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.

Fighting the Taliban: Bad medicine

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Naimat Khan

State-backed fighters may seem like a good idea to fight insurgents, but the formula has not always worked

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The romantic notion of the Pashtun fighting for his homeland against homegrown and foreign extremists was embodied by the lashkars that started to push back in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at a time when good news was desperately hard to come by. These groups of fighters and peace committees were formed to fight the Taliban as early as 2004. Since then, the Fata secretariat estimates that more than 1,400 of them and anti-Taliban elders have been killed for doing just that. The latest casualty was a former Awami National Party MPA, Muhammad Shoaib, in Swabi on July 18 this year. Many of them have, as a result, either fled to Islamabad or left the country given the threat to their lives.

This is, however, one side to the complex story of lashkars. For if history teaches us anything, it is that when states fight terrorists through private militias it has almost always been counterproductive. And while one does not mean to belittle their sacrifices, it is worth highlighting how this mechanism can also come with its own blow back. In the case of some lashkars and peace committees it has come in the shape of abuse of power.

Some committees ended up being headed or populated by men with a history of crime. An elder, Haji Imran Afridi, gives the example of the Adezai peace committee run by a former contract killer, Dilawar Khan, and the Badhbair committee that was led by a man named Fahim Khan who was found to be involved in land grabbing and extortion. These criminals now had legal cover and were provided money, arms and vehicles by the government. “The ones previously reigning through illegal arms had the government’s arms in their hands, which increased their strength manifold,” said another elder, who did not want to be named.

The police came to rely on committees. According to elder Haji Imran Afridi, the Badhbair police station would refer cases to the committee daily. A shopkeeper, who did not want to be named, corroborated this by narrating an incident in which a man who was unable to return a loan found himself facing the peace committee’s wrath after a police complaint was lodged. The police had refered the case to the committee. “[The victim] was with the women and children of his family when [the committee members] dragged him to the main bazaar,” said the shopkeeper. “I, like other shopkeepers, came out of my shop. But no one could dare question them.”

This formula for the dispensation of justice meant that committees were acting as recovery officers and judges at a jirga. “The committees soon started to pressure people by holding jirgas in which their orders would be final,” Afridi says.

Several family members of former goons-turned-committee leaders rode the crest of their power and even entered the political arena by contesting local body elections. The brother of Adezai anti-militant lashkar chief Dilawar Khan, who was later killed, stood from the platform of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The party’s provincial chief, Amir Muqam, had even attended his corner meetings.“Since the committees were close to police officers and politicians, they tried to enter politics,” explains Afridi, adding that dozens of committee members with bad reputations even won in the last local government polls.

“Peace committees, typically in Pakistan, have been formed by politically motivated individuals to put themselves in the spotlight,” says Khalid Muhammad of the think tank Command Eleven, who hails from Swat himself. “And it’s no surprise that some of the committee members have protected and provided cover for terrorists in their own communities due to the threats made against them if they were to leak information.” Take the example of Muslim Khan, the TTP Swat spokesman, who was hiding in the home of one of the peace committee members in Qambar, he adds.

147 is the number of pro-government tribal elders who have been killed in the tribal areas May 2005 to Nov 2015 (source: South Asia Terrorism Portal)

This problematic behaviour did, however, come to the notice of the authorities eventually. According to one security official, when the committee members started oppressing locals, those at the helm of affairs realized they should be checked before they turned into another Taliban force. Another security official, based in Peshawar, added: “When some of those crossed their limits a ‘safai mohim’ (cleansing drive) had to be kicked off both to get rid of them and to warn others others.”

It does seem to be counter intuitive, however, to have to discipline a force that is supposed to be on your side. “When it comes to dealing with armed groups on its soil, Pakistan stands where it stood post 9/11,” argues Asfandyar Mir, a Chicago-based scholar and counter militancy expert. “The state fights groups that are averse to its ideological project … puts up with those who deploy agreeable symbols and ideas while offering tactical utility within or outside the borders, and neglects the rest.” For him, this violence management strategy is fraught with serious risk of blowback. Remember the case of Abdullah Mehsud who had formed a peace committee against Baitullah Mehsud back in 2004?

According to one view, lashkars and peace committees have at least in many cases minimized the fatalities of the security forces and police and something must be said for that. But as the Swat-based analyst Sardar Ahmed Yousafzai puts it, how productive could they be if they are being targeted themselves?

