Thursday, June 5, 2008

Karachi: The Urban Frontier


National Public Radio(NPR), an American radio network, is doing a series on a massive wave of urbanization sweeping the world's emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India and Pakistan. It has chosen to start with Karachi, which it describes as Pakistan's "economic lifeline" and financial and industrial "powerhouse" that produces 25% of Pakistan's GDP, and calls it "one of the largest and most crowded cities of the world". It has a segment on Shehri, the activist group fighting big-money developers.

It highlights several other facts about Karachi such as:

1. Karachi is built along a natural harbor facing the Arabian Sea, and this central location between the Middle East and India has made Karachi an important trading port for hundreds of years.

2. Karachi encompasses both its old seafront district and a sprawling web of commercial and residential development that covers almost 1,400 square miles. Its contemporary landscape spans skyscrapers, posh golf resorts, congested roadways and sprawling squatter colonies.

3. The Port of Karachi handles 60 percent of Pakistan's cargo, and the Karachi Stock Exchange is one of Asia's most active trading markets. The city's main industries include shipping, trade, finance, banking, information technology, manufacturing, real estate, media and education.

4. Like any big city, it has its share of problems. Pollution, crime, corruption and political volatility are just some of the issues confronting the 12 million to 18 million "Karachiites" who call this overcrowded city home. Karachi is 60 times larger than it was when Pakistan was created in 1947. And with the population growing at an annual rate of 6 percent, one of the biggest challenges for city officials is managing the tensions and violence that often flare along ethnic and religious lines.

5. Karachi is growing so fast that estimates of its population range from 12 million to 18 million. The country's financial capital is also a city where about half the population lives in illegal houses.

To learn more about this NPR series, please visit NPR Morning Edition.

29 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Newsline story of how inter-ethnic love affair created ethnic tensions in Karachi in Dec, 2009:

It was not just a simple boy-meets-girl love story with a tragic ending. It had a twist. The two lovers were already married – just not to each other. The very fact that they belonged to different ethnic backgrounds and lived in a Karachi neighbourhood where ethnic and political tensions ran high, made their love saga even more complicated. Muhammad Amir, who was in his early 30s and a father of two children, belonged to an Urdu-speaking family, while Zainab was a Baloch whose husband worked in Dubai.

Despite repeated warnings from family and some of Zainab’s neighbours, the two continued their taboo relationship. On January 4, Amir was kidnapped. Two days later, his beheaded body was found in Lyari’s Kalakot area and several hours later the head located in Chakiwara, another part of Lyari.

Amir was an activist of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). This association added another grim twist to the tale. A case of an otherwise routine, but controversial, ‘honour’ killing, exploded into a spree of tit-for-tat targeted murders between militants of rival ethnic groups. Stopping this violence proved beyond the powers of the police as these militants were supporters of the two major parties of the ruling coalition – the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the MQM. Police say that at least 24 people were killed in four days of violence. Tensions ran high not just in parts of Karachi’s District South, but also in some areas of its adjacent District West – highlighting again not just the deep political and ethnic divides in Pakistan’s business and industrial capital, but also underlining the muscle power of the armed groups and the sordid relation between crime and politics.

“Criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime is the biggest problem in Karachi,” says a former IG police, requesting anonymity, who served in Sindh in various important positions for several years. “All the major political parties have criminals in their ranks and they are protected and patronised by politicians.”

The Amir-Zainab love saga indeed sparked the violence, but any other issue could have pit rival bands of militants against each other. The innate germs of political and ethnic rivalry and the clash of economic interests, coupled with rampant poverty and crime, provide the basis for such a showdown.

As the police try to trace the killers of Amir and locate Zainab, their story remains nothing more than a minor footnote in the brewing conflict among different political players and crime syndicates operating in Karachi.

“Crime and politics are so interwoven and the relationship among various stakeholders is so complex that breaking away from the present scheme of things appears impossible for any government,” says the former IG. “Many of those in power have a tainted past and a history of supporting and cultivating criminals and their gangs.”

For many security experts, Karachi, with all its ethnic, political and sectarian problems and crime mafias, is like a bubbling volcano all set to explode. The glimpses of the seething lava were seen as recently as December 28, 2009, when angry bands of youngsters went on a rampage, burning and looting more than 6,000 shops following the bombing of the Muharram procession. Top police officials say it was a “natural reaction” by participants of the mourning procession. (For details see CCPO Karachi’s interview in the box).

In the past, too, Karachi has suffered from widespread violence and terrorism scores of times in which politics, ethnicity, sectarianism and crime played a major role.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt on Pakistan from a recent piece by Indian journalist Akar Patel:

Why is Pakistan such a mess? Some would blame Islam, but they’d be wrong. The problem isn’t religion at all. The problem is lack of caste balance. There aren’t enough traders to press for restraint and there are too many peasants. Too many people concerned about national honour, and not enough people concerned about national economy. Put simply: Pakistan has too many Punjabis and not enough Gujaratis. The majority of Pakistanis live in Punjab, but well over 50% of government revenue comes from just one city in Sindh: Karachi. Why? That is where the Gujarati is.

Gujaratis are less than 1% of Pakistan’s population, but they dominate its economy because they are from trading communities. Colgate-Palmolive in Pakistan is run by the Lakhani Memons, the Dawood group is run by Memons from Bantva in Saurashtra (the great Abdus Sattar Edhi is also a Memon from Bantva). The Adamjee group, advertisers on BBC, are from Gujarat’s Jetpur village and founded Muslim Commercial Bank. The Khoja businessman Sadruddin Hashwani owns hotels including Islamabad’s bombed-out Marriott. Khojas founded Habib Bank, whose boards are familiar to Indians who watched cricket on television in the 1980s. The Habibs also manufacture Toyota cars through Indus Motors. Pakistan’s only beer is made by Murree Brewery, owned by a Parsi family, the Bhandaras. Also owned by Parsis is Karachi’s Avari Hotels.

People talk of the difference between Karachi and Lahore. I find that the rational view in Pakistani newspapers is put forward by letter-writers from Karachi. Often they have names like Gheewala, a Sunni Vohra name (same caste as Deoband’s rector from Surat, Ghulam Vastanvi), or Parekh, also a Surat name.

Today capital is fleeing Pakistan because of terrorism and poor governance. To convince investors things will get better, the Pakistani government has appointed as minister for investment a Gujarati, Saleem Mandviwalla. The Mandviwallas own Pakistan’s multiplexes, which now show Bollywood. The place where Gujaratis dominate totally, as they do also in India, is Pakistan’s capital market. Going through the list of members of the Karachi Stock Exchange (www.kse.com.pk) this becomes clear. However, few Pakistanis will understand this because as Muslims they have little knowledge of caste.

The Gujarati tries to hold up the Pakistani economy, but the peasant Punjabi (Jat) runs over his effort with his militant stupidity. Why cannot the Pakistani Punjabi also think like a trader? Simple. He’s not converted from the mercantile castes. There are some Khatris, like Najam Sethi, South Asia’s best editor, but they are frustrated because few other Pakistanis think like them. Are they an intellectual minority? Yes, but that is because they are a minority by caste. One great community of Pakistani Punjabi Khatris is called Chinioti. They are excellent at doing business but in a martial society they are the butt of jokes. I once heard Zia Mohyeddin tell a funny story about the cowardice of Chiniotis and I thought of how differently a Gujarati would look at the same story.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on "targeted killings" in Karachi:

At least 50 people have been killed over the past fortnight in targeted killings in the Pakistani city of Karachi, rights groups say.

The violence started with an attack on 12 March on the offices of a local political group allied to Pakistan's governing political party, the PPP.

Dozens of people have since been targeted on an ethnic or sectarian basis across Karachi.

Police officials say most of those killed belong to the Pashtun community.

Karachi has been the scene of growing ethnic tensions due to the arrival of thousands of Pashtuns fleeing conflict in north-western Pakistan.
'Politically motivated attacks'

Police say the number killed is lower than the estimate put forward by human rights groups.

"According to the figures we have, 109 people have died in violent incidents since 12 March," Saud Mirza, chief of Police in Karachi, told the BBC.

"Out of these only 34 people have been killed in politically motivated attacks."

But the police statistics are contested by local journalists and human rights activists, who say that the actual number of victims is much higher.

They say that the police only confirm political activists or leaders as dying in targeted killings - whereas in reality many more die in attacks carried out against people of specific ethnicities by gunmen.

While most of the dead are ordinary citizens - usually belonging to the Pashtun community - civilians from the Baloch and Urdu-speaking community have also died.

Local Pashtun activists say Karachi's largest party, the MQM, is behind most of the violence. The MQM denies this.

On Monday, a senior MQM leader blamed the violence on gangs of extortionists and land grabbers who had taken the city hostage.

Dr Farooq Sattar was speaking after President Asif Zardari said in an address to parliament that those destroying the peace in Karachi would be dealt with severely.

However police say that several arrests have been made of individuals involved in the killings.

"The situation is now being brought under control," police chief Saud Mirza said.

But human rights organisations say the situation in Karachi is increasingly dangerous and a cause for great concern.

"The continued spate of targeted political killings in Karachi is appalling, as is the inability of the political actors in the city to negotiate their differences peacefully," said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan representative of Human Rights Watch.

"It is the job of the provincial and central governments to ensure the writ of the state is established in the metropolis.

"They must ensure that all political parties complicit in these target killings - whether part of the provincial coalition or not - should be held to account.

