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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.
Professor Shakir Ali, Anna Molka Ahmed, Sadequain, Ali Imam, Zubeida Agha, Laila Shahzada, Ahmed Parvez, Bashir Mirza, Zahoorul Akhlaque, Askari Mian Irani.
Post Office Foundation Press Karachi. [x]
Pakistani Sunni and Shia praying Maghrib namaz together during the solidarity protest at Bilawal House, Karachi. After the Quetta blasts, protests broke out throughout the country in support of the Hazara community and other minorities. Via @Adbawany.
Photographer says: I was photographing at the Parsi colony in Saddar, Karachi when I saw this old woman sitting on the porch. She got up and started banging the railing next to her door and about 15 cats came running to her. What a sight!
Al Jazeera compiles interactive data on Karachi. Wracked by endemic political violence and crime, Karachi is the world’s most dangerous megacity.
Karachi’s murder rate is comparable to the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo’s in the mid-2000s, when it was wracked with violence linked to organised crime and drugs, and was widely regarded as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. But Karachi’s story, a mix of crime (organised and otherwise) and political violence , remains largely unheard.
Majority of the violence remains ethnic and political between major political parties like ANP and MQM as indicated by the homicide data.
Two girls on a motorbike in Karachi, Pakistan. Massive swag. Photo brilliantly captured by Sonia Baweja as @soniabbbb on Instagram. Go follow her.
Look at the girl’s face. She doesn’t give a shit ‘cause she’s a badass.
Get it, girl.
This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism.
- Prominent Palestinian writer Salameh Kaileh spent three weeks in detention in various Syrian prisons over suspicion that he was handing out leaflets calling for Assad’s downfall. Kaileh described the prisons as a “human slaughterhouses” and “hell on earth.”
- UN Sec’y General Ban Ki-Moon told Christiane Amanpour that there is “no Plan B” for Syria at this moment.
- The violence in Syria spilled further over the border into Lebanon, igniting clashes throughout the week.
- Rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah have agreed to a deal that will lead to elections and a unity government in the West Bank and Gaza.
- A huge suicide bombing in Sana’a, Yemen, on Monday, killed more than 100 and was claimed by militants connected with Al Qaeda.
- The Lockerbie bomber died in Libya on Sunday.
- Pakistani Dr. Shakil Afridi, who assisted the CIA in ascertaining bin Laden’s whereabouts, has been sentenced in Pakistan to 33 years for treason.
- It’s been another very bloody week in Karachi.
- On Tuesday, the Senate appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid voted to cut aid to Pakistan by 58% and threatened further cuts if Pakistan doesn’t reopen supply lines.
- At the Chicago summit, NATO leaders decided on a permanent timetable in which Afghan forces will take over combat command in mid-2013 and NATO combat forces will leave by 2014.
- US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, will be leaving his post this summer.
- Five kidnapped aid workers are apparently being held for ransom in Shahr-e Bozorg, Afghanistan. Negotiations are ongoing.
- The State Dept. spent $1800 per student per day in 2010 for its Anti-Terrorism Training program in North Africa, the Middle East and South and Central Asia. The total money spent on programs like this since 9/11 is $1.4b. The State Dept’s Inspector General released a report on these programs for public consumption this week.
- Talks over the Iranian nuclear program resumed in Baghdad this week, hitting a snag on negotiations over sanctions.
- The military junta in Guinea-Bissau has handed over power to a civilian government.
- Dioncounda Traoré, the interim president of Mali, was beset by protesters on Monday, who stormed the presidential palace and beat him unconscious.
- A yearlong probe identified 1800 cases of fake parts in US military equipment. A suspected million such fake parts are out there, and 70% of these parts can be traced back to China.
- CNAS released a policy report outlining suggestions for reforming the structure and operation of the military.
- A 2011 Army memo obtained by Danger Room shows that the Army has had extensive concerns about the long-term health risks associated with the combat burn pit operated at Bagram Airfield. Service-members have been coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with puzzling health problems, most likely associated with exposure to these burn pits. A recent animal study also came to light showing that burn pits not only adversely affects lungs in the short term, but has serious long-term impacts on the immune system.
- Two female Army reservists have filed suit in district court to remove the restriction on combat service in the military based “solely on sex,” saying the restriction violates their 5th amendment right to due process.
- A new GAO report says that wounded service-members are now waiting an average of a year for their official disability evaluation. This is a big increase, and the wait time has been on the up for the last three years.
- Congressional investigators want an explanation within 10 days from the Defense Logistics Agency as to why the military was double-billed and excessively charged to the tune of $750m for food supplies.
- One of the owners of a firm involved in propaganda operations for the Pentagon has publicly admitted to creating a series of websites in a misinformation campaign attacking two USA Today journalists who had reported on the contracting company.
- The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the ACLU’s challenge to the 2008 FISA Amendments, the warrantless wiretapping legislation which grants the NSA the power to tap the international phone calls and emails made by US citizens. Just this Tuesday, a Senate panel voted to extend these provisions, which the White House hopes to extend beyond its year-end expiration date.Photo: Logar province, eastern Afghanistan. During a helicopter transport, US Army medic with the C Company 3/82 Dustoff medevac attends to an Afghan National Army soldier wounded by gunshot. Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.
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.
Pakistani policewomen actively participate in Lyari Operation against miscreants and gangsters.
Damn. Get it, ladies.
A Pakistani police officer on duty in Karachi.
Witness her Pakistani swag.
According to a Dawn statement, the body bore torture marks and the hands were tied. It appeared that Razvi had been strangled to death, but police have said that the real cause of death will be established after the post-mortem.
I just found out through a friend. This is horrible. What makes it a lot more disturbing is how Mr. Razvi had no animosity of any sort - political or otherwise. A great man with extensive knowledge on South Asian politics, Mr. Razvi wrote critical analysis on Musharraf’s regime. He is survived by his wife and three daughters. Rest in peace, sir.
The latest in Karachi… Over the summer, there were some brief stirrings in the news media about the ongoing violence in the port city of Karachi, Pakistan. The Sindh provincial capital is Pakistan’s economic hub, but it’s also full of corruption, illicit guns and an unhealthy mix of antagonistic political parties, gangs, and divisive ethnolinguistic boundaries.
This summer was particularly turbulent, and I wrote a bit about it, and the connection with Western intervention and Taliban militancy to the northwest way back in September, but the violence hasn’t actually much abated since. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says that 300 people have been killed already this year and over 1700 were killed over the course of last year. 49 of those deaths this year have been targeted political activists. Rehman Malik, the interior minister, has claimed that most killings were not these targeted killings, but rather “personal enmities” cases, a claim he has reiterated a few times (of course).
Read: Newsweek Pakistan’s “Karachi’s Deadly Year.”