JANUARY 2017

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Sindh: Year of Horror

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By Ambreen Agha
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

We were going shopping for our sister’s wedding when my cousin suddenly stopped the car in the alley where our house was located. I saw two men standing at the entrance of the lane and a group of eight to ten people, including young men aged 17-18 years approaching us, loading their guns.... I had never seen this kind of ferocity on the streets in India... my cousin, whose place I was visiting in Karachi, pleaded to me to be quiet and not to get into any argument with them. He referred to them as Balochi gangsters and exclaimed, "These are Balochis and you should not utter a word, just surrender and give whatever you have." They held my two sisters at gunpoint and put a sharp knife on my chest, making it bleed. Each of us gave whatever possessions we had. My cousin lamented, "This is the drudgery of our daily lives here. We live in fear..."

 - Interview to SATP on condition of anonymity

At least 13 Policemen were killed and 58 persons were injured in a suicide blast targeting a bus carrying 50 Police officers near the gate of the Razzakabad Police Training Centre in the Shah Latif Town of Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, on February 13, 2014. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 'spokesman' Shahidullah Shahid claiming responsibility for the attack, declaring, "We carried out the attack against the Police because they are killing our people."

On January 7, 2014, TTP terrorists had killed six people near the Sufi shrine of Ayub Shah Bukhari in Gulshan-e-Maymar area of Gadap Town in Karachi. Two of the victims were beheaded, while the rest had their throats slit. The Police found a bloodstained knife and note, written by the TTP, which read, “Stop visiting shrines — from the Pakistani Taliban. People visiting shrines will meet the same fate.”

On January 2, 2014, three gangsters were shot dead in an ambush by a rival group in the Ilyas Goth area of Liaquatabad Town, Karachi. The deceased were involved in murders, gang wars, abduction-for-ransom, extortion and other criminal activities in Landhi and Malir Towns of Karachi District.

These incidents are only a few of the proliferating manifestations of the violence that flourishes in Sindh, because of an intricate relationship between terrorist outfits, violent political organisations and criminal gangs. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Sindh has already recorded 273 fatalities, including 180 civilians, 46 Security Force (SF) personnel, and 47 terrorists in the first two months of year 2014, and remains the second worst terrorism affected region across Pakistan in terms of fatalities [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) rank first, with 290 killed, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is third, with 187 dead]. Sindh, however, continued to hold the dubious distinction of recording the highest number of civilian fatalities, at 180, over this period, followed by 120 in KP, 92 in Balochistan, 20 in Punjab and 20 in FATA.

Terrorist attacks, sectarian and political violence and gang wars were the three indices that made Sindh, which recorded 1,668 fatalities in 2013, second among the most violence-afflicted Provinces in Pakistan [after FATA, which saw 1,716 killed during the year]. Even in 2013, however, Sindh held the first position in terms of civilian fatalities, by far, with 1,285 killed, distantly followed by KP, where 603 civilian fatalities were recorded. 156 SF personnel, and 227 terrorists were killed in the Province in 2013. In 2012, these numbers stood at a total of 1,553 fatalities, including 1,318 civilians, 118 SF personnel and 117 terrorists. Fatalities among SFs and terrorists increased by 32.2 per cent and 94.01 per cent, respectively, between 2012 and 2013. The rise in fatalities in these two categories is primarily due to escalating confrontations between the two sides, as the worsening law and order situation forced the Government to launch limited operations. 

Terrorism related fatalities in Sindh: 2010-2014

Years

Civilians

SFs

Militants

Total

2010

777

61

158

996

2011

1082

61

68

1211

2012

1318

118

117

1553

2013

1285

156

227

1668

2014

180

46

47

273

Total*

4642

442

617

5701

 Source: SATP, *Data till March 2, 2014

Though civilians continued to face the brunt of terror through 2013, there was a marginal decline of 2.50 per cent in fatalities in this category, as compared to 2012. According to SATP data, of 1,285 civilians killed in 2013, 151 died in 91 sectarian attacks, as compared to 122 killed in 92 such attacks in 2012. 

Other parameters of violence registered significant increase. Incidents of killing in 2013 increased to 1,215, from 1,105 in 2012. Major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) and resultant fatalities increased to 56 and 282, respectively, as compared to 38 and 149, respectively, in 2012.   Incidents of bomb blast and resultant fatalities in 2013 increased to 122 and 193, respectively, from 77 and 42 in 2012.