"It is a documented fact that all political forces in Karachi, whether it is the MQM or the state, have engaged in human rights abuses including targeted killings in the past."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a BBC report on violence in Karachi:

According to human rights organisations, 775 people died in political and sectarian shootings and bomb attacks in Karachi in 2010. ...
And although thousands are killed every year in the north-west, the impact of the violence in Karachi is arguably no less important. The city is Pakistan's commercial hub.
Business losses
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Karachi provides 70% of the total annual tax revenue collected by the government.
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The violence has been largely fuelled by antagonism between the local chapters of three political parties: the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the mostly Pashtun Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM).
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The MQM remains Karachi's dominant political party and represents the city's majority Urdu-speaking community - the descendants of Muslim migrants to India at the time of partition in 1947.

In December 2010, Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza accused the MQM of being mainly responsible for the extortion and targeted killings prevalent across the city.

Within 48 hours, an enraged MQM withdrew its support for the PPP-led coalition in Islamabad.

The only reason the government could hold onto power was because opposition parties did not bring a no-confidence motion against the government.

The MQM has since been coaxed back into the coalition and now holds the political balance.

However, tensions remain with the ANP and the PPP.
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In Karachi, all three parties have been involved in stoking ethnic passions.
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Thousands were arrested; many were were later killed in what human rights organisations and the Pakistan media said were staged killings by security forces.

The MQM fought back - and was held responsible for a number of murders of police and security officials

The party said it was targeted by a conservative security establishment for its liberal politics and for fighting for the rights of the Urdu-speaking community.

Things changed under the government of President Pervez Musharraf and the party now enjoys excellent relations with the establishment.

"The MQM's 'new deal' with the establishment is that its control of Karachi will remain unchallenged by the security establishment," a political analyst, who wished to remain unnamed, told the BBC.

"In return, the MQM will support the establishment's policies in the centre."

MQM insiders acknowledge this deal, although they insist the party will never vote for "anything against the spirit of its ideology".

Obviously, this deal stands as long as the MQM controls Karachi.

But since 2006, the party has been increasingly feeling the pressure exerted by the growth of the Pashtun community in the city.
Activists of the Labour Party Pakistan in Karachi in march 2011 Karachi is home to a bewildering number of political parties and campaigning groups

Arriving here in their thousands, the Pashtun newcomers are in competition for land and jobs with the Urdu-speaking community.

MQM leaders say these new arrivals must not be treated as long-term inhabitants of the city - a call at odds with its identity as a party of migrants.

They say that there is a link between the growth of the Pashtun community and the "Talibanisation" of parts of the city - the Taliban is predominantly made up of Pashtun people.

The MQM say they will resist this at all costs, and this bellicosity has led to violence which has claimed dozens of lives.

Some of it has also involved separate turf battles between Karachi's Baloch community - the original inhabitants of the city - and the MQM.

"It's a complex political and ethnic problem which needs to be handled with extreme care," says a local human rights activist.
---

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Reuters report on ethnic violence in Karachi:

HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

Karachi, home to more than 18 million people, has a long history of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence.

It was a main target of al Qaeda-linked militants after the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States, when Pakistan joined the U.S.-led campaign against militancy, and foreigners were attacked in the city several times.

A recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said 1,138 people were killed in Karachi in the first six months of 2011, of whom 490 were victims of political, ethnic and sectarian violence.

The latest surge in violence in the southern city came days after the MQM announced it was quitting the ruling coalition.

The MQM, which mostly represents the Mohajirs -- descendents of Urdu-speakers who migrated from India after the creation of Pakistan in 1947 -- and its rival, the ethnic Pashtun-based Awami National Party (ANP), are blamed for most of the violence, though both parties deny the charges.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad released a statement from Ambassador Cameron Munter condemning the violence.

"We call on all parties to refrain from further violence and work toward a peaceful resolution of differences," the statement read.

TROUBLING QUESTIONS

In some ways, Karachi raises more troubling questions over Pakistan's stability than the northwest border regions seen as a global hub for militants and a huge concern for the West.

As the commercial hub, any trouble could disturb industrial activity, and have serious consequences for the economy.

"If the government does not pay immediate attention to the worsening situation of Karachi, and does not stop the loss of innocent blood, we will shut down our business centers and industries," Muhammad Saeed Shafiq, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement.

According to officials, Karachi contributes 68 percent of the government's total revenue and 25 percent of GDP.

That means a lot of money -- and power -- is at stake.

"This can be summed up in five words - a turf war between political parties," Imtiaz Gul, author of "The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan's Lawless Frontier" told Reuters.

"This is a turf war between the MQM, and ANP and the PPP, for territory -- for political space in this big city."

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is trying to redraw electoral districts, which would disadvantage the MQM, he said, and many local political leaders have connections to criminal gangs that run rampant in the city.

"It's definitely a political and ethnic issue, and a strong political commitment would be needed to bring peace to the city," said a senior security official, requesting not to be named.

"To open fire and kill a few miscreants may stop the violence for now, but in the long-run, a political resolution is a must, or else we will see another surge after a few days."


http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/08/us-pakistan-violence-karachi-idUSTRE7670ZA20110708

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report indicating Pak military opposes any PPP plans to use the military against MQM:

Amidst straining relations between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its estranged coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the military brass is learnt to have opposed a series of moves that could have adversely affected an already tense situation – including any move to launch an operation in Karachi.

The military brass had also expressed displeasure over the possible induction of controversial former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza on a sensitive post in the federal or provincial cabinet, The Express Tribune has learnt.

“Mishandling Karachi’s situation, or using coercive means against the MQM, is not something the country can afford at this point in time,” brass as telling top civilian authorities. The military has advised the government against launching any operation against the MQM, which pulled of the ruling coalition last month.

However, PPP’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the government was not planning any operation against the MQM. But at the same time, he added, “I don’t think the military would stop the government from taking action against the law breakers in Karachi.”

Sources said that the PPP was planning either to make Mirza governor of Sindh or to assign him a portfolio in the federal cabinet after getting him elected to the Senate. Reports of such a move had earlier begun appearing in the media. But the military is said to have precluded such a move.

Sources said that the PPP had planned an operation against the MQM, particularly against it supporters among the Kacchi community in Malir. And Mirza, who has good relations with the Sindh police, had alerted the police officials belonging to interior Sindh but serving elsewhere in the country. Mirza’s plan envisaged an operation against the Urdu-speaking people in order to coerce the MQM into compliance. Mirza’s recent meeting with Afaq Ahmad, the chief of MQM-Haqiqi, was actually a message to the MQM.

When contacted by The Express Tribune, Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar refused to comment on the issue and instead switched off his cell phone when pressed hard.

Sources said that the military brass contacted MQM chief Altaf Hussain and assured him that the government would not launch any operation in Karachi. Following the assurance, Altaf cancelled a scheduled address to a general party workers meeting on Monday.

Babar Ghauri is said to have contacted PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar to seek support against any operation in Karachi. And PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, in return, held out an assurance that his party would oppose any operation against the MQM in Karachi. Sources said that the two parties would soon start a movement against the PPP-led government from the platform of a grand opposition alliance.

The Express Tribune has learnt that, following its failure to muster military support against the MQM in Karachi, the government’s top leaders took a ‘U-turn’ and decided to send PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to Nine-Zero to assure the MQM on behalf of the president that the government would not launch an operation in Karachi. Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the government’s coalition partner might have endorsed Shujaat’s trip to Karachi.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/208549/rising-political-temperatures-military-brass-opposed-use-of-force-against-mqm/

Riaz Haq said...

Some 700 people have been killed in more than half a dozen militant attacks in Mumbai since 1993, including the horrific assault in November 2008. And the violence shows no signs of abating, according to Soutik Biswas of the BBC:

The most commonly peddled narrative is that by attacking its much touted financial and entertainment capital, you deal a body blow to India and get global media attention. But that is only a small part of the story. Many residents will tell you that Mumbai began going downhill in early 1993 when it convulsed in religious rioting and murder for two weeks following the demolition of the Babri mosque by Hindu fanatics in December 1992. At least 900 people died, mostly Muslims. Two months after the riots, the underworld set off series of bombs to avenge the riots, killing more than 250 people. Many of them were Muslims too.

That is when the rule of law broke down, many say irretrievably. A 1998 two-volume report on the religious riots was ignored by successive governments, who failed to prosecute politicians and policemen involved in the rioting. At the same time, the authorities were seen to proceed swiftly with prosecuting those involved in the bombings, leading to allegations that the government was anti-Muslim. The seeds of mistrust between the two largest communities in India's most cosmopolitan city had been firmly planted.

The image of Mumbai as a liberal city ruled by law and reason has long turned out to be a chimera, according to Gyan Prakash, author of Mumbai Fables, a much acclaimed book on the restless city. Over the years, say many analysts, the state's authority has been eroded as a nexus of greedy politicians, a thriving underworld, unscrupulous property developers and a discredited police force seem to have been ruling the roost, undermining institutions.

Last month, gunmen shot dead the city's leading crime journalist on a rainy morning and zipped away openly on their motorbikes. A block of flats meant for war widows was allegedly grabbed by politicians, retired army officers and other such privileged folks, until the courts stepped in. "Conspiracies hatched by politicians, builders, criminals, Hindu militants and Muslim dons appeared to be the underlying dynamic of the city. Anger and violence ruled the street," wrote Mr Prakash of the city in the mid-1990s. Not much has changed - the poisonous cocktail endures, and makes the city easy to attack. The rich in Mumbai, as a friend says, live with one foot in New York and one foot in the city. The poor and the middle-class bleed.

