RAWALPINDI/ ISLAMABAD: Karachi saw an uptick in violence after a relatively long hiatus, though a targeted operation has been ongoing. Alarmed by the upsurge in violence, especially the targeted killing of a qawwali maestro and kidnapping of a top judge’s son, the prime minister has given the go-ahead for scaling up the operation in the provincial metropolis.
Nawaz Sharif gave the nod of approval on Friday after getting input from senior officials of law enforcement and security agencies, The Express Tribune has learnt from credible sources. The prime minister approved the stepping up of the targeted operation in the city where normalcy has been restored as a result of the ongoing operation. He also directed the officials to put in place fool-proof security measures, especially during the last days of the fasting month of Ramazan and Eidul Fitr, to maintain peace.
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The prime minister, sources said, was briefed by law enforcement and security officials on different factors involving the Karachi operation. They particularly mentioned suspected activities of a political party’s militant wing, ‘remnants’ of banned sectarian extremist and militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, and the role of ‘hostile’ intelligence agencies of neighbouring countries. The Express Tribune tried to approach Sindh police chief AD Khowaja, but he was not available for comments on what was discussed in Friday’s meeting.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is scheduled to travel to Karachi today (Sunday) to preside over another important meeting on law and order. Important decisions related to up scaling the Karachi operation are likely to be taken during Nisar’s visit to Karachi where he would be meet the chief minister, home minister and Rangers’ director general.
However, a senior security official privy to the matter told The Express Tribune that questionable statements made by senior leaders of a Karachi-based political party in the wake of acclaimed qawwal Amjad Sabri’s killing have been taken into account. Soon after the qawwali maestro was shot dead in a targeted attack on Wednesday, these political leaders claimed on national media that Sabri had been receiving life threats.
Surprisingly however, Sarwat Sabri, the elder brother of the slain qawwal, denied his brother had received any threats. “Something is fishy,” the official said requesting not to be named in the report because he is not officially authorised to speak to the media on record. “The matter needs to be dug deeper,” he said hinting that Sabri’s murder might have political connotations.
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Apart from Sabri’s murder, the kidnapping of Awais Ali Shah, the son of Sindh High Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, and the sudden conflagrations at three factories in Karachi in a day have raised concerns. “This cannot be a coincidence,” a source said while speaking about the fire incidents on Friday. Investigators are learnt to be probing if there were any similarities or linkages in Friday’s blazes and the 2012 deadly fire at a garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town in which more than 250 workers were burnt alive.
Sources said that on the recommendations of law enforcement and security agencies, the prime minister authorised pre-emptive detentions in Karachi in order to maintain peace in the city. The Sindh home and the Centre would not interfere, and the Rangers-led security apparatus would not require any permission before possible high-profile arrests. Officials claim a multipronged strategy is being followed to tighten noose around terrorists in Karachi.
Nisar defends Rangers, police
The interior minister, meanwhile, defended the performance of the law enforcement agencies, including the paramilitary Rangers and police, in Karachi. “There is absolutely no question mark on their performance,” he said. “The target killing of Amjad Sabri and kidnapping of Owais Shah are aimed at spreading terror,” he added. But this doesn’t mean people should start questioning the performance of their security institutions.
Violent incidents like these can’t be stopped even in the United States where a man shot dead 49 people within a matter of minutes, Nisar said while speaking to local journalists in Kalar Syedan in Rawalpindi on Saturday. “In my opinion, the Rangers and police have done a good not only in Karachi but in the entire country to counter terrorism,” he added. “We want to eliminate the terrorism from the country and it could only be done with a commitment instead of questioning the performance of the Rangers and police,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2016.