Activists of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Sohrab Goth have started closing party offices after receiving threats from the banned militant group, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
According to sources in the ANP, TTP members in Karachi have asked people from the Mehsud tribe in Sohrab Goth to leave the party, otherwise they will be killed. The party’s activists in Sohrab Goth, Manghopir, Kunwari Colony and Sultanabad have closed unit and ward offices in these areas and have removed party flags and graffiti from their houses and party offices.
After the threats, local ANP leaders and activists have reportedly left Karachi and gone into hiding. Eight unit offices have been closed by party activists in Gadap and Sohrab Goth including the offices of Unit-12, Unit-18, Unit-3, Unit-16, Unit-8, Unit-7 and the Unit office of Lassi Goth.
“They [the TTP] have asked all the people of our Mehsud tribe leave ANP and join their organisation,” said an ANP official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“They call from different cell numbers or send their messages through their messengers and ask for money. They are getting Rs1,000 extortion money every month from each shop of Super Market in Sohrab Goth.”
According to the ANP official, the threats have come from people associated with the TTP’s Waliur Rehman group, headed in Karachi by a man called Khan Zaman. The men reportedly change their location and names periodically to evade the police. They are also allegedly involved in extortion, and have made demands for up to Rs4 million depending on the financial status of their targets.
“People pay them because of the fear of being killed. The name of TTP has spread fear among the people which is why the Mehsud people are not rising against them, otherwise we can eradicate them in a day,” he added.
“Kunwari Colony and Sohrab Goth are the most affected areas where the TTP is targeting our people. They are taking extortion money from Wazir and Mehsud people of these two areas,” said a leader of the ANP in Sindh.
The TTP is also targeting the affluent members of ANP for extortion and have killed people for ‘betraying them’. “This is very dangerous for our party and it will damage the party because they [the TTP] live among us and we can’t recognise them. They can easily kill you as you can’t hide from them.”
ANP Sindh General Secretary Bashir Jan denied the threats. “It is propaganda by those people who joined ANP to do illegal activities but they were not allowed to use ANP.”
The TTP has neither accepted nor denied its involvement.
According to Bashir Jan, the ANP is already at war with the TTP and has been receiving threats from the group for the past four years. “They have killed our people in Karachi but the threats in Sohrab Goth are not real. I don’t know if someone is threatened individually but there is no such thing that ANP activists are threatened. We have not closed our offices,” said Jan.
ANP’s Bashir Jan said that his party has always fought against tyrants. “We, the followers of Bacha Khan, are not afraid of death or the Taliban’s threats and we are fighting against them. If someone is afraid then he should leave the party.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2012.