Behind the deceptive facade of its glitzy nightlife, fancy ocean-front flats owned by film stars and businessmen, and India's most expensive building, owned by its richest man, Mumbai is a tired and bitter city, being eaten up from within. The majority of its people live in slums, and millions live on the streets. This cannot make for a very happy place, and the city's "resilient spirit" has now become the cruellest Indian cliche. And what attracts religious extremists to launch attacks here? They are appalled, says the city's most famous chronicler, Suketu Mehta, that Mumbai stands for "lucre, profane dreams and indiscriminate openness".

Many believe the city's explosive growth - Mumbai is expected to be home to 23 million people by 2015 - is driving it towards urban and social extremes. "If Mumbai is the future of civilisation on the planet," Mr Mehta famously wrote, "then God help us." In many ways, India's richest - and most vulnerable - city is also its most dystopic. For me, it conjures up images, all at once, of wealthy Manhattan, lawless Chicago during the 1920s, and the most infamous fictional city, Gotham.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-14140991

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed by Farrukh Saleem on Karachi violence in The News:

Sixty-four years ago a majority of Karachi’s population was Sindhi-speaking. In 1981, close to 55 percent of Karachi’s residents claimed Urdu as their mother tongue. According to the 1998 census, Urdu-speaking residents were no longer a majority.

In 1998, nearly 15 percent of Karachi’s population claimed an affiliation with Pushto (census). In March 2004 began the Battle of Wana forcing economic refugees to head to Karachi. In October 2005, the earthquake sent in additional mohajirs. In 2007, Operation Rah-e-Haq, and in 2009, Operation Rah-e-Nijat, sent in even more mohajirs to Karachi. Then came the 2010 floods and Karachi had to host additional mohajirs. Currently, Karachi’s new, Pushto-speaking mohajirs are estimated to be around 25 percent of the population.

Sixty-four years ago, Karachi’s Sindhi population felt threatened. Karachi’s old mohajirs, the ones who came 64 years ago, now feel threatened by the new mohajirs. Whereas Karachi’s new mohajirs feel disenfranchised and excluded – both from the political infrastructure and the administrative pyramid. Exclusion, particularly youth exclusion, breeds violence. According to a briefing given to the House of Commons, “political systems that fail to address the needs of their citizens, or exclude them from meaningful participation, will not result in ‘stability’ that lasts.”

Violence in Karachi has at least three overlapping layers. At the very top of the pyramid is political violence primarily MQM versus ANP. Then there’s inter-faith Shia-Sunni violence. Then there’s intra-faith Deobandi versus Barelvi violence. And around these two layers of violence are organised criminal gangs, drug mafias, weapon mafias and land mafias. Add to that cocktail a more recent addition – the Taliban whose goal is to de-legitimise the state.

Here are the three primary drivers of violence in Karachi: One, the predatory behaviour of our political leaders; Two, inter-ethnic feelings of relative deprivation (the ‘grievance theory’); Three, elite competition to capture resource rents (the ‘greed theory’).

Here are the two secondary drivers of violence: One, conflict actors see little or no incentive to abstain from violence (the ‘commitment problem’); Two, ethnic geography and the rapidly changed group population ratios.

The PPP, MQM and ANP continue to play their own power games while Karachi burns (the ‘greed theory’). Are our leaders moving towards giving up their predatory behaviour? Has the leadership in Sindh started taking steps to alleviate inter-ethnic feelings of relative deprivation? Are our political parties preparing to restrain their militant wings? So far, the answer to all these questions is a big ‘No’. And as a consequence, Karachi will reignite.

The social contract between the government of Sindh and the residents of Sindh’s largest city has failed. To begin with, the government of Sindh must provide the residents of Sindh’s largest city three things: physical security, economic security and justice. Or, Karachi will reignite.


http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=59311&Cat=9&dt=7%2F24%2F2011

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a western media report on Taliban hiding and raising cash in Karachi as violence continues unabated:

The worst violence to hit Karachi in more than a decade is helping the Taliban to raise cash and allowing their fighters to rest in Pakistan’s largest city, The Times of London reported Thursday.

More than 300 people were murdered in Karachi last month, the majority simply because of the language they spoke. The chaos is allowing the nexus between extremist Islamist groups and criminal gangs to thrive like never before, security officials told the newspaper.

Extortion, drug, land and weapon mafias are bankrolling the insurgents, while fighters and commanders use the city to rest and gain medical treatment, according to political parties. The worst tension in recent weeks has been between the Urdu-speaking majority and Pashto-speaking migrants from the tribal regions of Pakistan.

The Pakistani government refuses to publish census data on the numbers of Pashtuns living in Karachi, but estimates range from three million to five million. Most live in illegal colonies that ring the northern outskirts of the city. The violence has created no-go areas in which Taliban fighters and commanders can operate with almost total impunity.

Overlooking Orangi Town, South Asia’s largest slum, is the notorious district of Katti Pahari, where a road has been blasted through the mountain. The intention was to create a barrier between an overwhelmingly Pashtun district and another dominated by Mohajirs, Urdu-speaking Pakistanis originating from India who make up the biggest group of the city’s 20 million population. Instead, it has become a bottleneck and shooting alley.

It was from Katti Pahari that the worst of the recent violence was unleashed in a four-day assault on the district of Malir. Naushad Asim, whose brother Mohammed, a factory worker, was murdered during it, said, “It was just after sunset when my brother went out to fix his car. He was attacked by men who were wearing beards and long hair and had camouflage jackets. They looked like Afghans.”

The bodies of gang members and political activists are dumped in sacks with their hands and feet tied -- but civilians are left where they fall, the ambulance drivers, whose job it is to clear the corpses, said.

Mohammed Raza Haroon, a leading figure in the MQM, a party that draws most of its support from the Mohajir community, denied that it was orchestrating violent retaliations. “If the MQM did not appeal for peace this city would be on fire,” he said. Although careful to avoid making overt ethnic claims, he said that its opponent, the Awami National Party (ANP), was giving shelter and support to the Taliban.

Shahi Syed, president of the ANP, an overwhelmingly Pashto-speaking organization, denied this as a smear and graphically abused the Taliban by way of proof.

Although there is no chance of the Taliban seizing the whole of Karachi, it is acting with ever greater impunity within pockets that it controls in collusion with criminal gangs. All sides agree that the insurgents and criminals are exploiting the space left by an administration and police force hamstrung by political and ethnic conflict.

“This place is going to turn into Beirut,” Syed said. “It’s dividing on ethnic grounds. We are in a dangerous position.”


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/08/17/taliban-cashing-in-as-pakistans-karachi-is-torn-apart-by-violence/#ixzz1VLRw77YT

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian newspaper report on Ramadan violence in Karachi and Zulfiqar Mirza's claims of MQM culpability:

Weeks of violent mayhem that have left more than 1,000 dead in Pakistan's biggest city culminated on Sunday in troops entering a gangster-run district in an attempt to end the violence.

The holy month of Ramadan, supposedly a time of piety, has only increased the slaughter on Karachi's streets, with beheadings and horrifically mutilated bodies dumped in sacks in gutters, the debris from a war between gangs divided on ethnic lines.

Over the weekend, the prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, described the violence in Karachi as the country's "greatest challenge".

In an extraordinary televised press conference on Sunday, a senior official of the ruling Pakistan Peoples party (PPP) accused the interior minister, Rehman Malik, also of the same party, of culpability in the killings in Karachi.

Zulfiqar Mirza, the senior PPP provincial minister, claimed he had proof that Malik was "hand in glove with the killers".

Mirza resigned on Sunday, claiming that the city's largest political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was behind the bloodshed, allegations that could spark more trouble.

While holding a copy of the Qur'an, Mirza said the MQM was responsible for kidnapping, extortion and violence, including the killing of the journalist Wali Khan Babar, 28, earlier this year. "I am saying it openly that the MQM killed him," he told a news conference televised live around the country.

The MQM was not available for comment about the unusually blunt accusations.

The gang turf war is also a political and financial struggle about the control of extortion rackets – known as bhatta – with three mainstream political parties all drawing support from different ethnic groups and each having a criminal underworld following in the city.

The bloodshed has essentially pitted a gang associated with the PPP, the party of President Asif Ali Zardari, against thugs linked to the MQM, headed by Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in London.

The MQM has long dominated Karachi but it is being challenged by the PPP and the third significant player, the Awami National party (ANP), which represents the city's huge ethnic Pashtun population, originally from north-west Pakistan. The MQM's base is provided by the Mohajirs, people who migrated to the city from northern India during the partition.

British diplomats have been active behind the scenes, pressuring all sides to quell the violence, which is crippling Pakistan's economic heart.

The MQM, the ANP and Karachi's business community have in recent days called for the army to intervene, with at least 1,000 people falling prey to the tit-for-tat killings this year – easily eclipsing the violence by religious extremists across the rest of the country.

But the PPP fears that deployment of the army could eventually topple its three-year-old government and Pakistan's latest, western-backed, experiment with democracy. The paramilitary units deployed, the Rangers, come under civilian control.

The Rangers uncovered torture chambers and arms caches during raids on Sunday in the Lyari district, a PPP stronghold. One dank basement shown to journalists contained a chair with handcuffs and padlocks attached. Two earlier attempts to enter Lyari failed.

The gangs often fail to capture rival gang members, taking out their anger instead on anyone from other ethnic groups – many innocent victims are innocent bystanders, often abducted or killed.

---

Another senior security official in Karachi said: "The MQM doesn't want to share the cake. But the others want their slice."


