Violence rocked Karachi city of Pakistan as 13 people were killed in targeted shootings including five suspected Taliban activists, a Shia scholar and two Moroccan students at a religious seminary.
Police said the spate of targeted killings increased late this evening when seven people were shot dead in just an hour. In the latest incident at Nazimabad, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a car killing five people. A senior police official said on condition of anonymity that the killed included two people who had links with militant outfits and used to raise funds for them in the city.
"One of them is Mushtaq Samand who was well known for raising funds for Jihadi outfits and even contested the recent provincial assembly elections as an independent candidate," he said.
Earlier, two foreign students from Morocco studying at a religious seminary were shot dead outside the Makki mosque in the same area as they came out for a stroll while in another targeted killing in North Nazimabad three people were killed in an ambush. “All three belonged to Tableegi Jamaat,” an official said.
The city remained tense with many roads and markets closed after a leading Shia scholar and leader of the Wahidat ul Muslameen, Allama Deedar Ali and his driver were shot dead earlier in the day in Gulshan-e-Jauhar area.
"The killing of Allama Deedar appears to be a sectarian-related one and in retaliation to the target killing of a leading Deobandi Sunni scholar on Monday in the city," SSP Imran Shaukat said. As news of Deedar’s killing spread in the city, violence and firing incidents were reported from many areas with most of the Shia-dominated areas shut down while many other markets and shops also closed down out of fear.
Attacks were also reported from Landhi, Itted town and Korangi where three people were killed. Karachi, Pakistan’s economic hub, has for long been wracked by political, ethnic and sectarian unrest.
KARACHI: The need for a Hindu marriage law is felt the most when young women, such as Meena Janti Lal, are abused and kicked out from their homes by their husbands, ending up with no official documents of their marriages or an option to seek legal dissolution.
“For three months after the wedding, my husband kept me locked up in a room and would hit me often,” said the eight-month-old pregnant woman, as she covers bulging belly with her dupatta. “Now he claims that I am not his wife and he will marry again. What shall I do?”
With tears in her eyes and a worried face, Meena sits at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) where her parents brought her to lodge a complaint against her husband. Meena is one of the thousand of Hindu women, especially among the poor class, whose marriages have not been registered, and they have no right to go for divorce. The Hindu marriage law has been drafted by experts but has yet to be introduced in the Sindh Assembly by lawmakers.
She is unfortunately not the first of such cases to knock the human rights commission’s door. A representative of the HRCP said that they receive such cases at least twice a month where women complain of their husbands mistreating them. “In the lower caste, women are commonly abused and left behind by their husbands. They also do not grant them any maintenance rights. Human rights organisations in the community are weak and they do not check the status of such women or work to help them.”
Meena’s father, a worker at the Burns Hospital, said that his 22-year-old daughter was sexually abused by a neighbour, Akash, who lives in her sister’s neighbourhood in Gizri. This later led to her marriage with Akash, last August, in order to save the family’s pride. “The wedding took place in a small temple with few people but there were neither any signatures taken nor any documents produced,” he said.
The Express Tribune tried contacting Meena’s husband but he refused to talk and kept hanging up. Meanwhile, the police have taken an interest in the case. SHO Ghazala of the Women Police Station in South zone has called both the families to settle the matter.
According to lawyer Rochi Ram, Hindu women are also deprived of their right to seek divorce, maintenance money, as well as, inheritance rights apart from the right to register their marriages.
Hindu parliamentarian Mukesh Kumar Chawla claimed that a committee of lawyers and experts is finalising a draft of the bill and it would be presented within a month in the Sindh Assembly. He said the bill will include clauses for divorce, right to maintenance and other issues faced by Hindu women.
Lawyer Ram, who had taken part in drafting the bill, insisted that they have already prepared the bill and it is the parliamentarians who are delaying its placement before the assembly. Ram also blamed the Sindh government for their apathetic attitude. “The parliamentarians are all about talking and are indifferent towards crucial issues,” he said.
Larkana fares better
The situation in the rural areas is much better than urban centres, pointed out Kalpana Devi who heads the Hindu Panchayat in Larkana. After every wedding that takes place in the district, they issue marriage certificates that are acceptable in court, she said. If women are mistreated, the elders of the community sit together and work to solve the matter. “For us, the main issue lies when someone wants to move abroad and there is lack of documents to certify the marriage,” she admitted.
Taliban in Karachi: the real story
ON the evening of March 13, Director Orangi Pilot Project Perween Rahman was shot and killed by masked men half a kilometre from her office just off Manghopir Road in Karachi. The police were quick to point a finger at the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
In an “encounter” the very next day, they killed Qari Bilal who they claimed was a leader of the TTP and the mastermind behind Ms Rahman’s murder. Many in the development sector, however, believe she was targeted because she had fallen foul of the city’s land mafia because she was placing their activities on record. They may both well be right, even if Qari Bilal was falsely accused by law-enforcement agencies.
