Surjani violence: New strain of violence has law enforcers fearing the worst

Published: August 3, 2011
A child searches for scrap metal outside Afroze Textile in Ahsanabad where up to 80 parked staff motorcycles were set ablaze a day ago. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

A child searches for scrap metal outside Afroze Textile in Ahsanabad where up to 80 parked staff motorcycles were set ablaze a day ago. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Clashes over 
land-grabbing leave at least 10 dead in Surjani Town. A child searches for scrap metal outside Afroze Textile in Ahsanabad where up to 80 parked staff motorcycles were set ablaze a day ago. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

In what appears to be yet another ethnic clash, property worth millions was torched and at least 10 people were killed on Monday night.

Authorities worry that the incident, believed to be a fight over land-grabbing between Seraiki-speaking people from southern Punjab and Pashto-speaking people, may be the beginnings of a new ethnic war.

Surjani’s population is a mix of Urdu-, Seraiki- and Pashto-speaking people. Usually clashes between ethnic groups across the city are thought to be between certain groups but for the first time, a new group has entered the fray.

“This is the first time that I have seen Seraiki- and Pashto-speaking people fighting,” said Additional IG Saud Mirza, who has been in a slew of meetings with officers across the city in an attempt to stem the violence. “It is definitely not a good sign.” He feared that this new violence could escalate and spread. More and more law enforcers have been deployed to Surjani in an attempt to nip the danger in the bud, he added.

A police official told The Express Tribune that the whole issue, like most political clashes in the city, is the land mafia’s doing. In the beginning, two land grabbers locked horns and the scuffle gradually went from two ethnicities fighting to a political clash.

He said that land grabbers and the supporters of political parties use each other to their own advantage. “If you compare the Seraiki and Pashtun, then you find that the Pashto-speaking men are more in number,” he said. “The Seraiki do not have the resources, weapons or manpower to take on the Pashtun.”

Both are, however, backed by political parties.

Pakistan Seraiki Qaumi Ittehad (PSQI) chairman Colonel (rtd) Jabbar Abbasi told The Express Tribune that the clash was not a random, isolated incident but was the result of a chain of many small fights that have been breaking out between the two groups for a couple of months now. He denied the involvement or support of any political party.

He claimed that it started when a Pashto-speaking person allegedly urinated on a newly constructed house belonging to the PSQI general secretary, Haji Nazeer Ahmed, in Surjani, leading to a fight between the two groups.

Next, a Seraiki-speaking person identified as Allah Dita, was killed and four others were wounded in firing while they were on their way to the Northern Bypass to hold a protest over the abduction of Seraiki children, also apparently by the rival group. “We are targeted each time,” he said. “How long are we meant to bear it? The police never catches the actual culprits.”

On Sunday, Tahir Khan, identified as Allah Ditta’s killer, by the Seraiki group, was murdered in Surjani. “The Seraikis and Pashtun have always lived together in harmony, but recently these small fights have escalated into a bigger problem,” Abbasi said. “When Tahir died, the Pashtun began attacking our houses and we did what we had to do to protect ourselves.” Pashtun leader Younus Buneri contradicted Abbasi, claiming that the Seraiki and Pashtun have nothing against each other and the Pashtun have always supported the Seraikis. He said that the same force that is behind the violence across the city is responsible for the unrest in Surjani. The people behind the violence take minor scuffles over personal matters and turn them into ethnic or political issues, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Yahya
    Aug 3, 2011 - 2:42AM

    Karachi should be handed over to Army for ever .. complete banned to weapon .. if anyone has it , it should be punished by death penalty .,


  • SK-Salman
    Aug 3, 2011 - 4:09AM

    It is amazing that despite abundance of media coverage for the ethnic clashes the picture remains fuzzy to the common readers and it is almost impossible to understand who is behind these killings.

    In this news item someone seems to be lying. The news clearly identifies the victims and name the names as opposed to in many other news coverages. Abbasi, a leader of the Seraikis, is clearly stating that lately the fights between the Seraikis and Pashtuns “have escalated into a bigger problem.” But, Pashtun leader Younus Buneri contradicts Abbasi, but does not give any details or back-up evidence. Buneri blames “the same force that is behind the violence across the city is responsible for the unrest in Surjani.” Someone is clearly lying. The common citizens of Karachi deserve to know the truth.

    Our Maasi, who is Seraiki and lives in Surjani Town, came back to work after an absence of a week, and says that the Pathans have forced everyone indoors and there is no supply of water or groceries,in her area and have threatened to kill anyone who comes out of their homes. Given the fact that this is a person with no political involvement and I know her as a simple and honest person, I will give more credence to what she is saying. She walked with six other neighbors and paid Rs. 600 to take a rickshaw on Northern Bypass to get to Sohrab Goth to catch a bus to come to work. Our hearts bleed to hear these tortuous stories of people who are already poor and destitute.

    Now, please after reading this, do not form an opinion about the Pathans. This is only a small segment of people belonging to the Pathan community. Otherwise, the Pathans seem to be equally victimized in other parts of the city.


  • Ali
    Aug 3, 2011 - 4:41AM

    MQM now backing seraiki people to fulfill it’s agenda!
    Dirty politics!


  • nazarrabi
    Aug 3, 2011 - 7:24AM

    there are killing pashtuns, this game play by ,i.s.i m.q.m panjabi people of pakistan,we pashtuns should wake up


  • danish ali ahmad
    Aug 3, 2011 - 1:05PM

    @ ali, your ill thought towards one party is not of your own, you were brainwashed for 60 years.
    this was the line taken for atleast 20 years, if it is ‘TRUE that MQM do dirty politics’ then i dont see a damn reason why you not condem PMLN or PPP to form alliance with MQM.
    i mean for god sake, yu should open your eyes now…or its gonna be very late.
    lets say MQM is the culprit of evil not only in karachi but in all Pakistan, so why not just take it out? like baitullah mehsud, or atleast dclared it/?
    guess what? you do not have enough prove. the facts points toward ANP, and you need them in PK.
    so just keep quit instead of lying and blaming MQM, and celeberate the gift of ANP.
    ANP=ANP (doesnot mean pathan in a blanket way) pathans are living in the city peacefully for a long time. ANP was NAP before and was banned by SC of Pakistan. they were unleashed after 2008 election by PPP.


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