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/28/karachi-gang-wars-intervention

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting excerpt from a Friday Times story about the centrality of Karachi to the NATO war effort in Afghanistan, and how it impacts the politics and peace (or rather the lack of it) in Pakistan's financial capital:

"Over the years Karachi has become one of the most important cities of the world not because of its ethnic tensions but because of its strategic location and the port which receives more than 80 percent of NATO supplies," a senior foreign diplomat said. ...

Americans have built one of the largest consulates in the world in Karachi and have repeatedly used British diplomats to pressure MQM - one of the largest stakeholders in Karachi - to maintain peace in the city. According to one source, the ANP has huge stakes in NATO supplies and has strong influence among Karachi's transporters.

---
In Karachi, there are many third-tier sub-contractors working for NATO, most of them of Pashtun and Mehsud origin. They get contracts from second-tier sub-contractors from Dubai, who the contracts have been outsourced to from contractors in Washington, DC.

One such sub-contractor, Abdul Hakim Mehsud said, "Its one of the toughest jobs in the world - recently over 13 of my trucks and three of my drivers had been vanished in interior Sindh. But the profit margins are high and that keeps me motivated."
----
"In December 2008, militants destroyed 400 containers carrying food, fuel, and military vehicles," a NATO source said. After that, NATO and ISAF began paying tribes to ensure supplies get across safe.

Karachi's ethnic riots, political instability, and sectarianism have earned it the reputation of being the world's most dangerous city. In the last four years, over 5,000 people have been killed in politically-motivated violence. Not very long ago, it hosted Al Qaeda's operational headquarters. It is still considered by many as a Taliban stronghold.

In Karachi's chemical markets, ammonium nitrate is produced by fertiliser companies. While the chemical is on the Pakistani customs control list, it is widely available in open market. This ammonium nitrate is used in improvised explosive devices that account for 66 percent of foreign casualties in Afghanistan since the war started in 2001. The makeshift bombs have claimed 368 troops in 2010. This year, the number has already reached 143.

"We can deliver you big quantities of the chemical at the right price," said Ahmed Jan, a local smuggler, one of the few willing to speak on the record. "For a higher price we can deliver you the items in Afghanistan."

The US Consulate and Pakistani customs intelligence have been working closely to stop the smuggling.

Earlier this year, the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Commerce was informed that more than 6,000 trucks of NATO/ISAF supplies had not reached in Chaman and Iman Garh borders. The disclosure sparked an internal auditing within NLC and FBR and corruption of Rs7 billion was found. The FBR and NLC had reportedly issued notices to 21 and 22 grade officers and had put 100 of its officers and clearing/forwarding agents in the Exit Control List.

-------
The attacks are not likely to stop any time soon, according to a foreign diplomat, "But we have made pacts with warlords, tribes and various stakeholders in Pakistan who ensure safe transit of the goods. They include political parties both in Pakistan and Afghanistan."


http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20110902&page=6

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from Wikileaks on the "Gangs of Karachi":

US embassy cable - 09KARACHI138
SINDH - THE GANGS OF KARACHI
Identifier: 09KARACHI138
Origin: Consulate Karachi
Created: 2009-04-22 11:52:00

Summary: The police in Karachi are only one of several armed groups in the city, and they are probably not the most numerous or best equipped. Many neighborhoods are considered by the police to be no-go zones in which even the intelligence services have a difficult time operating. Very
few of the groups are traditional criminal gangs. Most are associated with a political party, a social movement, or terrorist activity, and their presence in the volatile ethnic mix of the world,s fourth largest city creates enormous political and governance challenges.
---------
MQM\'s armed members, known as \"Good Friends,\" are the
largest non-governmental armed element in the city. The police estimate
MQM has ten thousand active armed members and as many as twenty-five thousand armed fighters in reserve.
This is compared to the city\'s thirty-three thousand police officers. The party operates through its 100 Sector Commanders, who take their orders directly from the party leader, Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in the United Kingdom.
--------
Low to middle-ranked police officials acknowledge the extortion and the likely veracity of the other charges. A senior police officer said, in the past eight years alone,MQM was issued over a million arms licenses, mostly for
handguns. Post (Consulate) has observed MQM security personnel carrying numerous shoulder-fired weapons, ranging from new European
AKMs to crude AK copies, probably produced in local shops.

MQM controls the following neighborhoods in Karachi:
Gulberg, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Korangi, Landhi, Liaquatabad, Malir, Nazimabad, New Karachi, North Nazimabad, Orangi Town, Saddar and Shah Faisal.
-------------
The ANP represents the ethnic Pashtuns in Karachi. The local Pashtuns do possess personal weapons, following the
tribal traditions of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP),
and there are indications they have begun to organize formal armed groups. With the onset of combat operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in August 2008, a growing number of Pashtuns fled south to swell the Pashtun ranks of that already is the largest Pashtun city in the world. This has increased tensions between ANP and MQM....contd

http://tacstrat.com/content/?p=4362

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts (contd) from Wikileaks on the "Gangs of Karachi":

7. (S) If rhetoric of the police and the ANP leadership is to be believed, these armed elements may be preparing to challenge MQM control of Karachi. In March, the Karachi Police Special Branch submitted a report to the Inspector General of Police in which it mentioned the presence of \"hard-line\" Pashtuns in the Sohrab Goth neighborhood. Sohrab Goth is located in the Northeast of the city.

8. (S) The report said this neighborhood was becoming a no-go
area for the police. The report went on to claim the Pashtuns are involved in drug trafficking and gun running and
if police wanted to move in the area they had to do so in civilian clothing. A senior member of the Intelligence Bureau in Karachi recently opined that the ANP would not move
against MQM until the next elections, but the police report ANP gunmen are already fighting MQM gunmen over
protection-racket turf.
---------
10. (S) PPP is a political party led by, and centered on the Bhutto family. The party enjoys significant support in
Karachi, especially among the Sindhi and Baloch populations. Traditionally, the party has not run an armed wing, but the workers of the PPP do possess weapons, both licensed and unlicensed. With PPP in control of the provincial government and having an influential member in place as the Home Minister, a large number of weapons permits are currently being issued to PPP workers. A police official recently told
Post that he believes, given the volume of weapons permits being issued to PPP members, the party will soon be as
well-armed as MQM. Gangs in Lyari: Arshad Pappoo (AP) and Rahman Dakait (RD)
11. (S) AP and RD are two traditional criminal gangs that
have been fighting each other since the turn of the century in the Lyari district of Karachi. Both gangs gave their political support to PPP in the parliamentary elections. The
gangs got their start with drug trafficking in Lyari and later included the more serious crimes of kidnapping and robbery in other parts of Karachi. (Comment: Kidnapping is such a problem in the city that the Home Secretary once asked Post for small tracking devices that could be planted under
the skin of upper-class citizens and a
satellite to track the devices if they were kidnapped. End comment.)

12. (S) Each group has only about 200 hard-core armed fighters but, according to police, various people in Lyari
have around 6,000 handguns, which are duly authorized through valid weapons permits. In addition, the gangs are in
possession of a large number of unlicensed AK-47 rifles,
Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers and hand grenades. The weapons are carried openly and used against each other as
well as any police or Rangers who enter the area during security operations. During police incursions, the gang
members maintain the tactical advantage by using the narrow streets and interconnected houses. There are some parts of Lyari that are inaccessible to law enforcement agencies...

http://tacstrat.com/content/?p=4362

Riaz Haq said...

With a world cost of living index (wcol) of just 46 relative to 100 for New York City, Karachi is the cheapest city among 131 cities in the world, according to a survey reported by Economic Intelligence Unit today.

http://www.eiu.com/public/topical_report.aspx?activity=reg&campaignid=wcol2012

Here's a WSJ report on it:

Moving to Singapore? Start saving: The city-state is one of most expensive cities in the world – 42% more expensive than New York – topping London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong.

The Southeast Asian city joins Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe as one of the world’s top ten most expensive cities, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual cost-of-living survey, increasingly proving that Asian cities are no longer just a cheaper outpost for expats and multinationals. Though a European city – Zurich – is still the world’s most expensive, Tokyo was the runner up, with Singapore now listed as the world’s 9th most expensive city. Singapore was listed as the 6th most expensive last year, but remarkably was ranked 97th in 2001.

The survey uses prices of goods and services such as food, transportation, housing, utilities, private schools and domestic help to calculate scores for each city, using New York as its base with a score of 100. Zurich and Tokyo scored 170 and 166, respectively, indicating that they are about 70% and 66% more expensive to live in than New York.

Australian cites, too, were well-represented on the list by Sydney (No. 7) and Melbourne (No. 8, though at least it can claim it makes up for the cost in livability). While Japan has long been known as an expensive place to live — Tokyo’s gas prices are 71% higher than New York’s — the emergence of Australia and Singapore on the list is a more recent phenomenon.

Singapore’s rise is notable, since less than a decade ago it was considered a cheap city by Western standards. Just last year, a kilo of bread would have cost US$2.86, according to the Economist’s data, but now costs US$3.19 – an 11% increase from the year before.

The rise of home prices and basic goods in the city-state has for years been a sticking point for many disgruntled Singaporeans, many of whom say government policies to allow more rich expatriates to move to the city has helped push up the cost of living. In recent months, the government has put in place various cooling measures to address high property prices, which are slowly coming down.

Jon Copestake, editor of the survey, cited exchange-rate movement as “the main driver of cost-of-living growth in Singapore, relative to other cities.” The Australian cities rose for the same reason: The Australian dollar rose sharply in value last year, which helped push its two biggest cities up the charts.

