By Zia Ur Rehman
KARACHI – The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’s network in Karachi is completely shattered, senior police sources claim.
Police have arrested dozens of Taliban militants fleeing from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas after the 2009 military operations in those regions, the sources said.
Karachi, the country’s commercial hub and a city of 18m, is considered an ideal place for militants to lose themselves in the crowd. So far this year, police have arrested 75, compared to 79 all of last year, according to a survey of media reports.”]
The suspected TTP members came mostly from Swat, South Waziristan and Orakzai, and some possessed ready-to-use suicide jackets and huge quantities of explosives and weapons, police said.
Terrorists caught include high-profile figures
On September 22, two Afghan Taliban suspects, Abdullah Al-Hajri and Qari Hamza Ali Shah, were arrested on Super Highway, police sources said. They were planning to kill Faisal Raza Abidi and Farooq Sattar, two Karachi parliamentarians who belong to the Pakistan People’s Party and Mutahida Qaumi Movement, sources added.
Another high-profile catch is Fawad Ali, a reputed aide of Swat TTP leader Maulana Fazlullah. Police seized the suspected bomb-maker August 30 in Qasba Colony. He was arrested with 1kg of explosives, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) senior official Omar Shahid told Central Asia Online.
On August 30 police arrested Ashgar and Riaz, said Irfan Bahadur, a senior police officer overseeing Sohrab Goth and adjacent areas. The pair allegedly ran the South Waziristani TTP branch’s financial affairs, Bahadur said.
“Police have largely broken TTP’s network in the city because we have arrested consecutive amirs (heads) appointed for Karachi, including Akhter Zaman Mehsud and his successors, Bahadur Khan Mohmand – alias Sadiq – and Maulvi Saeed Anwar,” one anonymous official claimed.
Police accuse the detainees of beheading innocent civilians, attacking security forces and police, destroying private property and committing other crimes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas.
Still another arrest on June 3 netted four heavily armed suspected dacoits (bandits) in Ali Garh Colony after an attempted bank robbery. Police later identified the suspects as TTP members.
The arrest of the Afghan Taliban’s suspected second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in January spotlighted the city’s role as a Taliban sanctuary.
“I personally know that a dozen hard-line militants who killed innocent Swatis and burnt their houses have been arrested in Karachi by local police,” Jamal Nasir Khan, a former Swat district mayor, told Central Asia Online.
Militants raise money in Karachi, send it to camps in tribal regions
“Most of the militants coming to Karachi are low-profile members of the TTP,” said Raja Omar Khitab, a senior police investigator who runs the counterterrorism operation in the city. “They hide here and work as labourers. Some of them are perhaps waiting for the right time to return to the tribal areas and fight Pakistan’s security forces.”
They raise funds through extortion, bank robberies and kidnappings and send the money to training camps in tribal areas where militants plan terrorist acts, Khitab said.
TTP-affiliated clerics in tribal areas have issued fatwas authorising their followers to commit crimes to fund the fighting, according to media reports.
Many suspected militants admit during interrogation that they came to Karachi to raise money for activities in tribal areas, police said. The suspects reportedly have admitted to hijacking oil tanker trucks and committing robberies and kidnappings. They send half of their ill-gotten gains to commanders in tribal areas, police added.
Taliban insurgents from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa prefer not to stage militant acts in Karachi, preferring instead to raise money there, a senior police official and counterterrorism specialist told Central Asia Online on condition of anonymity.
Militants are fleeing tribal areas to escape the threat of aerial attacks, a political activist hailing from South Waziristan but living in Karachi said.
“We are getting information that the TTP is forming links with other jihadist networks or splinter groups in the city and recruiting people from here to fight in Pakistan’s tribal areas and Afghanistan,” a police official said, adding that authorities are cracking down on TTP-linked jihadist groups.
A recent wave of sectarian targeted killings in the city left dozens dead. Evidence leads to links with TTP Waziristan, said Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
Militant groups trying to re-establish contact with each other have been foiled and have suffered numerous arrests, he added. The crackdown on militants has taken a toll on police, as dozens of them have died, one official said.