by Zia Ur Rehman
Dec 15, 2011
KARACHI – As part of a crackdown against the Punjabi Taliban in Karachi, police said they arrested two group members December 13 and recovered a hit list with the names of more than 100 public figures.
“The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has arrested two members of the group and recovered a huge quantity of explosive materials and weapons,” Fayyaz Khan and Mazhar Mashwani, two CID senior officers, told a December 13 press conference. The Punjabi Taliban is a lesser-known militant group associated with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
”]Since the beginning of Muharram, more than a dozen raids have taken place in Karachi. At least five militants have been killed and more than two dozen suspects arrested, media reported.
CID police received reports that Punjabi Taliban militants were planning to transport some explosive materials on the M9 superhighway, a main thoroughfare leading into Karachi, Khan said.
Police, who were extra-vigilant after receiving that information, spotted some suspicious individuals in a car on the superhighway and signalled them to stop, but they fled and opened fire, Khan said. Police later arrested two suspects, identified as Muhammad Shakeel and Abdul Waheed (aka Lala).
The police seized 10kg of explosive material, three Kalashnikov rifles, two pistols with magazines and 200 bullets from the suspects, he added.
Police also recovered a hit list containing more than 100 names of influential leaders and scholars of the Shia community from the suspects, Khan said. Religious scholars, security personnel and intelligence officers were also on the hit list.
Punjabi Taliban network, mission :
The detainees told interrogators that they had recently been directed by a man they identified as Qari Aslam to gather information about intelligence agencies and government buildings in Karachi, he said.
“There are about 15 to 20 terrorists who are still working under Aslam, a leader of the Punjabi Taliban group, who operates the group from Miranshah, North Waziristan,” Mashwani told Central Asia Online.
The suspects said important government buildings, security agency offices and Muharram processions were their primary targets, but they failed to carry out any subversive activities because of the high number of raids by police and upgraded security, Khan said.
Three Punjabi Taliban militants were killed December 5 when police raided a house during the successful rescue of kidnapped local industrialist Riaz Chinoy, media reported.
“The killed terrorists were identified as Qari Amir, Karachi head of the Punjabi Taliban, and two other members, Shahid Khan and Musa Khan,” Khalid Abbassi, a senior police officer at the Anti-Violent Crime Cell (AVCC), told Central Asia Online.
The three had kidnapped Chinoy October 8 and demanded a Rs. 60m (US $668,322) ransom.
Police have also detained Sabiha Khatoon, wife of the slain Shahid, who said the Punjabi Taliban group was involved in four major attacks in Karachi including the May 22 attack on the Pakistan Naval Station Mehran, the November 11, 2010 CID attack, a December 28 bomb blast at Karachi University and the February Chelum blast, Express Tribune reported December 15.
TTP splinter groups carry out terror attacks :
Central Asia Online reported June 24 that Karachi-based militant groups linked with the TTP are splintering into smaller cells because of successful efforts by law enforcement against the outlawed outfits.
Karachi police discovered the Badar Mansoor faction of the TTP May 12. Mansoor’s group, known as the Punjabi Mujahidin or Punjabi Taliban, is active in Karachi’s academic institutions, the report stated.
Four of its alleged members were planning to attack government installations and intelligence agency offices, then-Karachi Police Chief Saud Mirza said May 13. The group was involved in the December 28bombing at Karachi University that injured four students, he said.
Police arrested three Karachi University students January 12 in connection with the December 28 bombing.
The arrested suspects were former activists of Islami Jamiat Talaba, a sister organisation of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Raja Umar Khattab, a senior police official, said January 13. The suspects were among those who split off after feuding with JI and formed the Punjabi Taliban in 2007, he said.
Although authorities do not know the size of the group, some Punjabi Taliban members – including Zohair Imtiaz Kudwai, Omair Imtiaz Kudwai, Azib Imtiaz Kudwai, Misbah Usmani, Mohammad Shabbir, Imran Nazeer and Samiullah – have been killed in air strikes in Waziristan, he said.
Who are Punjabi Taliban?
Analysts say that the term “Punjabi Taliban” is basically used for members of banned militant groups of Punjabi origin that are connected with the TTP, al-Qaeda and other militant outfits based in tribal areas and Afghanistan.
“The word ‘Punjabi Taliban’ first used by people of tribal areas for non-Pashtun militants belonging to different jihadi groups headquartered in Punjab who came there for either taking refuge or fighting the security forces by joining hands with local militants,” said Ahmed Wali, a senior journalist and analyst.
Such groups include Sipah Sahaba Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, he told Central Asia Online.
These banned jihadi groups are active in the Punjabi cities of Jhang, Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Khanewal, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahimyar Khan, Muzaffergarh, Layyah, and Gujranwala, leaving the government with the difficult task of eliminating these groups with actions other than those already taken in the tribal areas, Mujahid Hussain, a security expert, writes in his book titled “Punjabi Taliban.”
Analysts have no concrete idea about strength of the Punjabi Taliban but an intelligence report recently prepared by the Punjab government’s Counter Terrorism Department revealed that 2,487 militants trained in Afghanistan and 556 militants released from Afghan prisons have surfaced in the province and are now active in the Punjabi Taliban Network, daily Express Tribune reported August 30.