Asia is also home to the world’s cheapest places to live, particularly in South Asia. Karachi, Pakistan, came in 131st out of 131 cities, with a score of 46. This makes it three times cheaper than Singapore. Also in the bottom 10: Mumbai; New Delhi; Kathmandu, Nepal; and Dhaka, Bangladesh. India and Pakistan’s cheap labor and land costs are making the area “attractive to those bargain-hungry visitors or investors willing to brave some of the security risks that accompany such low prices,” the survey said.


http://blogs.wsj.com/searealtime/2012/02/14/singapore-among-worlds-most-expensive-cities/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Newsweek piece by writer Kamila Shamsi about her native Karachi:

You can live in Karachi your entire life without ever glimpsing the sea. This fact would surely have astounded Alexander the Great’s general, Nearchus, who sailed from what was then a harbor known to the Greeks as Krokola; it would have doubtless come as an even greater surprise to the fisherwoman Mai Kolachi, from whom the port city likely derives its modern name. Until the mid-19th century, the city that has been called Krokola, Kolachi, Kurrachee, and Karachi was little more than a harbor or a fishing village, its existence based around the Arabian Sea. The British occupied it in 1839, at which time its population was between 8,000 and 14,000.

Population figures are hardly the most imaginative way to talk about the city, and yet with Karachi it is precisely the population figures that convey why it is impossible to hold the city within your imagination rather than grasping at fragments of it. Try to wrap your head around this: in 1947, at the time of Partition, more than half the city’s 400,000 inhabitants were Hindu, most of whom migrated (by choice or otherwise) to India, and yet, despite losing half its population, by 1951 the number of Karachiwallas had grown to more than a million. You lose 50 percent and still end up more than doubling the original population; this is mathematics Karachi style. Today the figure stands at somewhere between 15 million and 18 million.

While some cities rise up toward the sky in towers of concrete and steel to accommodate their growing populations, Karachi sprawls in ungainly fashion, covering 1,360 square miles. The old British cantonment area with its Gothic spires and Anglo-Mughal cupolas and art deco fa├žades remained the center of the city until the 1960s; now it’s south of the center of south Karachi. You can live in Karachi and watch gulls swooping toward the blue-gray waves, or you can live miles inland in the shadow of barren hills, at danger from landslides. The city has a broad avenue called Sunset Boulevard, and it also has a slum named Mosquito Colony.
---------------
You’ll often hear Karachiwallas say there’s nowhere else in Pakistan they can happily live. I’ve heard it said more frequently by its women than its men. Karachi is hardly free of patriarchy, but its women are more visible, and more often to be seen in positions of authority, than elsewhere in the country. In February, when the city’s most powerful, and controversial, political party, the MQM, called for a women’s rally, the numbers that gathered were so vast (estimates vary from several hundred thousand to 1 million) that the BBC declared it the largest congregation of women ever organized in the world. In a city where votes are divided primarily along ethnic lines, it was heartening to imagine we were witnessing a new kind of campaigning—one that placed gender in the political arena and gave teeth to the phrase “women’s vote.” It sounds fanciful to me, until I remember that for the right price, Karachi buys and sells everything, even dreams.


http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/03/11/kamila-shamsie-reflects-on-karachi-pakistan.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation newspaper report excerpt on Karachi's contribution to Pakistan's economy:

Economist A.B. Shahid said Karachi’s contribution to GDP amounted to around 16 billion rupees a day, and its daily tax revenues to two billion.

“Karachi is Pakistan’s economic engine, whenever it shuts, it affects the whole economy. Its taxes and industrial and services sectors feed the exchequer and its port being the gateway gives life to the rest of the country,” he told AFP.

“If one wants to cripple Pakistan’s economy, one should do nothing but to get Karachi paralysed.”

Market analysts say disturbances in Karachi are affecting foreign investment as well.

“Most multinationals are based in Karachi, and it has a negative impact when their bosses watch pitched battles on their TV screens in the streets of Karachi,” said Mohammad Sohail, the head of Topline Securities brokerage.

He said foreign investment in Pakistan stood at $5.4 billion four years ago, which shrank to $1.6 billion last year and is expected to further reduce to a maximum of $1 billion in the financial year ending on June 30.

Officials admit growing security concerns and targeted killings tarnish Karachi’s attraction for foreign investors and risk driving business away.

The American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the town of Abbottabad last May was another punishing blow to Pakistan’s depleted image, raising renewed questions about whether anyone in authority had colluded with Al-Qaeda.

“Local industrialists, mainly textile businessmen, are shifting their investments to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia because of law and order and energy shortages,” said a government minister on condition of anonymity.

The authorities say they are doing their best to tackle the rampant unrest, but admit they have limited means at their disposal. Sharfuddin Memon, spokesman for the home department of Sindh province, of which Karachi is capital, admitted there were not enough policemen in the city but said they punch above their weight in terms of foiling crime and attacks.

The decades since independence in 1947 have seen Karachi transformed into a patchwork of Pakistan’s different ethnic groups — Mohajirs, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Punjabis and Baloch — as migrants from all over the country have come in search of a better life.

Millions in the city rely on daily piece work to make a living, and every day lost to violence or shutdowns is a day without income.

Fruit seller Mohammad Haleem, 34, said the unrest was making it hard to make ends meet.

“I could not earn livelihood for my five kids for most of the last week as it was dangerous to go outside,” said Mohammad Haleem, 34, a fruit vendor.

“It is getting too difficult for me to take a loan to feed my kids as the lenders are themselves in distress.”


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/business/09-Apr-2012/karachi-contributes-rs-16-billion-to-gdp-a-day

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune analysis of Lyari gang warfare by journalist Mazhar Abbas:



It started with Kala Nag and Shero Dada decades ago. Rehman Dakait was killed in 2009. Arshad Pappu was bumped off Saturday night. With this death also came the demise of Nabeel Gabol’s political career in Lyari. The political game in this gangland will never be the same.

One of the clearest indications that the outcome of the elections in Lyari will be different this time around came from Gabol. The five-time winner of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) ticket here announced he was joining the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) just a day after the PPP rule ended. With Gabol’s departure comes to an end his family’s political dynasty in Lyari. Nabil’s grandfather defeated Sir Abdullah Haroon in 1937. Nabil’s uncle Abdus Sattar Gabol defeated Mahmood Haroon in 1970 on the PPP ticket.

Till the 1970s Lyari was politically controlled by the Haroons but the chain of their popularity was broken by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when he launched the PPP in 1967. He challenged Haroon in the 1970 elections and awarded the party ticket to the local sardar Abdul Sattar Gabol. Since then, the PPP has never looked back and has swept all elections. Its weakness has, however, been an inability to end the bloodletting in the neighbourhood and murder became part of the politics. Anyone who wanted a piece of Lyari had to take sides.

Nabeel has become a victim of this bloody feud as he once sided with Rehman Dakait, who became his polling agent in the last elections. However, after the emergence of the People’s Amn Committee (PAC) after the last elections, this new group accused Gabol of favouring his men and ignoring party workers.

Indeed, Habib Jan Baloch, who is close to Uzair and Zafar Baloch, had even demanded action against Nabil Gabol. Gabol’s fault was that he never reconciled with the PAC, unlike the other MNA from the same area, Qadir Patel. There is no turning back the clock now.
--------
Gabol now looks to the MQM to award him a ticket. But this also means that he will have to adjust to the MQM’s particular style of politics, which is quite different from that of the jiyalas. For all practical purposes, the PAC today controls Lyari. It has grown in strength since the tenure of former home minister Zulfiqar Mirza. But even he has been silent for a while. In an interesting move, the PAC had formed a buzurg committee of respected elders tasked with reconciling with the PPP. They are reportedly negotiating with Owais alias Tappi and Faryal Talpur, the president’s sister.

It is not clear who will contest from Nabeel and Rafiq Engineer’s seats but one thing is certain that it will be the PAC that will be vetting candidates though the PPP platform.

This seat may go to Bilawal in the end (through a by-election later on). For the time being, though, it could be Faryal, who may contest if all cases are withdrawn against PAC leaders and at least one of its prominent leaders get a party ticket.

