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Terror Unknown & Karachi’s Killing Fields

Since 2010, the number of non-political people being shot in the city has been on the rise, and the latest HRCP report showed that the trend was continuing. A total of 493 people with no political affiliation were killed in the first eight months of the year, as opposed to 418 in the entire 2011 and 301 in 2010. The city has been, on average, losing 60 of apolitical residents every month this year.

The unending consumption of human life continues to define the bloody streets of Karachi. Although the enemy in most cases remains ‘unknown’. This year alone, over eighteen hundred lives have been lost so far and the bloodbath continues to rage. Welcome to the megapolis of Karachi.

Mercenaries, private militia type activists of political parties, nameless and fearful target killers, sectarian factions, warlords, drug-lords, gangsters and criminals’ all are hungry for more. Their gargantuan appetite for blood is insatiable. It is proven now.

Why is this happening in city of lights? What is all about? How people get shot by target killers in broad daylight? Who are responsible? When it started and when will it be ended? And last but not the least who will put an end to the blood-dripping quagmire?

These are questions that haunt the minds of people who want peace. Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan People’s Party and Awami National Party are more influential than any other party in Karachi. When it comes to menace of target killing MQM, PPP and ANP leaders, including Altaf Hussain, President Asif Ali Zardari and Asfandyar Wali all condemn the bloodbath.

Irony is they are in the government both in Sindh and the centre. They are the rulers. Administration, police and bureaucracy all are under them. Lip servicing is abundant but action is missing.

‘People have accepted violence and have become desensitised. They flip through violence stories in newspapers or on television. This is alarming for us all,’ says Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairperson Zohra Yusuf, who sees the increase in violence as a failure of law enforcement.

The worst trend is that men with no political affiliation are being shot dead in the hundreds just because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The statistics released by independent source such as HRCP and government authorities, e.g. IG Sindh office horrify us. The men with no political affiliations who were shot dead were mostly targeted because they were either sitting next to a political activist or were present at the crime scene where attackers opened fire. The number has risen from 301in 2010 to 418 the next year and so far this year the toll has already topped over 400.

There has been a change in patterns; political activists are being killed in drive-by shootings and Baloch men are being targeted. ‘What was the purpose of the Lyari operation when the criminals are roaming around free and the ordinary people were affected?’ she asked. Around 92 were killed in Lyari since the beginning of 2012.

The city lost two apolitical residents for every political activist to violence in the first eight months of the year. The numbers this year suggest the start of another worrying trend: extortionists are increasingly following on their threats and killing people for not paying them.

The statistics released by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) are, however, on the higher side. Based on reported cases gathered by CPLC, 2012 might well prove to be one of the deadliest years in the city’s history. A total of 1,724 killings took place in 2011, and 1,742 killings in 1995, the bloodiest year on record with the CPLC. Indeed, the current year has now become the deadliest.

 Extortionists have been known to deliver ‘chits’ to people at their homes and threat them with dire consequences if they did not pay them. ‘Target killings’ claimed a total of 1,345 lives, while law enforcement personnel were responsible for shooting 146 people.
 The death toll for the January-August period last year stood at 1,406. Extortionists have been known to deliver ‘chits’ to people at their homes and threat them with dire consequences if they did not pay them. ‘Target killings’ claimed a total of 1,345 lives, while law enforcement personnel were responsible for shooting 146 people.

Since 2010, the number of non-political people being shot in the city has been on the rise, and the latest HRCP report showed that the trend was continuing. A total of 493 people with no political affiliation were killed in the first eight months of the year, as opposed to 418 in the entire 2011 and 301 in 2010. The city has been, on average, losing 60 of apolitical residents every month this year.

One must not forget it is all about power and wealth. Political parties yearn for both. They are harbouring target killers too. It is evident from the record of suo motto hearing on Karachi situation by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chauhdry.

