The unabated violence in Karachi termed as “Target Killing” is continuous since the mid of 1990s. In 2009 alone, 256 people including workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) were assassinated, of whom 69 belonged to the MQM; 60 to MQM-H, 28 to PPP, 23 to ANP and 41 belonged to other religious groups.
This series of target killings continues into the 2010, till now 318 peoples have lost their lives. These target killings are generally for political, ethnic or sectarian reasons. Recent waves of target killings in Karachi are mainly sectarian and ethnically motivated. In June 2010, ten activists of the banned outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba along with four Shia doctors got target.
Karachi is a multi-ethnic cosmopolitan city, most of the population comprises of Urdu speakers, called Muhajirs, and various other ethnicity. These target killings are usually based on ethnic and political factors which often involve ethnic clashes between groups backed by political parties.
The main areas for such ethnic riots are Orangi Town, Qaba Colony, Aligarh Colony, Banaras and Sohrab Goth. These areas have deep ethnic divides between Pashtun and Muhajirs. The rivalry between the two groups proves to be uncontrollable. Such target killings, often turn into blame games between rival groups, as it has been observed in the past, political parties usually accuse their rival ethnic groups. Fore example, there are allegations that MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) is behind many target killings, however, according to statistics last year the number of victims from MQM people was the highest number of victims belonging to any political party.
Second most important factor is sectarian killings in the city, in which mostly Shia sect is targeted. Karachi witnessed sectarian tensions in 1980s and it continued for many years, but with the emergence of MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) the sectarian element was almost eliminated.
When the armed operations started in the northern areas, the Taliban and terrorists fled to various parts of the country and they were stationed in Karachi as well, and this factor raised the number of target killings in the city once again. The banned outfits managed to build connections with the fled terrorists, thus creating a rise in target killing again of the Shia sect.
MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) and other prominent leaders of the Shia sect were chanting against the Talibanization in the city and now it has become apparent that the banned outfit of Sipah-e-Sahaba has once again been active against the Shia sect, but this time Sunni faction, Sunni Tehreek, is also affected and the banned outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and they are having confrontation with these banned outfits in certain areas of Karachi.
The main reason for the current wave of target killings as stated by Shia and Sunni Tehreek (ST) leaders is the defunct group Sipah-e-Sahaba which is now operating with a new name of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ). It is evident from the clashes between Deobandi and Barelvi factions in the area of new Karachi which claimed lives, that the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) is against the ideologies of Shia and Braelvi sect thus creating sectarian clashes.
However, Shia factions are backed by MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) as with the emergence of MQM these sectarian killings got controlled, and now MQM again has to tighten its grip over the city to overcome this sectarian issue. However, workers of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) also lost their lives in target killings including their leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Nadeem along with his son. Moreover, vice president of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) Karachi division Manzoor Khan also lost his live in this target killing. Police has taken unusual measures to handle these killings but the daily death toll is still increasing.
Third dimension of the target killing is gang-war in Karachi city. Gang-war is mainly in the area of Lyari, a political nucleus of PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) politics in Karachi, the war in Lyari that started in 2003 had so far claimed more than 4,000 lives according to official records. This gang war of Lyari is backed by politicians for their political objectives.
Main agents of Lyari gang war are Rehman Dacoit and Arshad Pappu. Rehman Dacoit was killed by police last year, while Arshad Pappu is in police custody since 2006. Now the Rahman Dacoit’s gang is run by Ghaffar Zikri and the gang-war is continues after the death of Rehman Dacoit in the Lyari and adjourning areas.
These gangs are better equipped than the Police in terms of arms and ammunition. These gangs are involved in flourishing drugs deals, extortion, kidnapping and street crimes in the city. The mainstream party of the city MQM doesn’t have a hold in the area of Lyari as its stronghold of PPP, thus on ethnic based political grounds this area is backed by political figures, gang-war and terrorists.
In addition to the three mentioned factors there is the factor of intra-party conflicts within MQM (Haqeeqi) which was carved from MQM in early 1990s. Now this faction MQM (H) has split into two and became rivals to each other and there are reported incidents of claiming lives.
This wave of target killings can only be dealt with by understanding the real roots of the causes of these killings, with strategies coordinating with all prevailing political and religious parties in the city otherwise this target killing will not be controlled.
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