And so, while the PPP is down in Lyari, it is not out. Despite the state of affairs there is not much chance of anti-PPP forces gaining ground. If the PAC and PPP do not reach any agreement, Uzair may, however, announce support for the PML-N, something which the PPP would never want.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/522443/analysis-a-funeral-and-the-end-of-a-political-career-in-lyari/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's PakistanToday on Mehsuds and Kakakhels in Karachi:

KARACHI - The Taliban have occupied several areas in Karachi following a cold war between two Pakhtun tribes, Mehsud and Kakakhel, for ownership of Pakhtun strongholds in the city, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The Mehsud tribe has taken control of several Pakhtun strongholds where the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has established its network.
The fire at New Sabzi Mandi on Super Highway, one of the Asia’s largest fruits and vegetables market, was also a result of ownership dispute between the two tribes. Reportedly, the Taliban wanted the control of the vegetable market, which observes business of billion of rupees daily. There were reports of the Taliban uprising in the outskirts of the city, mainly the Super Highway. Earlier, both tribes were working under the political party – which claims to represent the Pakhtun living in Karachi. Later, the Mehsud tribe parted ways with the party and started occupying Pakhtun areas with the Taliban’s help.
“A cold war has been started between two Pakhtun tribes which has damaged the party structure,” said a party leader, requesting not to be named.
“From Sohrab Goth to Manghopir, Taliban have taken control of Pakhtun areas and established their system there which not only destroyed party structure, but also earned bad name for us,” he added.
“The war started after a clash of interest between the two tribes and later the Mehsud tribe abandoned the party and joined hands with the Taliban to establish a TTP network,” he claimed.
“From Sohrab Goth to Toll Plaza, Taliban have set their network and removed party flags from these areas, but we are still resisting against these elements in Al-Asif Square,” he said.
“We are in a fix because we have to secure the Pakhtun living in those areas which were occupied by Taliban with the help of Mehsud,” he noted.
“The [Sabzi Mandi] fire started from a hotel which is 200 yards away from my shop and there is open ground but how it captured the shop it is beyond my thinking,” Salahuddin, a crate maker, told Pakistan Today.
“The wind was also blowing from east to west of the market but how it engulfed the eastern part of the market it could be imagined,” Salahuddin added.
“The people belonging to different tribes of KP are working in the market but the Mehsud tribe dominates the market,” All Vegetable Tajir Biradari Alliance (AVTBA) Chairman Haji Syed Abdul Razzak Shah said.
“People of many tribes of KP are working in the market but Mehsud and Kakakhel have made their clear representation in the market so far,” he added.
“Apparently, there is no war going on between the two tribes in the market but one thing is sure that the market was set on fire as per plan, Shah said, adding that we do not have proves against anyone that’s why we cannot held anyone responsible for this blaze.”
“We can say that fire in the market was result of ownership dispute between Mehsud and Kakakhel tribe as the market is situated next to Faqeera Goth where both groups are undergoing in a cold war,” Rehman Khan, another leader of (AVTBA) said.
“I am resident of Faqeera Goth too and there were reports about some people who tried to close barber and computer shops,” Khan added.
“Few years back, some people started working for TTP in the area, but they were killed in police encounters,” Gadap Town SP Javed Iqbal Bhatti claimed...


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/03/12/city/karachi/taliban-taking-foothold-in-karachi-due-to-mehsud-kakakhel-cold-war/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation newspaper report on political affiliations of gangsters, target killers, kidnappers and extortionists in Karachi:



As Supreme Court resumed hearing of Karachi law and order case on Thursday, the Inspector General of Sindh Police presented a detailed report over incidents of target killings and extortion in the city.

According to a private television channel, a larger bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry resumed hearing of Karachi law and order case Thursday at Supreme Court s Karachi Registry.

The report submitted by IG Sindh included a list of 224 arrested target killers, having affiliation with different political parties and banned outfits.

IG Sindh reported that these arrests were made after 2011.

It was mentioned in the report that 81 arrested target killers were affiliated with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), 38 Sunni Tehreek (ST), 9 Tehreek-e-Insaaf and 13 others belonged to Awami National Party (ANP).

The list also included names of 27 members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lyari gang war’s 17 criminals, People Aman Committee’s 6, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s 2 and Jandullah’ five members involved in target killings and extortion.


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/karachi/21-Mar-2013/224-target-killers-arrested-after-2011-ig-sindh-tells-sc

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times report on growing Taliban presence in Karachi:

KARACHI, Pakistan — This seaside metropolis is no stranger to gangland violence, driven for years by a motley collection of armed groups who battle over money, turf and votes.

But there is a new gang in town. Hundreds of miles from their homeland in the mountainous northwest, Pakistani Taliban fighters have started to flex their muscles more forcefully in parts of this vast city, and they are openly taking ground.

Taliban gunmen have mounted guerrilla assaults on police stations, killing scores of officers. They have stepped up extortion rackets that target rich businessmen and traders, and shot dead public health workers engaged in polio vaccination efforts. In some neighborhoods, Taliban clerics have started to mediate disputes through a parallel judicial system.

The grab for influence and power in Karachi shows that the Taliban have been able to extend their reach across Pakistan, even here in the country’s most populous city, with about 20 million inhabitants. No longer can they be written off as endemic only to the country’s frontier regions.

In joining Karachi’s street wars, the Taliban are upending a long-established network of competing criminal, ethnic and political armed groups in this combustible city. The difference is that the Taliban’s agenda is more expansive — it seeks to overthrow the Pakistani state — and their operations are run by remote control from the tribal belt along the Afghan border.
----------
Until recently, the militants saw Karachi as a kind of rear base, using the city to lie low or seek medical treatment, and limiting their armed activities to criminal fund-raising, like kidnapping and bank robberies.

But for at least six months now, there have been signs that their timidity is disappearing. The Taliban have become a force on the street, aggressively exerting their influence in the ethnic Pashtun quarters of the city.

Taliban tactics are most evident in Manghopir, an impoverished neighborhood of rough, cinder-block houses clustered around marble quarries on the northern edge of the city, where illegal housing settlements spill into the surrounding desert.
--------
The security forces, shaken out of complacency, have begun a number of major anti-Taliban operations. The latest of those occurred on March 23 when hundreds of paramilitary Rangers raided a residential area in Manghopir, near the crocodile shrine, confiscating a cache of more than 50 weapons and rounding up 200 people, 16 of whom were later identified as militants and detained.

“I don’t think the Taliban would like to set Karachi aflame, because they fear the reaction against them,” said Ikram Seghal, a security consultant in Karachi. “The police and intelligence agencies have very good information about them.”

Other factors limit the Pakistani Taliban’s ingress into Karachi. One of the more provocative ones is that allied militants — particularly the Afghan Taliban — might not like the added publicity. The Afghan wing has long used the city as place to rest and resupply. There are longstanding rumors that the movement’s leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, is taking shelter here, and that his leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, has met in Karachi.

In such a vast and turbulent city, the Taliban may become just another turf-driven gang. But without a determined response from the security forces, experts say, they could also seek to become much more.


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/world/asia/taliban-extending-reach-across-pakistan.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some wikileaks US embassy cable excerpts on Karachi gang violence:

...
MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement)
——————————

2. (S) The MQM is an ethnic political party of the Urdu
speaking community (known as \”Mohajirs,\” which is Arabic for
immigrants) that migrated from India at the time of
partition; Mohajirs make up around fifty percent of the total
population in Karachi. MQM is middle-class, avowedly
secular, and anti-extremist (the only party to publicly
protest the recent Swat Nizam-e-Adl regulations). It has a
long history of clashes with the Pakistan People,s Party
(PPP), which controls the Sindh province in which Karachi is
located, and with the Awami National Party (ANP), which
represents MQM,s rival ethnic Pashtuns.

3. (S) MQM\’s armed members, known as \”Good Friends,\” are the
largest non-governmental armed element in the city. The
police estimate MQM has ten thousand active armed members and

as many as twenty-five thousand armed fighters in reserve.

This is compared to the city\’s thirty-three thousand police
officers. The party operates through its 100 Sector
Commanders, who take their orders directly from the party
leader, Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in the United
Kingdom. The Sector Commanders plan and monitor the...
---------
ANP (Awami National Party – Peoples National Party)
——————————————— ——

6. (S) The ANP represents the ethnic Pashtuns in Karachi.
The local Pashtuns do possess personal weapons, following the
tribal traditions of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP),
and there are indications they have begun to organize formal
armed groups. With the onset of combat operations in the

---

7. (S) If rhetoric of the police and the ANP leadership is to
be believed, these armed elements may be preparing to

challenge MQM control of Karachi. In March, the Karachi

Police Special Branch submitted a report to the Inspector
General of Police in which it mentioned the presence of
\”hard-line\” Pashtuns in the Sohrab Goth neighborhood. Sohrab

Goth is located in the Northeast of the city.
---------
ST (Sunni Tehrik – Sunni Movement)
———————————-

9. (S) ST is a small religious/political group with a
presence in small pockets of Karachi. The group has only
managed to win a handful of council seats in local elections
but militarily it is disproportionably powerful because of
the influx of MQM-H gunmen after the government crack-down on
MQM-H (see above). ST has organized the party and its gunmen
along the lines of MQM by dividing its areas of influence
into sectors and units, with sector and unit commanders. ST
and MQM have allegedly been killing each other\’s leadership
since the April 2006 Nishtar Park bombing that killed most of
ST\’s leadership. ST blames MQM for the attack. There
appears to have been a reduction in these targeted killings
since 2008.

PPP (Pakistan People\’s Party)
—————————–

10. (S) PPP is a political party led by, and centered on the
Bhutto family. The party enjoys significant support in
Karachi, especially among the Sindhi and Baloch populations.
----

Gangs in Lyari: Arshad Pappoo (AP) and Rahman Dakait (RD)
——————————————— ————

11. (S) AP and RD are two traditional criminal gangs that

have been fighting each other since the turn of the century
in the Lyari district of Karachi. Both gangs gave their
political support to PPP in the parliamentary elections. The
gangs got their start with drug trafficking in Lyari and
later included the more serious crimes of kidnapping and
robbery in other parts of Karachi. (Comment: Kidnapping is
such a problem in the city that the Home Secretary once asked
Post for small tracking devices that could be planted under
the skin of upper-class citizens and a satellite to track the
devices if they were kidnapped. End comment.)
---------....


http://tacstrat.com/content/?p=43

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report about the observations of a Frenchman studying Karachi:

ISLAMABAD, Feb 20: Political violence, ethnic divide and militant organisations being patronised by political parties is turning Karachi into the new Beirut, according to a visiting French political scientist.

Laurent Gayer, a French political scientist, who is writing a book “Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City,” that will be published by Hurst and Oxford University Press this year, made these observations during a lecture here on Wednesday.
------------
He said though the metropolitan city was facing multiple menaces in the form of lawlessness, targeted killings, sectarian strife for quite some time, de-regularisation of Bhatta mafias within political parties and entry of new competitors in the arena had made the life of the city’s industrial community simply hellish.

