Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Karachi Killings: Gang War or Political Turf War.

KARACHI: At least 17 people were killed including Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) ex-MNA and leader Waja Karim Dad in incidents of firing and grenade attacks in Karachi on Wednesday, DawnNews reported. Waja was at a restaurant along with friends for Iftar, when unknown gunmen opened fire on him killing four, including him, and injuring three others. He sustained critical injuries and breathed his last at the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), said police. Meanwhile, four people were killed including a young girl and seven others were injured in a series of five hand-grenade attacks in the Bhempora area of Karachi. Six people were injured in a shooting spree in the Methadar area. Two of the injured succumbed to death in the Civil Hospital. A motorcycle and a rikshaw were also set on fire on Nepiar road. After the series of violence shops and markets were shut in the Lyari and Old city area as fear spread amongst the residents. REFERENCE: Seventeen killed in Karachi including PPP’s Waja Karim Agencies (4 hours ago) Today 

Target Killings or Political War in Karachi - 1 (Front Line 8 Aug 2011)


Why ‘distance does not matter’ for the city’s most potent electoral force - In the cut-throat world of Karachi politics, one man reigns supreme. Altaf Hussain, head of the Muttahida Quami Movement, the city’s most powerful political party, exerts an almost mesmerising hold over his followers. His feat is all the more remarkable because he has not set foot in the city in 20 years. Operating from a house in north London, he addresses rallies in Karachi by telephone. Tens of thousands sit cross-legged in rapt silence as his voice is broadcast from 4,000 miles away. Party lieutenants bestow gifts on newlyweds in his name. Mr Hussain’s acolytes defend his absence by pointing to the fate of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister assassinated after returning from self-imposed exile in 2007. His philosophy is enshrined in a ziggurat-shaped monument adorned with a sculpture of a fist and the slogan: “Distance does not matter”. Personality cults are a staple of Pakistani politics but the MQM phenomenon is unique. Now rarely depicted without his trademark aviator sunglasses, Mr Hussain rose from modest origins to start his political career while a pharmacy student. He founded the party in the mid-1980s to address a sense of disenfranchisement among the Mohajir – Urdu families who arrived from India at partition in 1947. MQM’s white-collar activists view their party as a bulwark of secularism against the Islamic extremism that has increasingly permeated Pakistani society and cowed much of the liberal elite into silence. Espousing a middle-class work ethic, they believe the MQM can serve as an antidote to the deadening grip of Pakistan’s feudal-style politics. To its critics, the party is more akin to a crime syndicate. With its history of internecine violence, it is blamed for the deaths of hundreds of opponents. Some residents say that thugs enforce protection rackets to fill its coffers and that some members are in cahoots with land-grabbers and worse. As the rival Awami National party has gained strength through an inflow of Pashtun migrants, the MQM has become embroiled in a bloody and ethnically tinged power struggle. At Nine Zero, its heavily guarded headquarters, meeting rooms bustle with petitioners seeking assistance from the party’s cradle-to-grave welfare system, which supports clinics and funeral services. For these people the MQM has in effect supplanted Pakistan’s state. In their more modest compound, ANP activists are convinced that the MQM wants to deny the Pashtun a rightful share of power – but demography, they say, is on their side. “One of my colleagues has eight boys. Even if six are killed, two will survive,” says Bashir Jan, a senior ANP official. “I have seven children,” he adds, and laughs. REFERENCE: The killers of Karachi By Matthew Green August 16, 2011 8:52 pm (Courtesy: Financial Times) 

REFERENCE: The killers of Karachi By Matthew Green August 16, 2011 8:52 pm (Courtesy: Financial Times)
Target Killings or Political War in Karachi - 2 (Front Line 8 Aug 2011)


