rehman it’s not the Shia organizations which are reaching out to electorates on pure sectarian basis.  Alama Aurangzeb Farooqi, the Chief of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a Sunni Sectarian organization, had lost to MQM’s Syed Waqar Shah with few votes difference in general elections on Provincial Assembly seat, PS-128, on May 11, 2013. Farooqi had bagged 23,625 votes for a narrow loss to MQM’s Waqar Hussain Shah, who got 23,827.

In last local bodies elections, several of the left, centre and right, including Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and Jamaat-e-Islamic had made alliance with Pakistan Rahe Haq Party, the political face of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), which again is face of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, which remained in government in Musharraf regime.

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In Muzaffarabad Colony, Maulana Mohuiddin of the PRHP was contesting for the chairman of the union council, and Haji Misal Khan, associated with PPP, was his running mate, contesting for vice chairman.

In the UC-2 constituency of the Malir district council, the PRHP had allied with the PML-N. In UC-1, their chairman’s candidate had a Jamaat-e-Islami candidate as his running mate. The two parties have also made alliances in North Karachi.

In the local elections Majlis Wihdatul Muslimeen was also contacted by several mainstream parties, including PPP and PTI, but didn’t support any political clique. Meantime, Pakistani Sunni Tehreek, an organization under watch by the federal interior ministry, also remains active at the electoral front.

Published in The Frontier Post 

Karachi’s top bomb-maker is dead

Counterterrorism Department deals major blow to Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent 

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By: Naimat Khan

On April 13, the Counter Terrorism Department of Karachi killed two members of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) in a gunfight in the Gadap Town locality, and seized weapons, explosives and equipment from a bomb factory that they unearthed.  Abdul Saboor and Muhammad Mujtaba died during the encounter, while Muhammad Murtaza was arrested.

During interrogation, Murtaza made some startling revelations.

“About 14 years ago, some militants from the Nazimabad neighborhood of Karachi parted ways with their organization Harkatul Mujahideen following a dispute. They renamed themselves Harkatul Mujahideen al Alami (HUMA), and orchestrated attacks on security forces, diplomatic missions and other targets of global importance,” according to Raja Umar Khattab, a senior cop fighting militancy and terrorism for more than 15 years.

In 2004, HUMA militants rented a shop in an apartment building in the city, and parked a van packed with 400 kilograms of explosives outside the premises to target the convoy of then president Gen Pervez Musharraf. The bomb couldn’t go off because of signal jammers, and the convoy passed safely.

It was the first group to use toy bombs

“The failed plan went unnoticed. The same van was later used in an attack on the American consulate in Karachi,” Raja Umar Khattab told me. The same year, the group orchestrated a bomb attack on a concert by the Indian vocalist Sonu Nigam in the port city. Then, they tried to target Americans staying at the airport hotel in a rocket attack, but the rockets went wayward and fell in Shah Faisal Colony.

HUMA was the first group to come up with toy bombs. The first such device was seized after an encounter with the police in the Kalakot area of the city.

By the end of 2008, most of the members of the group had been apprehended, and their plan to break Karachi’s central prison had been thwarted.

But because of weak prosecution and a lack of evidence, many of these militants were freed. Most of them fled to Afghanistan, where the group’s first chief Muhammad Imran, also known as Imran Bhai, was killed in a US drone strike.

Kamran Atif, the chief of the group’s Karachi chapter, was arrested in 2006 and served a life sentence.

In 2014, the militants associated with HUMA joined the AQIS en masse and took over its Pakistan branch. Their first emir is identified as Zarar, and also known by the names Naseem Bhai, Hanif Bhai and Ayub Bhai. He is stationed in Afghanistan, from where he directs the organization’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi chapters. “HUMA is the face of AQIS in Pakistan,” said Raja Umar Khattab.

Recent acts of terrorism in Karachi linked to the group include the murder of Dr Shakeel Auj and Urdu Blogger Aneeqa Naz, police say.

The AQIS Pakistan has three major wings, investigations have revealed.

One group, responsible for preaching, brainwashing and recruitment, consists of young people who have never been arrested and live normal lives at their homes in Karachi. They are hard to catch, police say, but stopping them is vital for eliminating the terrorist organization.

A second wing participates in militant activity. Most of its members are locals of Karachi, and people of Bengali and Burmese descent who have been born in the city.

The third wing consists solely of experts in manufacturing and planting bombs. Among its key members were a man identified as Hashim (nicknamed Babu) and another militant identified as Muhammad Mujtaba (also known as Rehan). The two men had arrived in Karachi as explosives experts for the group. Hashim, who had 14 years of experience in bombs and explosives, especially car bombs, was killed in a gunfight with police in April last year. Mujtaba – who had put together the bomb manufacturing setup in Gadap town and supplied explosive devices to one Abdus Salam Sindhi of the Liaquatabad neighborhood – was killed in the April 13 encounter.

In January 2016, the group resumed its activities using low-intensity bombs, referred to as crackers. Law enforcement agencies began to notice similarities between various blasts, and investigations led them to the two men killed on April 13.

The AQIS is a distinct organization, separate from another Al Qaeda group in Karachi, and the group of young militants in Karachi who are inspired by ISIS, according to Raja Umar Khattab.

An independent Al Qaeda group led by Umar Jalal began its own journey about the time AQIS was formed. A third IS-inspired group of youth, which attacked American professor Debra Lobo, killed human rights activists Sabeen Mahmud, and carried out the Safoora bus shooting, is a separate entity.

The AQIS is directed by Al Qaeda’s central leadership from Afghanistan’s Bramcha area, according to police. But heightened security at the border has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the network in Karachi to communicate with the Bramcha leadership, Raja Umar Khattab said. “They are now using memory cards, USB flash drives, and unsent draft emails for passing on messages to the network in Karachi,” the arrested man told the investigators. Police believes the killing of Mujtaba is a major breakthrough, but analysts say it may not be enough to eliminate the group.

“To counter transitional militants, such as those involved with the AQIS, the government should form a serious counterterrorism strategy,” says Zia Ur Rehman, a Karachi based author and security analyst. “Identifying and distinguishing such militants is a proper intelligence-gathering exercise, which need strong collaboration among all law enforcement and intelligence agencies.”

For decades, groups like Harkatul Mujahideen have been allowed to change their names and reconstitute themselves, without any reprisal from the government, experts say, and that is where the problem lies.

“As they reconstitute, they look for new friends and allies. Al Qaeda and IS are the easiest choices in today’s plethora of militant groups,” says Khalid Muhammad, the director general of Islamabad-based think tank CommandEleven.

He says weak prosecution is another problem. Tahir Mihnas, the prime suspect of the Safoora carnage, and almost all the current leaders of AQIS including its Pakistani chief, were arrested in the past but have come out of jails.

“A report issued by the US State Department a few years ago discussed this exact issue – the release of hardcore terrorists from Pakistani jails,” says Khalid Muhammad. The report stated that Pakistan’s judiciary had released three out of four terrorism suspects that were brought to courts. “The reasons included loss of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, and fear of violence against the judge and his family.”

Zia Ur Rehman says it is hard to predict if military courts will solve these problems. “Only time will tell.”

 Published in The Friday Times