Quoting his interviews with some people belonging to the business community of Karachi, Mr Gayer said although they had been paying protection money for the last two decades, coercion for money from more than half a dozen entities had become simply unbearable.

Many of them (businessmen) are planning to shift their business either to Middle Eastern countries or Bangladesh, the researcher quoted them as saying.

In his findings, the researcher also likened Karachi with Mumbai in terms of social leadership, where local political parties had their fully armed militant wings.

But the nature of violence increased with the influx of arms from the Afghan war, he said.

Karachi city at the moment was awash with the most modern weaponry, which political parties across the board were using against each other, said the writer.

According to the French political scientist, violence in Karachi was not existential but instrumental.

Mr Gayer said the proliferation of political armed groups started in 2007, linking it with the involvement of Awami National Party (ANP) and Aman Committees of the PPP.
-------------
“The way how violence is transforming is very difficult for people to handle. Weapons are used indiscriminately in which civilians lose their lives, the last few years saw extremely important transformation of violence,” he remarked.

Karachi’s situation, he said, had become more violent after the involvement of Sunni Tehrik and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which besides fighting for its own turf, were also pitched against each other.

The MQM, which was initially more focused against the ANP, was now facing a new challenge in the form of Taliban — found in various pockets of the city, said the writer.

The Taliban, according to the author had been using the city, not only for generation of money through kidnapping for ransom but also for recuperation of its injured and tired members.

Analysing the changing demography of the city, the French political scientist argued that the Sindhi population was increasing and the Urdu speaking community were no more in the majority.

“The pre-violence history of Karachi shows that clustering of Karachi happened after shifting of people from mixed areas but groupings started on the basis of ethnic, linguistic and sectarian basis. Hegemony of MQM is increasingly under threat which it is wrongly trying to project as Talibanisation of the city” he underlined.

During the question-answer session, Mr Gayer said that since the government machinery was directly involved in extortion, killings and other criminal acts, there was absolutely no chance of any improvement in governance of the city in the near future.

Mr Gayer has also collaborated with Mr Christophe Jaffrelot in two books, which include “Armed Militias of South Asia: Fundamentalists, Maoists, and Separatists” and “Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation,” both published by Hurst/Columbia University Press..


http://dawn.com/2013/02/21/karachi-turning-into-a-new-beirut-says-french-political-scientist-2/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's The Economist on gangs of Lyari in Karachi:

CIVILIANS armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s firing at police in armoured personnel carriers are not images associated with the urban hearts of commercial capitals. But Karachi is no ordinary city. Earlier this month its crime-infested quarter of Lyari, a sprawling network of alleyways housing 1m people, saw battles that pitted police against a powerful local gang. In one scene locals flattened a carrier's tyres with gunfire. Then they kept firing at the stationary vehicle, killing an officer inside.

The 31 people who were killed, in addition to five policemen, were mainly innocents caught in the crossfire and included a seven-year-old. For a week residents were besieged. They had little access to food, water or power, as shops shut down and the battle had damaged infrastructure. Then a defeated government called the operation off. The police promised to return after 48 hours, but never showed up again. A senior police official was close to tears when he explained that the gangsters wielded weapons that law-enforcers did not know they possessed.

The Lyari violence highlights the complicated relationship between crime and politics in Karachi. Political parties are organised along ethnic or sectarian lines, and represent the city's Urdu-speakers, Sindhis, Baloch, Pashtuns and Barelvi Sunnis. In turf wars over neighbourhoods, they attack each other's activists and ordinary folk alike. (This week indiscriminate firing on a Sindhi rally killed 11 people.) When deaths exceed a handful a day, the commercial capital grinds to a halt. It is this violence, rather than Islamist extremism, that holds Karachi hostage.

Political parties coexist with criminal gangs, tacitly supporting some and actually controlling others. Lyari's dominant gangsters, the People's Aman Committee (PAC), have traditionally lent their support to the country's ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Yet police appear to have launched the Lyari operation because some members of the ruling party had developed a rivalry with elements of the PAC. The rundown district has long been a bastion of the PPP, which had put up with or worked with Lyari gangsters for decades. But its neglect of the area has strengthened the PAC, especially once the gang started providing social services. “This operation was political victimisation,” claims Zafar Baloch, the racket's second-in-command. “The people of Lyari have supported the PPP for 40 years, but when we spoke out against the lack of development here we were targeted.”

Karachi politics plays out at the expense of civilian lives. It did not hurt that the police operation would have pleased the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a coalition partner, at a time when opposition parties are campaigning for the resignation of the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani. The MQM (also involved in extortion in Karachi) complained that the government was targeting its people while letting the PAC get away with crime.

But perhaps what makes the Lyari operation typical of Karachi was how, just as it was escalating into a policing and humanitarian disaster, it suddenly came to a halt. Since then the PAC has not retaliated. Perhaps some unpublicised bargain has been struck. If so, that would be in line with the usual pattern of violence in the city. Karachi manages to hold together because bouts of brutal, though contained, violence are interspersed with dealmaking and calm. Imran Ayub, a journalist on the Karachi beat, thinks the PAC and the government will strike a bargain that preserves the PPP's Lyari constituency despite this disastrous operation. “This was no final showdown”, he says. In the context of Karachi's violence, it is sobering to think what a final showdown would look like.


http://www.economist.com/node/21555930

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times Op on MQM Ed by Dr. Arif Alvi:

I’m Urdu speaking, my grandparents made a lot of sacrifices and migrated to Karachi, Pakistan, from India.

Karachi was a city of lights until nearly 30 years back when MQM started showing its true face. I will tell you how MQM works and I have experienced all of this myself. This is a very well-managed organisation, which works under a tight command and control mechanism. They have divided Karachi into a number of sectors; each sector is divided into units. The first tier is called the unit. There are MQM units in every nook and corner of Karachi. Every apartment complex has one unit, and nearly one in every 500 houses there is a unit. The units report to a particular sector under which they come. Each unit has a unit in-charge and other proper posts. As these guys live among us, they know each and every house and shop that comes under their supervision. The unit in-charge literally controls whatever goes within the jurisdiction of his unit. From cable persons reporting to him to the SHO of that area; everyone obeys that unit in-charge.

They snatch mobiles, get bhata from shops, get their students cheating in exams, confiscate hides on Eidul Azha and collect fitrana on Eidul Fitar, etc. The collections from units go into millions and collection from Karachi goes into billions. The units report and submit their loot to the sectors. Each unit in-charge has to sit in his sector on a frequent basis from where they get instructions. The sectors report to Nine Zero (90 is the address of the house of Altaf Hussain in Azizabad Karachi); this is the headquarters of the MQM. This is the reason why within minutes they can jam Karachi, as they just need to make one call from 90. The instructions go to sectors where they call units in-charge who have sufficient arms and ammunition. No Karachiite can stand in front of them, as they easily, and without mercy, kill. If they want to threaten someone, they write on their house wall “Jo Qaid ka ghaddaar hai woh mout ka haqdaar hai” (anyone who defies the ‘leader’ is liable to death).

Following in their footsteps, other parties, such as ANP, Aman committee of the PPP and Sunni Tehreek, now are doing the same. Sometime fighting starts over whose units will control the area. Karachi is a goldmine and everyone wants it. The people of Karachi, who are very patriotic, have to live in a constant fear. They cannot even carry a decent cell-phone in this city. They get looted at ATM machines and believe me that the people do not even decorate their houses nowadays during weddings, as they are afraid to come in the eyes of these bandits. Even now and then, there are strikes; children cry during the night due to gunfire, if a call is not for a strike, the call is for “Youm-e-Sog” (day of mourning), which in fact is another name for strike. One cannot imagine what Karachiites have to go through daily. One even gets afraid driving a car when a motorcycle passes nearby. The real disappointment is that everyone knows this, as this is so clear. ....


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C05%5C21%5Cstory_21-5-2013_pg7_18

Riaz Haq said...

Take a look at this video showing Altaf Husain threatening to put a journalist in a "bori" (body bag).

http://www.geotauaisay.com/2013/05/kisi-channel-mein-himmat-hai-k-ye-video-chala-saky/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' report on political parties running extortion rackets in Karachi:

One afternoon a stranger called at Muhammad Faizanullah's stationery shop in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital, and wordlessly handed the man behind the counter two items: a piece of paper with a phone number scrawled on it, and a bullet.

"The letter contained a demand for 200,000 Pakistani rupees ($2,000)," Faizanullah, 20, said. "The man said 'Just call this number and pay the amount, otherwise the bullet is meant for you.'"

Businesses in Karachi are facing a surge in extortion demands from criminal gangs, forcing many owners to delay new investment or to relocate their families to escape the sense of insecurity gripping the urban heart of Pakistan's economy.

---

---
----------
Karachi traders say paying extortion has long been part of the cost of doing business in Karachi.

The police say thugs working for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the dominant political party in Karachi, are the biggest extortion menace in the city.

The police have also linked other political parties to extortion, although the MQM and other parties in Karachi repeatedly deny any involvement.

In the past year, the rules of the game have changed as competing political parties, militant groups and criminal entrepreneurs intent on challenging MQM's grip on Karachi have expanded their extortion rackets to fund ever deadlier turf wars, police officials say.

The number of killings in Karachi jumped to more than 2,300 in 2012 from 1,700 the previous year. More than 1,400 murders have already been recorded since the start of this year. The increasing death toll has made it easier for gangs to coerce people into paying money, although there have been few reports of extortion-related killings.