Peace committees: who, when, how

Swat: In Swat the committees were formed directly by the army after the start of the operation in 2009 and have remained under its supervision. They had no lashkar or active fighting force and were never on the offensive. Instead, they assisted with information sharing. They would not go on patrol unlike the committees in FATA and troubled parts of settled districts. Between 40 and 90 of these members have been killed in the last seven years.

Settled districts: Unlike in Swat, the committees in the settled districts were formed by police (though the security agencies had given clearance for all of them). The committees in the settled but troubled districts of Charsadda, Nowshera, Peshawar, Lakki Marwat, DI Khan and Bannu mostly comprised men with criminal backgrounds or a bad reputation. There was no direct presence of the army, so they were on the frontlines against the Taliban’s attacks. More than 500 of these members, including 97 killed in the Shah Hassan Khel blast on January 1, 2010, have paid with their lives. They were mostly killed by militants but some recently as part of the “Safai Mohim”.

FATA: The peace committees were formed as far back as early 2004. The committees and Amn Lashkars were abolished by former KP governor, Sardar Mehtab Abbasi, in 2015. He replaced the lashkar with jirgas, which were already a part of tribal culture. The committees were indigenously formed by elders and worked according to the tribal hierarchy of governance.

The writer is a Karachi-based journalist

@NKMalazai

Is Wadh becoming another Waziristan?

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Wadh Balochistan 

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Considering it a huge threat to the security of upper Sindh, a law enforcement agency has urged upon the Sindh government to convince center and Balochistan for a massive crackdown against a ‘mix of different terrorist groups’ hiding in Wadh and Jhal Magsi areas of Balochistan, The Frontier Post has reliable learnt.

According to credible sources, Additional Inspector General of Police, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), Sanaullah Abbasi, has written a letter to the provincial government of Sindh and other relevant quarters, in which they have been warned of more terrorist acts in upper Sindh from Balochistan areas of Wadh and Jhal Magsi in absence of decisive action them.

According to sources, the CTD after intelligence gathering has identified that a mix of separatist and religious terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, Sipaha-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and BLA, based in Wadh area of Balochistan is posing a great security threat to the upper districts of Sindh, which itself are very much vulnerable due to mushroom growth of madarasah of the same school of thoughts.

“In small villages, even those with around six houses, a madarasah has been established with ten to fifteen students studying therein,” an official told this scribe, adding that there was no record with local police regarding the number, identity of teachers and nature of curriculum being taught in these madarasah.

Even these religious seminaries, mostly established by persons having returned from Afghanistan’s trip for military training, are not registered with the Wifaq Ul Madaris Al Arabia Pakistan – the relevant Deobandi madarasah board, which keeps a check on the curriculum of registered seminaries, the official added.

The law enforcement agency has not only suggested a massive operation in Wadh and Jhal Magsi but also made it clear that without hitting Shafiq Mengal and Amanullah Zehri, who are gathering different groups at one place, no success can be achieved against the killers and terrorists.

“These groups after mixing uses expertise of each others,” an intelligence officer told, adding that hitting Mengal and Zehri to mandatory for peace.

Sources say that one wanted terrorist in Safoora Bus shooting case is also hiding in Wadh area of the Balochistan province. “Abdul Qadir aka Anwar aka Haji Baloch, a prime suspect in Safoora case, is nephew of Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, an accused of World Trade Center bombing on 9/11 and brother of Yousuf Ramzi,” a source told, adding that the Indian agent Kulbhushan Yadav has also admitted to have made contacts with Haji Baloch.

It’s pertinent to mention that at least 8 people, including two cops, were injured after police foiled two separate suicide blasts during Eid prayers in Shikarpur’s Khanpur Tehsil last month. One of the cops, namely Shafiq later succumbed to his wounds during treatment in hospital.

According to reports four suicide attackers infiltrated Khanpur during Eid prayers. One of them, namely Usman, was arrested; who revealed before the interrogators that he was a resident of Swat’s Qabal tehsil and had studied in Karachi’s Abu Huraira seminary.

Usman told that he had come from ‘Wadh’ area of the Balochistan.

Published in The Frontier Post

 

Who has killed Imam?

