Karachi: ANP under Fire
On October 24, 2012, a terrorist bomb attack targeted the Awami National Party (ANP) headquarters at Bacha Khan Markaz, on the Main Paggai Road on the outskirts of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Though no casualty was reported, ANP senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour stated, "Bacha Khan Markaz is the symbol of peace for Pashtuns and is symbolically important for the nationalist party. The militants want to terrorise people by such attacks."
Earlier on October 17, three ANP activists were shot dead in Par Hoti area of Mardan District in KP. Unidentified militants opened fire on Omar, his brother Farman and two associates, including Bilal Khattak, near their hujra (guest house) at 9:30 pm. Omar's father, the District Information Secretary of ANP, had been killed two years earlier, in an attack on Mohib Road in the Par Hoti area.
However, far from their KP homeland, the ANP is coming under sustained attack in another stronghold, Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. On August 28, 2012, Amanullah (36), the ANP's Ward president for the MPR Colony in Karachi, was shot dead in a targeted attack by unidentified militants in the Orangi Town area of Karachi. Earlier on August 13, the ANP's Sindh Central Working Committee member, Amir Sardar (55), was shot dead, along with two other ANP Sindh activists, near his house in the Frontier Colony. Sardar, who was associated with the ANP for over 30 years, hailed from the Thana area of Malakand District of KP. The Malakand chapter of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the killings, stating that Sardar was 'punished' for his assistance to the Police in arresting TTP militants.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, 32 ANP activists have been killed in 2012 (data till October 28, 2012) in Karachi. The ANP, however, claims to have lost as many as 187 activists in 2012. SATP data puts the number of ANP activists killed in Karachi at 43 in 2011 and three in 2010 - though these numbers are likely to be gross underestimates, as the political affiliation of a large number of persons killed in the city is seldom identified. SATP data indicates at least 3,604 persons, including 3,141 civilians, 241 militants, 222 Security Forces (SF) personnel killed in Karachi since 2007. The fatalities stand at 1,206 in 2012; 1,048 in 2011; 1,038 in 2010; 66 in 2009; 53 in 2008; and 188 in 2007.
Some of the prominent ANP leaders killed in Karachi during over the past two years include:
July 17, 2012: Fazal (40), identified as a local leader of ANP, was shot dead in Sherpao Colony within the jurisdiction of Quaidabad Police Station.
May 25, 2012: Abdul Shakoor (38), President of ANP's UC-1 Ward, was shot dead outside his house in Sector-8 B of Bilal Colony within Korangi Police Station.
February 7, 2012: An ANP leader, identified as Gul Zaman, was shot dead by two assailants at Lasbela Chowk in the Jamshed Quarters. He was the President of his party's office in Jamshed Quarters.
January 2, 2012: Unidentified armed militants shot dead a local ANP leader, identified as Furqan Shaha, in Hasrat Mohani Colony in the Pak Colony Police precincts in Karachi, triggering indiscriminate fire that left five people injured.
October 8, 2011: Two ANP leaders, identified as Jamal Khan and Khan Zaman, were killed outside the party office, while another activist was injured in the Sachal area of Karachi.
April 3, 2011: Police found the body of a local ANP leader, Nasarullah Niazi, in a gunny bag recovered from the Bihar Colony, Lyari, in the Chakiwara Police Station limits.
March 21, 2011: Advocate Haji Hanif Khan, General Secretary, ANP Zone West, as well as adviser to ANP's Labour Minister Ameer Nawab, was shot dead near Agha Building within SITE-A Police Station limits.
The surge in attacks against the ANP in Karachi can be traced back to the Army's operations in Swat (KP) in 2009. It was under an ANP regime in KP that the SFs had expelled TTP militants from Swat Valley, which they had come to control over the preceding months. While Swat TTP 'chief' Maulana Fazlullah and his associates fled to Afghanistan's Kunar Province, scores of other militants sought refuge in the Pashtun dominated areas of Karachi. After remaining dormant for some time, they resumed terrorist activities, particularly targeting the ANP in revenge attacks for the action in Swat.