"The extortion racket in Karachi has become an industry," said senior police officer Niaz Ahmed Khosa. "There are around 50 no-go areas in Karachi, which police can not enter. Most of the extortion rackets and other crime are being generated from these population pockets."

The police blame much of the increase in extortion on a criminal gang known as the People's Aman Committee (PAC), based in the district of Lyari, one of the police no-go areas, and which they say is expanding into new parts of the city. The gang, the police say, is linked to the Pakistan People's Party, which ruled Pakistan until its defeat at May general elections.


http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/01/us-pakistan-extortion-idUSBRE9601E420130701

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on KESC performance in Karachi:

Since Pakistan’s biggest electricity company was privatized, its headquarters has been looted, its employees kidnapped and its boss nearly arrested by the government.

Despite all of that, it is regarded as a roaring success.

Power cuts lasting 12 hours a day or more have devastated the Pakistani economy. The loss of millions of jobs has fueled unrest in a nuclear-armed nation already beset by a Taliban insurgency.

The only city bucking the trend is the violent metropolis of Karachi, Pakistan’s financial heart — and that is thanks to Tabish Gauhar and his team at the Karachi Electricity Supply Co.

“It has consumed every ounce of my energy,” Mr. Gauhar, 42, said in an interview. “But we have helped millions of people.”

The new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif won an election in May partly because it had promised to fix the power cuts. Now many are wondering whether the Karachi utility’s successful privatization will be repeated elsewhere.

Pakistan’s power companies share similar problems. Workers are often corrupt, and influential families rarely pay bills. The government sells power below the cost of production but pays subsidies late or not at all. Plants cannot afford fuel.

At the state-run Peshawar Electricity Supply Co., the majority of workers are illiterate, most new hires are relatives of existing staff members, and 37 percent of the power generated was stolen, according to a 2011 audit funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Karachi Electricity Supply had all the same problems when the Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital bought a controlling stake in 2008. Mr. Gauhar and his Abraaj team decided to slash the work force by a third, cut off nonpayers and destroy illegal connections.
----------
Many in the populist pro-labor government vilified the power company. Later, legislators tried to arrest Mr. Gauhar on charges that he had not attended subcommittee meetings in the capital.

After the protests dissipated, Karachi Electricity Supply’s next problem was making customers pay. More than a third of the company’s electricity was stolen in 2009. Those who got bills often ignored them.

One wealthy patriarch said he could not possibly start paying because his colleagues would think he had no influence left.

Karachi Electricity Supply started cutting off those who did not pay their bills. When a transformer burned out in an area with high theft, the company asked for two months’ worth of payment from the area’s residents before replacing it.

The company divided up the city of 18 million. Areas where 80 percent of people pay bills now have no regular power cuts. Areas with high loss — often crime-ridden, sweltering slums — have long power cuts. Karachi Electricity Supply is widely hated in such places.

Muhammed Fayyaz, who works as a driver, says his neighborhood often has as much as 10 hours of cuts per day. Summer temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), and protests are frequent.

“People block the main road and throw stones at passing vehicles,” he said.

Mr. Fayyaz lives in a high-theft area. Stealing power is easy. Makeshift wires with metal hooks festoon Karachi Electricity Supply’s lines in the sun-baked streets. Some lead to roadside businesses. Others head into the distance atop lines of makeshift bamboo poles.

“We clean them up, but in five minutes they are back again,” said Muhammad Siddiq, a manager at the utility.


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/02/business/global/turning-on-the-lights-in-pakistan.html?_r=1&

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on MQM and Altaf Hussain:

He follows events through satellite televisions in his walled-off home, manages millions of dollars in assets and issues decrees in ranting teleconferences that last for hours — all to command a network of influence and intimidation that stretches from North America to South Africa.

This global system serves a very localized goal: perpetuating Mr. Hussain’s reign as the political king of Karachi, the brooding port city of 20 million people at the heart of Pakistan’s economy.

“Distance does not matter,” reads the inscription on a monument near Mr. Hussain’s deserted former house in Karachi, where his name evokes both fear and favor.

Now, though, his painstakingly constructed web is fraying.

A British murder investigation has been closing in on Mr. Hussain, 59, and his party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. His London home and offices have been raided, and the police have opened new investigations into accusations of money laundering and inciting violence in Pakistan.

---

“This is a major crisis,” said Irfan Husain, the author of “Fatal Faultlines,” a book about Pakistan’s relationship with the United States. “The party has been weakened, and Altaf Hussain is being criticized like never before.”

---

Mr. Hussain fled to London in 1992, when the movement was engaged in a vicious street battle with the central government for supremacy in Karachi. The British government granted him political asylum and, 10 years later, a British passport.

London has long been the antechamber of Pakistani politics, where self-exiled leaders take refuge until they can return. The former military ruler Pervez Musharraf lived here until recently, and the current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, lived here until 2007.

Mr. Hussain, however, shows no sign of going back. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement has an office in Edgware, in northwest London. But these days Mr. Hussain is mostly at home, in a redbrick suburban house protected by raised walls, security cameras and a contingent of former British soldiers he has hired as bodyguards.

From there, he holds court, addressing his faraway followers in a vigorous, sometimes maniacal style, punctuated by jabbing gestures and hectoring outbursts. Occasionally he bursts into song, or tears. Yet, on the other end of the line, it is not unusual to find tens of thousands of people crowded into a Karachi street, listening raptly before an empty stage containing Mr. Hussain’s portrait, as his disembodied voice booms from speakers.

“The cult of personality surrounding Altaf Hussain is quite extraordinary,” said Farzana Shaikh, an academic and the author of “Making Sense of Pakistan.” “He is immensely charismatic, in the way one thinks of the great fascist leaders of the 20th century.”

In Karachi, his overwhelmingly middle-class party is fronted by sharply dressed, well-spoken men — and a good number of women — and it has won a reputation for efficient city administration. But beneath the surface, its mandate is backed by armed gangs involved in racketeering, abduction and the targeted killings of ethnic and political rivals, the police and diplomats say.

Other major Pakistani parties indulge in similar behavior, but the Muttahida Qaumi Movement frequently brings the most muscle to the fight. An American diplomatic cable from 2008 titled “Gangs of Karachi,” which was published by WikiLeaks, cited estimatesthat the party had an active militia of 10,000 gunmen, with an additional 25,000 in reserve — a larger force, the dispatch notes, than the city police.


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/world/asia/altaf-hussains-grip-on-a-pakistani-city-faces-a-threat.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Reuters' story on murder of Karachi gangster Zafar Baloch:

Days before he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Karachi, one of Pakistan's most feared men said he would rather see the city in ruin than give up control over his turf in the country's volatile commercial capital.

Zafar Baloch, a notorious figure wielding enormous power in Karachi, was killed by a group of gunmen on motorbikes overnight in an attack that sent shock waves through the sprawling port city generating a quarter of Pakistan's economy.

In a rare interview on September 5, Baloch, 46, spoke extensively about the psychology of gangland violence, offering a rare glimpse into the dark world of turf wars and extortion in Pakistan's troubled and ethnically diverse second city.

Speaking to Reuters in Lyari, one of Karachi's most dangerous neighborhoods, he said he would not leave his turf despite continuous raids by police and attacks by rival gangs.

"I once had 13 police raids in one day. I have bullet and grenade wounds in my leg," he said. "Thieves run away. I'll never run away from Lyari."

A city of 18 million people, Karachi is home to Pakistan's main port, stock exchange and central bank. And yet it is one of the most violent places in the South Asian nation, torn apart by ethnic, political and sectarian tensions and gangland rivalries.

Explosions and killings occur daily as political and militant groups battle for control with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the city's dominant political party.

Karachi generates 25 percent of Pakistan's economy and presents a major challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as he tries to bring law and order to the chaotic financial hub.

PIECE OF CAKE

In Lyari, a dense network of slums housing over a million people, criminal gangs operate freely, exerting total control over businesses and residents. Police almost never enter the neighborhood without permission from Baloch's men.

Streets are busy, teeming with people and cars. Buildings and lampposts are adorned with posters of Baloch and his allies.

Speaking to Reuters at a local football club, Baloch compared Karachi to a cake which attracted too many takers.

"Right now we are sitting across the table watching the MQM eat the whole cake," Baloch said. "If this goes on, we will either ruin the cake for everyone or get our slice."

A large and burly man, Baloch narrowly survived a grenade attack in 2011 and still had a cast on one leg when Reuters saw him. He walked with a walking cane until the day he was killed.

Lyari's economically strategic location - enclosed on one side by the port and on the other by the city's biggest industrial area - has made it the hub of extortion, violent crime and drug barons.

As many as 1,726 people were killed in Karachi in the first six months of this year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Mainstream political parties are accused of running armed groups that have carved up the city along ethnic lines into spheres of influence - a charge politicians deny.

Baloch saw the MQM, backed by Karachi's Urdu-speaking community that returned after partition from India, as his main rival.

"The problem is that the MQM thinks it has the biggest stake in Karachi," Baloch told Reuters. "Until the MQM learns to share, there will always be chaos."

And yet he spoke passionately about Karachi, a city where had earned both fear and respect.

"Karachi was born out of Lyari. It comes from right here. The people of Lyari gave birth to this city. How can we let it die?" he said. "Lyari is just a good town with a bad reputation. But its people will never let Karachi die."


http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/19/us-pakistan-karachi-idUSBRE98I0FS20130919