The latest players in Karachi’s land grab — for long the domain of those with close links to the major political parties and forces amongst the establishment here — are TTP elements who have been putting down their roots in various parts of the city over the past couple of years.
Large swathes of Pakhtun neighborhoods in districts west and east, as well as pockets in districts Malir, central and south are reported to be under the influence of the TTP. While all 30 or so of its factions have a presence in the city, the most influence is wielded by the Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah factions.
According to local police and residents of the affected areas, elements belonging to the TTP have entrenched themselves in these areas after having terrorised the local Pakhtun population into submission, and driven out the ANP from most of its traditional strongholds.
In the past few years, after it won two provincial seats in the 2008 elections and acquired real political clout in Karachi, the ANP and MQM frequently clashed in a deadly turf war. Both accused the other of killing its workers. In 2010 and 2011, when the MQM began to allege that the Taliban were acquiring a presence in the city, the ANP accused it of trying to use that claim as a pretext to ethnically cleanse Karachi of Pakhtuns. However, on 13th August 2012, when an attack in Frontier Colony killed local ANP office bearer and former UC nazim, Amir Sardar, and two party workers, the ANP did not accuse the MQM. Since then, numerous ANP offices have been shut down, scores of its workers killed and many driven out of Pakhtun-dominated areas. Qadir Khan, an ANP spokesman who has now joined the MQM, says “no political party or group can stand up to these militants”.
The TTP affirmed its presence in Karachi for the first time when the organization claimed responsibility for an attack on The Business Recorder/Aaj TV offices on 25 June, 2012 as a warning to rest of the media houses in the country.
The military operations in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009 triggered the latest wave of migration of Pakhtuns, compelling tens of thousands of residents to flee the fighting. Embedded within the exodus of these desperate internally displaced people (IDPs) were a number of Taliban fighters. Although the urban jungle that is Karachi had been a refuge for the latter even earlier, the untenable situation in their native areas prompted many of them to adopt a more permanent abode here.
LAHORE: It was barely 4 am when 19-year-old Rinkal Kumari disappeared from her home in a small village in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. When her parents awoke they found only her slippers and a scarf outside the door.
A few hours later her father got a call telling him his daughter, a Hindu, had converted to Islam to marry a Muslim boy.
Only days later, Seema Bibi, a Christian woman in the province of Punjab, was kidnapped along with her four children after her husband couldn’t repay a loan to a large landlord. Within hours, her husband was told his wife had converted to Islam and wouldn’t be coming home. Seema Bibi escaped, fled the village and has gone underground with her husband and children.
Hindu and Christian representatives say forced conversions to Islam have become the latest weapon of Islamic extremists in what they call a growing campaign against Pakistan’s religious minorities, on top of assassinations and mob intimidation of houses of worship. The groups are increasingly wondering if they still have a place in Pakistan.
”It is a conspiracy that Hindus and Christians and other minorities should leave Pakistan,” says Amar Lal, the lawyer representing Kumari in the Supreme Court. ”As a minority, we feel more and more insecure. It is getting worse day by day.”
In the last four months, Lal said, 51 Hindu girls have been forcibly converted to Islam in southern Sindh province, where most of Pakistan’s minority Hindu population lives. After Kumari disappeared from her home on Feb 24, Azra Fazal Pachuho, a lawmaker and the sister of Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, told Parliament that Hindus in southern Sindh were under attack by Islamic extremists.
Kumari’s family has gone to the Supreme Court to get their daughter back. But the case is hotly contested by the Muslim family, who say Kumari’s conversion was voluntary. They say the couple had known each other and exchanged Facebook messages and phone calls before she converted and they married.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered Kumari kept in a women’s shelter in southern Karachi until it resumes hearing the case on April 18.
”Christian and Hindu girls are targeted more and more,” says Father Emmanuel Yousaf, who heads the National Commission for Justice and Peace, an organization born out of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference.
Yousaf, in the Punjabi capital of Lahore, said his group was helping Seema Bibi and a number of other Christians who had to leave their villages because of threats from extremists. Some of them were girls who were forcibly converted and others, he said, were falsely accused of acting against Islam for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad or abusing the Quran.
There are dozens of cases of minorities being accused of insulting Islam under the country’s blasphemy laws. Often the cases are rooted in disputes with Muslim neighbors or as coercion to convert, and judges often feel intimidated by extremists into convicting accused blasphemers, said Yousaf.
”They know where you live and where your children go to school,” he said.
Roughly five per cent of Pakistan’s 180 million people belong to minority religions, which include Hindu, Christian, Shia Muslims and Ahmadis, according to the CIA World Factbook. Ahmadis are reviled by mainstream Muslims as heretics. Over recent years, violence against the minorities has increased, as Islamic hard-liners’ influence over the country has strengthened.