Karachi, it seems, didn’t turn out to be a safe retreat for pro-government Pashtun leaders seeking to escape the vengeful Taliban in Swat and tribal areas – refugee-militants have begun targeting Awami National Party workers in the metropolis.
The most recent attack was on ANP Sindh central working committee member Amir Sardar, who hailed from Thana, Malakand.
Sardar, 55, who was associated with the ANP for over 30 years, was shot dead, along with two other ANP Sindh activists, near his home in SITE Town, Karachi, on Monday.
The Malakand chapter of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the killings, claiming Sardar was punished for his assistance to the police in arresting TTP men.
Sher Shah Khan, an elected representative from Swat in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Assembly, told The Express Tribune that over 65 people hailing from Swat have been killed in Karachi in target killings, mostly at the hands of the TTP.
According to Sher Shah, militants fled to Karachi when the Pakistan Army and paramilitary forces launched an operation in Swat against the Maulana Fazalullah-led militants in 2009.
“For a year, they abandoned their activities and remained underground, but later, they started killing pro-government leaders and those who were associated with peace committees in Swat or supported security forces,” he said.
People from the Kabal Tehsil of Swat were mostly targeted as the tehsil was the birthplace of TTP-Swat.
“Since the military offensive in Swat, 36 people from Kabal Tehsil have been killed in Karachi, mostly by militants from TTP-Swat,” Sher Shah added.
He also raised the issue in the K-P Assembly. “If a military operation can be conducted in Swat, then why not in Karachi?” he said.
Saifullah Khan, chairman of the Nekpikhel Aman Jirga in Swat, told The Express Tribune that militants began targeting influential people from Swat in May 2010, and have, so far, killed over 60 people in Karachi.
Former ANP Sindh District West president Saeed Ahmed Khan was killed in SITE Town on January 5, 2012. One of the attackers, identified as Aminullah, was killed on the spot by retaliatory fire by the police.
“Aminullah was a member of the Fazalullah group in Swat and was hiding in Karachi since the military offensive,” Saifullah said.
On June 18, Sher Ali Khan, head of Swat Quami Ittehad and Chairman Pakistan Seamen’s Union, was also killed in SITE.
“The militants have killed mainly those people who were associated with peace committees or those who supported the military operation,” Saifullah said, adding that there was no doubt that they are killing people from Swat ‘to settle score’.
‘Taliban not the only killers’
ANP Sindh General Secretary Bashir Jan, however, says the Taliban are not the only ones behind the killing of Pashtuns.
“Blaming the Taliban for every killing is not correct. There are a multiple factors involved in the target killings of Pashtuns in Karachi,” Jan told The Express Tribune.
“The Taliban have killed some of our people in Karachi but they are not responsible for all the killings,” he added.
Jan said his party has asked law enforcement agencies to provide security to its leaders in Sindh, numbering between 30 and 40. However, he added, their request is yet to be fulfilled.
Meanwhile, Chief of the Anti-Extremist Cell of the Crime Investigation Department SSP Chaudhry Muhammad Aslam Khan told The Express Tribune: “We have arrested a number of militants hailing from Swat in Karachi, who are wanted in various cases back home,” Khan said.
While admitting that militants from Swat are involved in target killings, he stressed that militants from tribal regions are far more active in Karachi.
West Zone SSP Amer Farooqi suspected that most of the target killings are preplanned and militants had come to Karachi with specific instructions and plans.
“A new trend has emerged,” he said. “They have started killing policemen to increase their personal influence, and I also think they kill each other because they support different groups.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2012.