While the killing of ANP members has been a relatively recent development in Karachi, back home in KP the TTP had already killed Mian Rashid Hussain and Amjad, the son and nephew, respectively, of the Provincial Information Minister and ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain, in Nowshera on July 24, 2010. Bashir Ahmad Bilour has survived several assassination attempts, the most recent of which was on March 3, 2012, which left six people, including two suicide attackers, dead in Namak Mandi area of Peshawar (KP). KP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain observed, on April 13, 2012, that his party had suffered enormously in the war against terrorism and had forced terrorists to flee from their strongholds. He added, further, "We have lost around 750 ANP leaders, parliamentarians and workers to terrorism and militancy over four years, but didn't yield to our enemy."
Meanwhile, Sher Shah Khan, Member of the Provincial Assembly (KP), commenting on the TTP's revenge killing spree in Karachi, observed, on August 15, 2012, that at least 65 persons hailing from Swat had been killed in Karachi in 'target killings', mostly at the hands of the TTP. "For a year, they abandoned their activities and remained underground, but later, they started killing pro-government leaders and those who were associated with peace committees in Swat or supported security forces."
Columnist Mansoor Khan argues that Karachi, once considered an ANP stronghold, has now passed into TTP dominance. The ANP was long patronized by an overwhelming majority of the five million Pashtuns among Karachi's estimated 18 million residents. A large number of Pashtuns migrated to the city from KP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) after the Taliban-led violence and the 'war on terror' began in 2001. The western part of the metropolis, from Afghan Camp to Sohrab Goth to Manghopir to Banaras, as well as other areas, including Saeedabad, Sultanabad and Quaidabad, have now passed into the complete control of TTP.
On July 18, 2012, the TTP Karachi 'spokesman' who calls himself Abu Akasha, boasted, "We have conveyed a very strong message to pro-ANP Pashtuns living in Karachi, especially in Sohrab Goth and Banaras, known as strongholds of the ANP in the city, to quit their party". He threatened, further, "If pro-ANP Pashtuns continue supporting their party in Karachi, the TTP will attack them, much as the TTP attacks ANP members in KP."
After repeated threats and incidents of targeted violence, ANP activists in Sohrab Goth, Manghopir, Kunwari Colony and Sultanabad closed unit and ward offices in these areas and removed party flags and graffiti from their houses and party offices. Eight unit offices have been closed by party activists in Gadap and Sohrab Goth. A number of local ANP leaders and activists have also reportedly left Karachi and have gone into hiding. According to an unnamed ANP official, TTP's Waliur Rehman group, headed in Karachi by Khan Zaman, have also started extorting funds from affluent ANP members. An unnamed ANP Sindh leader was quoted as stating, "Kunwari Colony and Sohrab Goth are the most affected areas where the TTP is targeting our people. They are taking extortion money from Wazir and Mehsud people of these two areas. People pay them because of the fear of being killed. This is very dangerous for our party and it will damage the party because they [the TTP] live among us and we can't recognise them. They can easily kill you as you can't hide from them."
The TTP's wave of 'revenge attacks' against the ANP in Karachi are compounded by the highly vitiated political environment of the Province, where the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led-ruling alliance, which includes Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), is at loggerheads with the ANP. This has led to total collapse of law and order in the Province, particularly in Karachi. Indeed, not all the ANP killings can be attributed to the TTP, and ANP sources insist that at least some of them have been executed by other political elements in the Province. The rising graph of terrorism-related and targeted killings in the metropolis is evidence of the virtual collapse of security in Karachi.
Things appear slated to worsen within a context of rising ethnic polarization and violence in the city, and the TTP's consolidation of influence as a result of a campaign of sustained targeted killings. With the state often winking at rising trends in extremism, and certainly failing to take effective action against terrorist and radical Islamist formations, little relief can be expected from the violence in Karachi.
(The writer Tushar Ranjan Mohanty is Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management)
(The view expressed in the article is of the author and not India Blooms News Service)