Police crackdown in Karachi builds on success against militants

Zia Ur Rehman

Karachi Police on December 8 arrive at a police station to participate in a crackdown on Taliban militants. [Zia Ur Rehman]

Karachi Police on December 8 arrive at a police station to participate in a crackdown on Taliban militants. [Zia Ur Rehman]

KARACHI -- After shattering the network of Taliban militants in Karachi, law enforcement agencies are stepping up their efforts to foil the group's attempts to terrorise city residents.

For years, authorities considered Karachi a key hub for terrorists' fundraising and alliances, but a non-stop crackdown on terrorism in the Pakistani commercial capital, which the Rangers began in September 2013, has curtailed militant activities and fundraising, analysts and police officials say.

Crack down

Continuing raids in various parts of the city, security forces in recent weeks have arrested or killed a number of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members and suspects.

On December 11, police arrested five suspected TTP militants in Iqbal Market area.

The arrested individuals belonged to the TTP faction of Baitullah Mehsud, police said in a press release.

The detainees had trained in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and committed a number of serious crimes, including kidnapping children for ransom and extorting traders in the city, police said.

Police identified them as Shahzad, Noor Muhammad, Abdul Mannan, Arsalan Khan and Salman Khan.

The suspects were planning to bomb a rally commemorating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad on December 12 in Karachi, the press release said.

On December 8, police arrested five suspected TTP militants of the Swat chapter in the Orangi Town area. Police said they recovered a large cache of weapons and ammunition.

Similarly, the Karachi Police Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) announced that it had arrested three suspected TTP members in the Machar Colony area November 28.

Those suspects threatened traders, extorted money from them and committed other crimes, a police statement said.

Law enforcement agencies have destroyed the TTP's command and control in Karachi, Raja Umar Khatab, a senior CTD officer involved in the crackdown on banned militant outfits in Karachi, said.

"Most of the outfit's militants and leaders have either been arrested or gunned down in shoot-outs with law enforcers," Khatab told Pakistan Forward.

TTP tactics

Amid the raids on the Taliban's various factions operating in Karachi, a two-minute video message in Pashtu surfaced on social media in early December in which TTP supreme commander Mullah Fazlullah announced a new TTP chief for Karachi.

Daud Mehsud, a militant belonging to the TTP's Mehsud faction and a former policeman, appeared with Fazlullah in the video. The location and date of recording of the video message could not be verified.

At the same time, pro-TTP graffiti appeared on the walls in Manghopir neighbourhood in the early hours of December 8.

However, the video and graffiti merely represent a Taliban strategy to terrorise the public and to confuse law enforcement, police and analysts say.

"Through such attempts, such as the announcement of a new TTP chief for Karachi and pro-Taliban graffiti, the weakened Taliban militants want to panic residents of the city," Khatab said.

Improved security

Security in Karachi has improved since the Ranger-led city-wide crackdown began in 2013, Muhammad Nafees, a security analyst in Karachi affiliated with the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies, said.

"Overall, violence, including Taliban violence, gang wars and sectarian rivalries, decreased significantly when compared to data before the launch of the operation," he told Pakistan Forward.

Previously, beginning in June 2012, the TTP controlled Pashtun-populated areas of the city, turning these neighbourhoods into "no-go areas" for liberal political parties, civil society organisations and anti-polio health workers.

During this period, the Taliban terrorised residents by extorting money from them and kidnapping them for ransom in order to generate funds for the militants fighting in the tribal areas, Khatab said.

Pashtun tribal elders in Karachi corroborated reports of improvement in the security situation.

The anti-militant offensive has shattered the structure of all three TTP factions -- South Waziristan (Mehsud), Swat and Mohmand -- operating in the city and has destroyed their hide-outs, Haji Muhammad Zada, a Pashtun political figure in Manghopir, said.

Compared to the worst times in Karachi, militant activities today have plunged by 80%, he said.

"Residents now don't fear any announcement or graffiti," he told Pakistan Forward. "They are confident that the Taliban won't be able to come back."

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If we want Peace in Karachi, MQM should be kept under monitoring, these people are not sincere with Pakistan. Karachi can be free from terrorism if government wants. If Peace can be restored in Sawat, Wana and Malakand where there used to be a network of terrorism, it’s not difficult in Karachi. Our rulers are not good, they get their jobs done through terrorists, that’s why they don’t say them a thing. We are in peace because of Army, otherwise, these rulers could have weaken and split Pakistan long ago. We should thank Allah that Pakistan Army is one of the best in the world. We haven’t got any sincere ruler after Qaid-e-Azam. All of them are thieves and dacoits. Nawaz, Zardari, Altaf all are of same kind. They are just making fun of us. They rob the country and go abroad. They also go abroad for treatment if they don’t believe in the doctors of their own country. How can they be sincere with their country who have business abroad. I would have shot them in the heads if I could. They have made a joke of the country for their personal interests.