KARACHI: “I will bomb your factory. Your workers will die. Your business will remain no more. But if Dawood* pays, it will not happen,” he spoke casually over the phone with the factory manager, Ashraf*. “You know business is not good, and we do not have that kind of money you are asking for,” the manager replied. “How about bringing it down to a little less? Like somewhere around Rs50,000.” “Do you think I’m looking for charity? I want my Rs2 million. And if I don’t get paid, many will die,” he threatened angrily again. “Okay okay, no need to be angry. How about taking installments?” the manager asked. “Yes we can do that. It can be a monthly collection. That way we can have a relationship,” the man replied. “Also, we can attack Dawood again. We have shot at his car once as you know. So, do not involve the police in this,” he added with seriousness in his voice. This phone conversation which Dawood has kept a record of, happened a few days after some people on a motorbike aimed at his car and fired straight at it at least four times.

“It was dark, around early evening. I saw sudden sparks and heard gunshots. All I could think was that I was going to get kidnapped, but somehow I managed to escape that day,” Dawood was shocked that he experienced death from so close. Dawood manages a factory in Korangi Industrial Area of Karachi, home to around 3000 industries, amongst them some leading brands of the country, and these factories employ thousands of people in the financial capital of Pakistan. Dawood had received numerous phone calls from someone who initially had introduced himself as Kalu Current. The first one came at Dawood’s factory. Current told the factory owner that he needed the money for the Lyari Gang War and he wanted a Rs2 million donation from him. “I told him off and hung up. But he called back the next day. The second time he told me which car I had, where did I live, and my office visit timings.” Dawood, scared, confided in his family about the incident who then contacted the police. The police involved Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) that looks after extortion cases in the city and does negotiations for kidnapping for ransom on behalf of the victim’s family. CPLC advised Dawood’s elders to keep talking but introduce a middle man between Dawood and the extortionist. Their manager, Ashraf was given the task, who started answering calls from Current.

CPLC told them that many times such extortionists are not serious, and Current might give up too. It happened exactly the same way and a month or so later, the calls stopped coming. During that time, they saw on television news how Kalu Current had been killed by the police in a shootout. Dawood and his family sighed in relief but a few weeks later the call came again. This time he had a different name. He called himself Israr but associated himself still with some gang in Lyari, without giving specific details. He also demanded the same money. Once again, Dawood’s family contacted the authorities who said they should ask the ‘new’ extortionist for time and a reduction in the amount. But everything changed when Dawood was attacked. “We did not want anything happening to a family member over money,” says Dawood’s older cousin Asfar* who was involved in negotiations with the extortionist. CPLC asked them to involve the police to catch these criminals but the family says it did not want to do so since they feared more trouble. After three months of living in constant terror, Dawood’s manager negotiated and brought down the extortionist’s demand to less than half of what he had originally asked for. Dawood then sent the money on a bike with two of his employees as instructed by Israr to a location in Saddar. The extortionist was in touch at the factory with the manager and told him to change the delivery venues a few times, and finally at a petrol pump in Saddar some young men on a bike came and took the bag from the employees and left.