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By Naimat Khan

It was afternoon of Wednesday, January 17, 2013. I along with journalist friends was having tea at the Karachi Press Club’s garden when a colleague from an international media outlet received a call. The person on phone was Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s spokesman, claiming that his organization had killed Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) lawmaker, Manzar Imam.

Imam, 43, was gunned down a while ago in Orangi area of the city from where he was elected to the provincial assembly of Sindh on MQM’s ticket.

“From when did you start killing people of Tableeghi Jamaat,” the reporter asked LeJ spokesman. “Le, me check,” the spokesman cutoff the phone line. Within minutes, he called the reporter back and said, “We haven’t killed him”.

The TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan was the second to claim responsibility for the attack.

Imam belonged to Deobandi school of thought and had been with Tableeghi Jamaat on preaching missions, his close friends tell.

There was no clue of the killers for more than eight months before the Rangers on September 23, 2015 announced to have arrested a suspect allegedly involved in the assassination.

The alleged killer was MQM man.

According to a statement issued by the Sindh Rangers the paramilitary force arrested the accused during a raid conducted in the Taiser Town area of Karachi.

The Rangers’ spokesperson claimed that the accused, identified as Muhammad Ashiq, was affiliated with the MQM and had confessed of killing MQM legislator and his guard, according to media reports.

The reports also claimed that besides being involved in the murder of MQM MPA, the accused also confessed to killing 12 members of rival political parties and dumping their bodies in different parts of the city using ambulances belonging to MQM’s charity wing Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation.

The statement further said the accused was produced before an anti-terrorism court, which placed him under 90-day preventive detention. He was never tried in the case.

Then some media reports, citing interviews with investigators, claimed that in August 2010, Imam had closely coordinated with law-enforcement agencies in arresting the LeJ militants involved in the assassination of another MQM MPA Raza Haider.

However, on September 22, 2016, a report in a private news channel claimed and even aired the voice of blindfolded MQM Ashfaq aka chief, in which he confessed that Manzar Imam had been murdered the behest of Asfar Hussain.

Another twist in the murder case came when the arrested LeJ militant on Friday claimed that Imam was killed by them.

“Saeed aka Kaloo was directly involved in the murder of Manzar Imam,” Raja Umar Khattab, the cop having busted group of AQIS, LeJ and Sipah-e-Sahaba militants, told The Frontier Post. Khattab says it’s the handiwork of LeJ.

It’s not the first time that several claims have been made regarding involvement of different groups in a single case. In past TTP militants were eliminated for their alleged involvement in Parween Rehman murder case whereas men associated with MQM were also arrested in connection of murder of the female Director of the Orangi Pilot Project. Later the case turned out to be the handiwork of Raheem Swati, an activist of Awami National Party.

“The multiple claims by law enforcers, sometime made in hast with aims, spoil the cases, depriving the victims of justice,” said Saqib Sagheer, a Karachi based reporter covering crime and militancy.

Published in The Frontier Post 

PSP pries open MQM strongholds for the taking

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By Naimat Khan

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KARACHI: A group of influential Bihari activists convened at Karachi’s Shah Faisal Chowk in Orangi Town a few days after MQM dissenters Mustafa Kamal and Anis Qaimkhani fired a salvo at Altaf Hussain and announced their dramatic exit from the party in a fiery press conference.

The activists held a ‘Bihari Jirga’ where they pledged to never allow Kamal to enter the area. The jirga’s head, Tariq Noor Malik, better known as Tariq Bihari, had convened two jirgas in recent years following the murder of MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq in London in September 2010.

Yet, a few days after the third and final jirga, Bihari was spotted at the temporary office of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), formed by Kamal and Qaimkhani, on Khayaban-e-Rahat.

The change of heart on Bihari’s part has paved the way for PSP to enter Orangi, which holds historic significance as the place from where the Mohajir Qaumi Mahaz was launched in the 1980s. The party later came to be known as the Mohajir Qaumi Movement and, finally, as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

“Tariq Bihari left for London where he resides. He comes and plays his part of game,” confided one of his close friends. “Before his meeting with Kamal, Bihari had been collecting printed stuff against former mayor”, his friend claims, adding though he had left the country before the Kamal’s visit, people, though not from his background but under his influence was present to materialize the plan.”

Another insider confirms Bihari negotiated the deal however an active group of former Pasban activists working for stranded Pakistanis of Bangladesh was the real force behind Kamal’s entry into the MQM’s stronghold.

