‘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.

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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 

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 

Sindh wants policeman father of ‘terrorist’ reinstated

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Ali Sher Jakhrani, who was inducted to Sindh Police on the “parchi” from secretary to Sindh minister and PPP Stalwart, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro

By: Naimat Khan

KARACHI: The Sindh Government has requested services of a police officer, who is not only one among those being appointed on ‘political recommendations’ but was also found guilty of turning blind eye to his son terrorist activities.

The Sindh Government has taken this initiative at a time when the terrorists are striking in different parts of the country with intervals amid countrywide operation under the national action plan underway.

At least seventy people were killed on Sunday evening when terrorists attacked Gulshan Iqbal Park in Lahore.

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Owais Jahkhrani, son of Ali Sher Jakhrani and one of the attackers on Navy Dockyard 

A letter from the office of Chief Secretary Sindh to secretary establishment division government of Pakistan, Islamabad, written on March 21, 2016 reads; “the Government of Sindh requires the services of Mr. Ali Sher Jakhrani, an officer of police service of Pakistan (BS-18), presently serving in government of Gilgiat Baltistan”.

“It’s therefore, requested that services of Mr. Ali Sher Jakhrani, an officer of police service of Pakistan (BS-18), may be placed at the disposal of Government of Sindh at an early date.”

According to an official list of political appointments in police services, a copy of which is available to The Frontier Post, Ali Sher Jakhrani – who hails from Jacobabad in Sindh – was appointed on the recommendations from secretary to Sindh Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro on 90s.

Jakhrani is one of the 21 police officers who had been inducted to police on political basis, a report said.

“Jakhrani is not only in the list of 21 officers who were appointed as DSPs in Sindh Police in NBS-17 due to their affiliations with political leaders, but he was also found guilty of turning blind eye towards his son’s terrorists activities,” a source in Sindh Police told this scribe on the condition of anonymity.

After a terrorist attack on a navy dockyard in Karachi in September 2014, there were reports that a perpetrator who was killed in the shootout was a former navy sailor and the son of Ali Sher Jakhrani.

Owais, Ali Sher Jakhrani’s son, was dismissed from the navy for his ‘religious views and undisciplined conduct’, according to reports. Sources told this scribe earlier that Owais Jakhrani had remained in contact with his cop father from Afghanistan, where he had gone for militant training.

Later, forensic reports also confirmed that Owais had used his father’s service weapons during the terrorist attack on Navy installation.

With this not so ‘bright’ background, Ali Sher Jakhrani, had been in limelight during the Karachi Law and Order Case, in which he was representing Sindh Police as Assistant Inspector General Police, Legal.

On one occasion when the matter of Abbas Town Carnage was taken up, the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry appointed the then DIG south and incumbent Director FIA, Shahid Hayat Khan, as inquiry head of the carnage on the recommendation of Jakhrani.

After the issue of his son’s involvement in major terrorist attack came to fore, he was silently removed of the post and later transferred to Gilgit Baltistan, sources said. Some elements in the Sindh Government, who are close to Jakhrani, want to get him appointed back on important post in Sindh Government.

An officer on the condition of not to be named told this scribe, that despite his political affiliation and criminal negligence or deliberately ignoring his terrorists son, Jakhrani had rendered his services as additional IG with honesty and may be the reason for demand for him to rejoin Sindh police.

Published in The Frontier Post

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