Since 2005, according to CPLC, there have been more than 360 FIRs registered at police stations across the city in case of extortion, with the trend rising in last two years. “These FIRs are less than 30% of actual extortion. Majority of the people do not report it and many are actually willingly paying extortion in different business and industrial areas of Karachi because they know they have no other choice,” says Ahmed Chinoy, chief of CPLC. Chinoy adds that he gets calls from affluent businessmen at least 7-8 times daily complaining of an extortion call. “Very few people want to come forward though. They say we can give me the number of the caller etcetera but we do not want to involve ourselves with the investigations,” he added. The CPLC chief also said that most extortion resulted in kidnapping for ransom if the target did not comply with the demands at first. Chinoy then showed a letter he had received from a businessman just a few days ago. It was written in Urdu and addressed the victim as Seth. It was just a few lines but, those few lines were deadly enough. The last line stated: “If you do not pay me the money I have asked for, you should know that for me taking lives is a routine.” It was signed by someone named Ibn-e-Moosa. Records at CPLC show that most callers identified themselves from Lyari, while a few extortion callers said they were Taliban and al Qaeda even. Senior Superintendent Police Raja Umer Khattab, chief of the Special Investigation Unit and working for Crime Investigation Agency in Karachi has a dedicated department to deal with extortion. “It is not always the Lyari criminals or Jihadi’s involved in extortion. Lyari gangs did start the extortion trend but now everyone is involved; whereas Jihadis are more involved with kidnapping for ransom in the city. The criminals associate themselves with these names because of the terror associated with them.” Khattab also stated that in most areas of Karachi the public pays them ‘protection money’ without ever reporting about it. He advised the only way to stop these criminals is if those victimized cooperate with the police. “Even when we have caught those involved, we have not been able to convince a single witness to testify,” he added. According to Khattab, Pakistan Telecom Authority and cellular networks also need to cooperate more since their role is integral in cracking on criminals but as yet requests to shut down mobile numbers being used by extortionists have not been met. Khattab says paying these criminals just strengthens them to victimize more people and should be avoided. Looking back, Dawood says it was good that they paid since no one got hurt. “The police may have protected us from this extortionist but who will save us from the rest of the gang?” Dawood now drives around with an armed guard all the time. The same was seen with the rest of his family members who had guards holding automatic weapons and ready to respond. “Even though I don’t like the guards accompanying me, I don’t have a choice,” he concluded. *Names have been changed due to security concerns. REFERENCE: Extortion: Pay up or die! By Taha Siddiqui Published: August 17, 2011 

Target Killings or Political War in Karachi - 3 (Front Line 8 Aug 2011)


Round and round we go, a never ending cycle in which the people of Karachi and consequently the people of Pakistan are being subjected to. It’s not simply the violence in Karachi or the chronic load-shedding, but in essence the political somersaults that are taking place every month or so. As we all have heard by now the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has decided to ‘rejoin’ the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government (as if there was any doubt that they had left the corridors of power in the first place) after the scrapping of the Commissionerate System in first Karachi and Hyderabad and finally the entire Sindh province. The issue of the Commissionerate System and whether it was viable led to a division among the political parties in Sindh, with the PPP, Awami National Party (ANP) and various nationalist parties in support of it. Whereas the MQM firmly in opposition to the system. In this battle of wills, it seems that the PPP has once again blinked and given into the demands of its coalition partner. The MQM vehemently opposed the old system and was in favor of the Local Government Ordinance 2001 which was introduced by their former ally General Pervez Musharraf. The Commissionerate System or Local Government Ordinance 1979 along with the Police Act 1861 would have divided Karachi into five districts headed by one commissioner. Each district in turn would also have an administrative head along with a deputy commissioner. Needless to say a reversion to the old system would have an effect on the turf war that is behind the violence that is plaguing Karachi. The MQM is opposed to the Commissionerate System because it feels that it would be a reversion to an out of date colonial era administrative system that our former British colonisers themselves have moved on from. Which is a valid point, but then again we do have a knack of going one step forward and two steps backwards in our political theatre. The PPP support and still believe in the Commissionerate System, according to Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, but have reinstated the Local Body System to “save the life of the common man”. One doesn’t know whether this will be the last political system to be overhauled in Sindh or whether more changes are on the way. Any democratic system of government, whether it’s on the federal or provincial level, needs to naturally progress and take strong roots within that area so that it can take effect as a viable administrative system. The system will rot if you pull it out from the roots again and again and then expect it produce rich fruit. These are not clothes that we are dealing with, where you can discard them and then put on a new pair to wear. Does this mean that that the Kabuki Theater is finished, will there be finally peace in Karachi? Was all the blood that has been shed in the past year, which according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan is the deadliest since the blood fest of 90s, because of a governance system? Many people are asking these questions and there aren’t that many answers forthcoming.

