Making it deadly

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Naimat Khan

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KARACHI: Terrorists in Pakistan do not rely on industrial grade bombs. Instead, to target both law enforcers and ordinary civilians, they have relied on their own specialized cadres to make different kinds of bombs. On April 12, 2016, Karachi Police’s Counter Terror Department unearthed a facility used to make bombs in the Gadap town. In the raid one bomb maker named Muhammad Mujtaba aka Rehan was eliminated. One of his accomplices, named Abdul Saboor aka Hamad was killed, whereas anther, named Muhammad Murtaza, was arrested. Police also recovered 80 kg of explosive material, circuits, ball bearings, bottle bombs, tennis ball bombs, bomb manufacturing material, laptop, memory cards, and USBs.

Raja Umar Khattab, senior counter terrorism official who led the raid, told this scribe that the arrested Muhammad Murtaza aka Abu Huraira claims that the dead Rehan was the last expert bomb maker alive in the city. Rehan was the protege of Hashim aka Babu, a master bomb marker with 14 years of experience, especially car bombs. Babu was killed in a gunfight with the police in April 2015.

After Babu – who had put together the bomb manufacturing setup in Gadap town and supplied explosive devices to one Abdus Salam Sindhi of Liaquatabad – was killed, the Counter Terror Department’s assessment was that it had set back AQIS’s bomb making capability significantly. “After that shoot out, I thought that this was it. As I had extensively worked on hunting the bomb makers and dented all three groups – the brainwashers, the hit-men and bomb makers – of Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), I believed that no locally made lethal weapon will be used by terrorists, at least for next couple of years,” Khattab told The Frontier Post.

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But six months later, on October 17, 2016, the police were surprised when terrorists hurled hand grenades at an Imambargah in Liaquatabad killing one child and leaving several women hurt. Media reported it as cracker blast. “For a while I believed that my assessment after April had been wrong,” Khattab told and added “but when we arrested Ishaq Booby and Asim Capri, accused of Amjad Sabri’s murder, they disclosed that they had hit the Shia Majlis with grenade having ball bearing wrapped to it”.

“The terrorists had wrapped ball bearings with it for ensuring it results maximum fatalities.” It was clear to Khattab then that Taliban and AQIS were innovating around their constraints.

In March 2013, the BBC Urdu first reported terrorists – normally knowing for using Russian made hand grenades and smoke grenades – were using the tennis ball bomb. The tennis ball bomb was an invention of the Taliban, according to the Police, working like a small bomb or cracker but had a bigger sound impact. Taliban increased its lethality by adding ball bearings of 2mm and nails. Such tennis ball bombs were made at the factory in Gadap Town.

The loss of the bomb making facility at Gadap is likely to hurt the Taliban as it comes on the back of sustained counter terror efforts by the law enforcement agencies.

“We have always known the TTP uses local bomb making factories, but with the success of Zarb-e-Azb, we know that their capabilities have been decimated,” according to Khalid Muhammad, Director General – CommandEleve, adding, “We also know that they have ‘imported’ bomb makers from AQAP and IS Khorasan to give them a more logistic advantage in quick hit attacks with IEDs, much like the tennis ball or shoe bomb”.

Muhammad is of the view that the security agencies must shut down capabilities of terrorists comprehensively, which they are currently doing.

“Second, we must get ahead of their technology by understanding what technology these groups have used in other battle spaces like Iraq and Syria,” he concludes.

They are for maximum terrorism, whether inventing new or adding more lethality to the factory-made, the terrorists will continue their search for deadly weapons to use, said another analyst.

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.

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

 

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

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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 

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