Karachi’s unwelcome guests


April 06, 2010

Pakistan’s fight against militants is no longer something that just happens in South Waziristan.

Commandos are training to confront the threat of militants now inside Karachi, reported a British television network on Sunday. Karachi, home to more than 18 million people, has some new guests - militants, many fresh from fighting in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s operations chief, Mullah Baradar, was arrested on February 7, a catch that indicates that the police combing the city streets for extremists were now on a new frontline. Detective Umer Shahid showed Channel 4 News his daily game of cat and mouse with the Taliban.

Nato is hunting them with sophisticated drones and satellites while the Karachi police does not have much more than a phone, a tip-off and lots of patience. The detective gave details on the arrest they had made a couple of days ago, in which they remained in their car for over four hours daily for a couple of days outside the madrassa from where their suspect was supposed to come out.

“The suspect belonged to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,” he said, adding that the detained man was linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban. The militants Shahid is targeting are mostly young and volatile. “I suppose they’re like tennis players or something that peaks pretty early, short career span,” he said. “It’s boring for the most part. [But] you can never rule out the possibility of something happening like resistance or the guy turning around and firing at you, or blowing himself up,” said Shahid.

The channel’s cameraman found two of the men the police wanted to catch as he followed them around and so, managed to get footage of the alleged Taliban militants at large in Karachi. Taliban commander Qari Zarar claimed he had helped bomb the Marriott hotel in Islamabad and also fought the Americans in Afghanistan.

In a chilling message, he said he was not in Karachi to hide, but had been ordered to come here to attack the city. “This is the commercial hub of Pakistan - a state at the front of the American war against us - and we have many targets here,” he said. “Our commanders ordered us to attack this city. We can weaken the government quite easily. All the decision makers are based here,” the militant added.

According to Zarar, some of the militants had been captured but the police put up a show of having caught much more than they actually had. Some of the incidents indicate that the militants are not very experienced, such as the one in which six suicide bombers blew themselves up by mistake in January. Police said that the militants simply did not know how to handle explosives.

The police faces a lot of threats in its fight against the militants. Several attempts, which included letter bombs and ambushes, have been made on police officers’ lives.

Shahid’s work relies on a network of local informers. “A lot of intelligence work has gone into it. Before we come out on a raid we’ve usually been working on it for weeks.”

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