Shaukatullah, a close aide of Shafi Ahmed who was chief of his own group of Pasban, and nearly two dozen of the group members were given the task to ensure smooth entry into town where the Bihari Qaumi Movement (BQM) and several others had failed to leave evident marks.

Shafi Ahmed, who started his political journey from Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing, Islami Jamiat Talaba, joined Pasban on the eve of general elections in 1993. However, when the then JI Chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed disowned Pasban, Ahmed came close to Haseeb Hashmi, a former lawmaker and leader of Tehreek-e-Ittehad Pakistan working for stranded Pakistanis.

Ahmed later parted ways with Altaf Shakoor faction of Pasban and formed his own group, which he dissolved before joining PML-N during the General polls of 2013.  Ahmed died in a road accident on October 28, 2015, which his friends believe was ‘murder’ allegedly by people in his new political clique, who thought Ahmed was a political threat to them, a local journalist from the town told this scribe.

PSP in Orangi

With joining of Pasban’s guys, the PSP leader Mustafa Kamal briefly appeared in Orangi on April 8, 2016 to invite locals to attend 24th April rally. Here Mustafa Kamal called on higher authorities to give people of Orangi their ‘identity cards’ – an important issue of majority of the town. The second issue he raised was the water problem.

The proper entry he gave in Orangi was on August 31, 2016. Flanked by supporters and other party leaders, Kamal took his party’s public drive to the town where he urged the dwellers to follow him to “secure their rights”.

“You were told to sell VCRs and buy guns but I say buy books, books and education are our identity,” Kamal was quoted as speaking.

The town that matters

Orangi, the largest slum town in Asia, has housed people of different ethnicities but the Biharis who migrated from East Pakistan are in vast majority.

The demography of the town makes Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) a perfect choice for inhabitants of the area, opines Mazhar Abbas, Karachi based political analyst. Since, PSP is comprised of MQM dissidents there is space available for it.

“Pak Sarzameen Party is a party of MQM’s dissenters and many of them are from Bihari community. Therefore, a real space is available and the PSP will try to use it for increasing its mandate in the city,” says Abbas.

Bihari Qaumi Movement (BQM)

PSP is not the only group which has tried to enter into MQM’s footrest.

“The Town once known for the Biharis die-hard loyalists of Altaf Hussain, witnessed the rise of Bihari Qaumi Movement (BQM) but the movement suffered setback first with the death of its backer Dr Imran Farooq on 16 September 2010,” inform Abu Salam Ahmed, a local journalist, adding over two months later, Aftab Malik the MQM founder, chief and ex-UC Nazim of Orangi Town UC 14, was gunned down in Orangi Town on November 27, 2010.

Initially it was Dr. Imran Farooq, one of the MQM’s founding members and a Bihari who contributed a lot in influencing people from Bihar residing in Orangi Town to join MQM. “He could have made changes for BQM had he been alive.”

Orangi is the town, where the famous Qasba–Aligarh massacre occurred.  It was the flashpoint of ethnic violence in the city in eighties.  “Though we saw Haseeb Hashmi, Afaq Shahid and Shafi Ahmed claiming electoral victories but the locality’s ethnic environ never allowed any real change without ethnic color,” opines Wakeel Ur Rehman, a reporter covering ethnic groups.

“Only time will prove if the PSP, dominantly another Mohajir party, can take over the MQM constituency,” Rehman said.

Claver moves

On the model of enfolding electable for election victory – a model being practiced in Pakistani and elsewhere in Asian political arena – the PSP has adopted to enfold those with some force – right or wrong and legal or illegal – to win the strongholds.

This newspaper reported that Tariq Tareen, an alleged member of the ANP’s militant wing along with several workers of ANP and PSF announced to join the Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party in its debut public gathering held at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Karachi on April 24, 2016.

Abdul Malik, the ANP spokesperson, told The Frontier Post that when Tareen was president of Pakhtun Student Federation (PSF), the party leadership dissolved PSF just because of Tareen wrongdoings.

Recently, some media reports claimed former gangsters of Liyari, a town in old city with Baloch ethnic dominance, have joined PSP. Like Sohrab Goth and Gulistan-e-Jauhar, where Tareen had authority and Lyari where the former gangsters-turned PSP workers have influence, in Orangi the group having joined PSP is effective one and will increase the PSP’s ‘strength’, analysts believe.

Published in The Frontier Post