Only a little while ago MQM chief Altaf Hussain declared that “the destruction of the government has begun” calling it “worse than any despotism” and now has apparently discussed with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that his party wishes to rejoin the coalition government. The “Muttahida Qalabazi Movement” is what Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan once called them, but then that was also before the PML-N wanted to create a ‘Grand Alliance’ against the PPP government. Getting around this labyrinth causes a headache for those who are simply trying to grasp as to what is really going on. No one is more eager to find out then the people of Pakistan themselves. We just celebrated our 64th Independence Day the other day where people were trying to bask in one day of celebratory mood away from the tensions and stress of daily politics. It was very heartening to know that despite the weight of problems that turned peoples lives topsy-turvy, the people of Karachi and Pakistan have not completely lost heart. They have not completely lost their faith in a better a future for their children and their children’s children. Such patriotic fervor should be the engine that drives our politicians and rulers, not simple point scoring or short term political gain in a city or now we are hearing new provinces. Political vision, a penchant for hard work and a determined resolve have been shortcomings for nearly all of our leaders. The people of Karachi know this just as well as anyone in Pakistan. If this can be rectified in anyway Karachiites will be the first people to stand up among the masses of Pakistan and they will in turn lead the way for the rest of the nation to emulate. REFERENCE: Out with the old, in with the old By Syed R. Ali | DAWN.COM 

Target Killings or Political War in Karachi - 4 (Front Line 8 Aug 2011)


ISLAMABAD: PPP stalwart Senator Raza Rabbani has warned the party leadership against taking any decision in haste on the issue of new provinces because it can cause a “backlash” against the party and even bloodshed, particularly in Sindh, sources in the PPP told Dawn on Monday. In a nine-page letter to PPP Co-Chairman and President Asif Ali Zardari, the senator called for convening a meeting of the party’s central executive committee and initiating a process of debate and discussion at every tier on the issue before taking any step. Mr Rabbani, who resigned as federal minister for inter-provincial coordination in May in protest against his party leadership’s decision to make the PML-Q a coalition partner, has expressed concern over the PPP’s move to support a resolution in the Punjab Assembly for Seraiki province. In the letter, a copy of which was also sent to PPP secretary general Jahangir Badar, Mr Rabbani warned the party against a possible adverse reaction in Sindh and Balochistan if it continued to pursue the demand for division of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa without having done any homework.

He also expressed concern over the party’s handling of the local government issue in Sindh. “The manner in which the issue was handled has sent serious shockwaves to the party’s support base in Sindh. The party, which as a consequence of the 18th Amendment and its implementation had put nationalist forces on the back foot, is now looking for a defence.” The senator asked the party leadership to act fast and hold party meetings from the provincial council down to the tehsil level. He also suggested to the leadership to replace the Local Government Ordinance 2001 in the light of the party’s manifesto and evolve a consensus on it immediately after Eid. Mr Rabbani is of the opinion that the issue of new provinces should be put on backburner for the time being because of the prevailing “fluid political situation” which has been “plagued by terrorism, extremism, sectarianism and regionalism”.

The move will encourage “extreme nationalist forces, particularly in Balochistan, which are working for arrangements outside the scheme of the Constitution”. The PPP leader said: “Making, sponsoring or supporting a move for creation of new provinces by the party will unleash a snowball effect in which regions in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which have claims of possessing ingredients of a province, will get legitimacy and begin to agitate for it.” He warned that “if such a movement picks up in Sindh, it will destabilise, tear the society apart and give rise to a bloody strife which the PPP will not be able to withstand; after supporting such movement, there will be no moral or political justification for the party to oppose any other movement made in this direction”. Mr Rabbani has also opposed the idea of creation of new provinces on an “administrative basis” — a major demand of the opposition PML-N. “The creation of provinces is a historical process and, therefore, these should not be carved out on the basis of administrative convenience. This will further aggravate national, ethnic, linguistic and natural resources question,” he added. REFERENCE: Rabbani warns PPP against hasty decision on new provinces By Amir Wasim | From the Newspaper August 16, 2011 (2 days ago) 

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