Karachi is the land of opportunities for both good and evil. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers study of 2009, Karachi’s GDP was nearly $78 billion in 2008 and it is expected to touch $120 billion mark by 2020 at a growth rate of 5.9 per cent. With a 10 per cent of the total population of Pakistan, Karachi contributes almost 20 per cent of the total GDP of the country. Two main seaports, Port of Karachi and Port Qasim, play very important role in handling imports and exports of the country.

Being a port city, Karachi handles nearly 60 percent of the total trading business. Textiles, pharmaceuticals, steel and automobiles are the main industries in the city.  Most of Pakistan’s public and private banks are headquartered on Karachi’s I. I. Chundrigar Road. Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) is Pakistan’s largest and oldest stock exchange, with many Pakistani, as well as overseas listings.

This makes Karachi very desirable for all. This thriving urban centre is also home to a number of lethal jihadi and sectarian militant organizations.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi:
The banned sectarian outfit is headquartered in Nagan Chowrangi (New Karachi).

Harkatul Mujahideen aka  Harkatul Ansar: It is headquartered and has a recruiting office in SITE area; Mustafa Masjid.

Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM): It is a religious militant organisation and has its office is in Hyderi, (Noth Nazimabad) Batha Masjid. It was founded by firebrand cleric Maulana Masood Azhar in late 1990s to fight against Indian forces in Kashmir.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT): It is also a religious militant organisation banned by the United Nations Security Council for its alleged role in terrorism in India and the region. It has its main office in Gulshan Chowrangi, Yaqoobia Masjid.

Most notorious underworld gangs of the region are also allegedly residing and operating from Karachi. Among these Dawood Ibrahim, Tiger Memon, Shoaib Khan, Khalid Shahenshah and Haji Ibraheem aka Bhulu are the famous ones and these are involved in running their rackets, illicit drug businesses, human trafficking and gangs in Karachi.

 PAC is supposedly enjoying support of the PPP and KRC has a backing of MQM and the killings in these areas are considered as a result of the turf war between PPP and MQM.
 Two organisations, People’s Amn Committee (PAC) and Kutchi Rabita Committee (KRC) came to the limelight during the last year when target killing incidents in Lyari, Shershah and Kharadar areas brought the civic life to a standstill. PAC is supposedly enjoying support of the PPP and KRC has a backing of MQM and the killings in these areas are considered as a result of the turf war between PPP and MQM.  The persons leading both of these organizations are:

Among these Rehman ‘Dakait’ was killed last year in an encounter with the police, while Arshad Pappu was arrested in 2006 but he was released on bail in February 2012 and acquitted in about 60 cases.

Violence in Karachi underscores one point lucidly that the city is rapidly falling victim to the temptations of ‘power and influence’ on the part of political players. These political players base their legitimacy on ethnic lines in the city. Thus, politics plays out brutally in the city, while other factors such as ethnic tensions, sectarian rifts, gang wars, drug dealings and land grabbing, flourishing under the political umbrellas. The dynamics of political violence revolve mainly around political turf wars between the various stakeholders of the city.

Who is targeting who and what instigates them to indulge into this horrific crime? Can it be attributed to political, ethnic, or sectarian rivalry? Political rivalry mixed with the sectarian and ethnic hatred makes everything so blurred that no line can be drawn to delineate one form of killings from another. A political activist can be targeted on ethnic ground and a common man can be targeted for political reason because he belongs to an ethnic community that is represented by a certain political party. Once the target killings on political reasons subside, another wave of target killings erupts on sectarian line and starts targeting people belonging to a certain sect irrespective of which political party they belong to.

Later, enters the gangsters or land mafia to make their presence felt as well. This whole game continues on with intermittent intervals and the interesting part of this whole episode is that despite being a part of the game, all players shamelessly deny their involvement in it and point fingers at all others except themselves.

It does not require clearing Augean stable to make Karachi peaceful. We need a political resolve. Political parties should stop patronizing the organized crime and law enforcement agencies must be allowed to operate on merit. The peace will be restored.

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