We all know that al Qaeda once had its best warriors placed in Karachi. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, mastermind of 9/11 and killer, by his own confession, of American journalist Daniel Pearl, lived here. So did many others of lower ranks, till Musharraf made it tough for them to live in the open and survive. Some say Osama bin Laden met Mullah Omar here, at the Banuri mosque, under the benign gaze of Mufti Shamzai.
Karachi is said to be the favourite haunt of the Quetta Shura, which means Pakistan uses it to lodge people on the run from foreign surveillance. Karachi is safe because the writ of the state is thin here, given its no-go areas and heavily armed mafias who kill policemen like flies. Benazir was to be safely killed here, but escaped. Many Americans have lost their lives in this city. The French suffered the trauma of losing an entire bunch of their technicians to a suicide-bomber they continue to think was unleashed by the state.
Now, Rohan Gunaratna and Khuram Iqbal have highlighted Karachi as a haven of foreign terrorists in their book Pakistan Terrorism Ground Zero (Reaktion Books, London 2011). It says al Qaeda exerts more influence on the Pakistani Taliban than on the Afghan Taliban. In August 2008, TTP spokesman Maulvi Omar stated that the Taliban had the capability to gain control over Karachi (p.41). Mullah Omar, Abdullah Mehsud, Qari Zafar and many other top leaders of the Taliban movement are graduates of Darul Ulum Islamia Banuria in Jamshed Quarters, Karachi. Although Mullah Omar never studied at Jamia Banuria, he was awarded its honorary degree (p.41).
[According to an Arab biographer of Aiman alZawahiri, Montasser alZayyat, Zawahiri was only a surgeon from Egypt but was given a PhD in surgery in Pakistan. Pakistan doesn’t have a PhD degree in surgery!]
Karachi hosts the largest concentration of Afghans outside Afghanistan, mainly settled illegally in the vicinity of Malir and Gadap towns in various housing schemes and bastis.
The Afghan Pashtuns settled in Sohrab Goth, Qaidabad, Banaras and Kemari, areas traditionally inhabited by Pashtuns. There was no proper settlement plan: Sohrab Goth, the largest settlement, for example, reached at least 100,000 at its peak. Traffic between Karachi and Afghanistan and Pakistan’s frontier, notably Fata, increased. The increase in refugees was matched by the growth in the supply of weapons and narcotics from Afghanistan (p.116).
The high-threat groups in Karachi are al Qaeda (Qari Zafar Group), TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah Sahaba Pakistan. The medium-threat groups are Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan, Harkatul Mujahideen alAlami, Harkatul Jihad-al-Islami, Tehrik-e-Islami Lashkar-e-Muhammadi and Jandullah. Low-threat groups are the Harkatul Ansar, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-e-Jafaria. The most active local groups are Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its military wing, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (p.117).
Jamia Banuria is the ideological headquarters of the Deobandi terrorist outfits, although much lowered in profile by its post-Shamzai leadership. The first vehicle-borne suicide bombing in Pakistan took place in Karachi on May 8, 2002, when a suicide bomber from Harkatul Mujahideen alAlami, drove into the side of a bus outside the Sheraton Hotel: 11 of the 14 killed were French naval technicians staying at the hotel (p.120).
Karachi trained terrorists for al Qaeda’s actions in Southeast Asia. Between January, 2002 and August, 2003, Hanbali, a senior Indonesian al Qaeda leader, received a total of $130,000 from Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (p.123). Al Qaeda’s Abu Ammar exported explosives to the US using a Karachi-based textile import and export firm. He was supported by Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT biology graduate and PhD candidate in neuro-cognitive sciences at Brandeis University, who also lived in Karachi (p.125).
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2011.