Karachi was the worst hit among all 23 Districts of the Province. Of the total of 1,668 killings in Sindh, 1,638 (98.2 per cent) took place in Karachi alone. Of 1,285 civilians killed in the Province in 2013, 1,270 civilian killings (98.83 per cent) occurred in Karachi alone, followed by six in Hyderabad District, three in Kashmore District, two each in Khairpur and Shikarpur Districts, and one each in Jacobabad and Sukkur Districts.

Karachi’s descent into anarchy has been enormously accelerated as a result of the influx of TTP cadres from the country's tribal areas. According to a January 20, 2014, threat report by security agencies, a further influx of TTP operatives into Karachi is likely, to avenge the deployment of military troops in the Waziristan areas of the FATA. The report said that thousands of TTP operatives are already living in Karachi, adding to the numbers of local operatives of various other active and defunct organisations.

Adding to the problem are a wide range of sectarian-terrorist outfits operating in the city. These prominently include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba-Pakistan (SSP), Jandullah, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Sunni Tehreek (ST) and Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), among many others. Unsurprisingly, barring one fatality in Jacobabad District, all 150 killings in 90 sectarian attacks in Sindh Province occurred in Karachi alone.

Political killings have also become the order of the day. Activists of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP) have been the principal targets. A total of 345 activists of these parties, including 191 of the MQM; 98 of the ANP, and 56 of the PPP, have been killed since 2011. 176 of these, including 124 MQM, 36 ANP and 16 PPP activists were killed in 2013 alone.

Turf wars between two prominent criminal gangs, the Uzair Baloch-led People’s Amn Committee (PAC, People's Peace Committee) and the Ghaffar Zikri-led Lyari gang, and their local wings, continuously exacerbate violence. Despite being banned, these criminal formations continue to operate with the support of their political patrons. The PAC is alleged to be supported by PPP and the Zikri group thrives with the support of the MQM.

A Report by Foreign Policy in September 2013 termed Karachi “the most dangerous megacity” in the world. The Report cited a murder rate of 12.3 per 100,000 residents, “some 25 per cent higher than any other major city”.

The epidemic of violence is worsened by an endemic extortion racket, making the environment extremely volatile for the business community. Predicting 2013 as “a record year for extortion in Karachi”, the chief of the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), Ahmed Chinoy stated, “The extortion racket has blown out of all proportion with the previous year.” According to the figures collected by Chinoy’s committee, there were more than 630 extortion complaints registered in Karachi from January 2013 to mid-June 2013, compared to 589 in the whole of 2012. Most cases were registered by people who had refused to pay. However, the Police claim that the actual number of incidents is many times higher, since the vast majority of extortion demands go unreported, as victims usually decide to pay. Kutchi Rabta Committee (KRC) leader Haji Adam, while speaking of the menace of extortion on July 5, 2013, complained, "The situation of Lyari is worse than that of Waziristan," and added, “miscreants were free to operate in the area.”

Fearing a spill-over into other parts of the Province, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, on February 24, 2014, cautioned, “Karachi-like terrorism must not hit other parts of Sindh. Terrorism should not make its way into the interior of Sindh with the intensity witnessed in Karachi.”

Significantly, the Hyderabad and Sukkur Districts had each witnessed one major incident in 2013. On November 26, 2013, in a targeted attack on the Police, unidentified terrorists shot dead four Policemen and injured another three, while the Police unit was on mobile duty in the Latifabad area of Hyderabad District.  A major incident occurred in Sukkur District on July 24, 2013, when suicide bombers and armed militants mounted an attack on the local office of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the high security zone of the Sukkur Barrage Colony in Sukkur town. Eight persons were killed, including four terrorists, three ISI officials and a civilian, and another 50 were injured. It was combined attack by the Mohmand Chapter of TTP and the Punjab Chapter of the Taliban (Punjabi Taliban). An unnamed ‘commander’ of the outfit claimed responsibility for the attack. These attacks, and a range of lesser indicators, suggest the gradual penetration of the TTP in other parts of Sindh, potentially creating a far greater challenge for a state apparatus that has, thus far, not been able to combat the ongoing groundswell of terrorist, sectarian and criminal violence in Karachi, the core area of militant activities, despite the tall claims of “successful operations.”

The crisis in Karachi - indeed, the crisis in Pakistan - is that the state, its agencies, and the political forces that control these, are unwilling to relinquish extremist Islam and terrorism as instruments of policy and of domestic political management. Whatever limited action that has been taken against particular terrorist or organised criminal gangs has been fitful, selective and, in most cases, half-hearted. In the meanwhile, armed extremist formations have consolidated their own independent bases of power, even as the regime of collusion with elements within the establishment continues. Under the circumstances, the challenge in Karachi - and potentially across wider areas in Sindh - can only become more intractable with the passage of time.

[Source: SATP]

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