Explainer: Why the MQM raid was conducted today and what it means for Karachi's security

Published: March 11, 2015
A paramilitary soldier displays weapons recovered during a raid on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political party's headquarters in Karachi. PHOTO: REUTERS

A paramilitary soldier displays weapons recovered during a raid on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political party's headquarters in Karachi. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: Karachi’s residents woke up to worrying news this morning as they switched on their TVs or went through their smart phones looking for the latest news of the day.

By 7.30am, WhatsApp groups were abuzz with reports of a Rangers operation underway at Nine Zero – Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) headquarters in Karachi. By 9.30am the operation was over. A Rangers spokesman said the office would be under the police’s custody for some time before being handed back to the party.

Read: One dead, several injured as Rangers raid MQM headquarters

A video released by the party to news channels showed several men sitting crouched on a road, with their hands behind their heads. Another scene showed a Rangers official, wearing a mask to partially cover his face, talking to MQM leader Aamir Khan. The MQM vehemently protested the action by the paramilitary force and said it was uncalled for given that the party was more than ready to hand over any criminals within its ranks to law-enforcement agencies.

The Rangers, too, were quick to brief the media. They showed, what they said, were arms and ammunition recovered during the raid. “The arms that we seized during today’s raid include many whose import is banned in Pakistan,” a Rangers spokesman said. He also said that several “hardened criminals and target killers” had been detained during the raid, including Faisal ‘Mota’ who had been awarded a death sentence for involvement in the murder of journalist Wali Khan Babar.

Read: Wali Khan Babar murder: One by one, 4 men linked to investigations bumped off

That a paramilitary operation had raided the office of Pakistan’s fourth largest political party a day after that party refused to support the ruling PML-N’s candidate for Senate chairman is perhaps too much of a coincidence to be ignored. Perhaps, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), without whose consent the raid would not have happened, is sending a message to the MQM for its perceived disloyalty in the Senate chairman’s election.

That said, the raid put the MQM on the defensive, and it responded to the weapons allegation by the Rangers by saying that these weapons were all licenced and kept in the party’s office for security purposes after the party had received threats from the Taliban. (That is a fact. The party came under the ire of outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in 2012 as well as during the run-up to the 2013 general election).

Read: Luncheon meeting: Nawaz to host political parties’ heads today

So what now? The party has appealed for calm but the city has all but shut down. Moreover, markets in several cities in Sindh such as Hyderabad, Sukkur, Nawabshah and Mirpurkhas have not opened for the day as well. The party’s response will depend to a great extent to what happens to the several dozen of its members it says the Rangers have taken into custody.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected in Karachi and it is likely that the MQM will register a protest with him in person. However, given what happened the last time there was a meeting in Karachi on the Karachi situation, the real shots in this are being called by GHQ and it may prevail on the premier to let matters take their course.

While the outcome of these events is awaited, the people of Karachi – a city of over 20 million – will have to wait and see. Economic activity for Wednesday will be halted and ordinary people are going to face considerable hardship in the force of lost pay (for the hundreds of thousands of day wage earners), a difficult commute to work or no petrol. The party is likely to calibrate its response for the coming days going on the days developments as they unfold.

Read: Taliban claim responsibility for attack on MQM camp

No party, in government or in opposition, would be against an operation against hardened criminals and target killers but let’s face it – Karachi has seen violence by armed groups operating across the political spectrum and even jihadi and sectarian outfits have a presence in the city. In the interest of fairplay and being seen as even-handed, operations should be conducted against all such entities lest the city’s biggest political party and its supporters were to feel that they were being unfairly singled out.

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Reader Comments (54)

  • Rashid
    Mar 11, 2015 - 1:29PM

    NW learn something from Model town , have a less hateful strategy to gain political edge.Recommend

  • sohail abbasi
    Mar 11, 2015 - 1:33PM

    Because they are running terrorist activities in karachi, they should be eliminated from karachi if government want to restore peace in the cityRecommend

  • Humad NIsar
    Mar 11, 2015 - 2:01PM

    few questions:
    -if the weapons found in 90 were licensed, where are the license? They are supposedly the same weapons which have been stolen from NATO’s container
    – What are these criminals, who are murderers, target killers, who were captured in 90, what they were doing at the headquarters of this biggest political party of Karachi? Recommend

  • Humad NIsar
    Mar 11, 2015 - 2:03PM

    few questions the writer of this article :
    -if the weapons found in 90 were licensed, where are the license? They are supposedly the same weapons which have been stolen from NATO’s container
    – What are these criminals, who are murderers, target killers, who were captured in 90, what they were doing at the headquarters of this biggest political party of Karachi? Recommend

  • Raisani
    Mar 11, 2015 - 2:08PM

    It has nothing to do with senate elections. Nine Zero is not a holy place that it can’t be raided. A terrorists should be traced out everywhere.
    ET: you guys also be brave now, a peaceful Pakistan is going to emerge soon. Recommend

  • Parvez
    Mar 11, 2015 - 2:11PM

    No I’m not buying the explanation…..its too pat.Recommend

  • Imran Qadri
    Mar 11, 2015 - 2:14PM

    Does your “Special Correspondent” have a name?Recommend

  • sab
    Mar 11, 2015 - 2:18PM

    the explainer did not explain the arrest of Faisal Mehmood, convicted in the murder of Babur Wali. Recommend

  • Punjabidude
    Mar 11, 2015 - 2:31PM

    “..without whose consent the raid would not have happened..”

    Anyone who thinks that the Rangers are under the control of, or reporting to, Ministry Interior, or the PM, has no sense of how politics runs in this country. All law enforcement agencies are very very reluctant to share details of operations beforehand with ANY government officials, lest it be leaked in return for political favors.

    Hope the current operation restores peace in Karachi, and frees the people of all mafias.Recommend

  • Karachiite
    Mar 11, 2015 - 2:39PM

    First they said rangers planted the weapons, now they’re saying weapons are all legal and belong to them for self defense. Can they make up their mind?Recommend

  • Common person in Karachi
    Mar 11, 2015 - 2:51PM

    I donot buy this biased and unreal Picture of the story.The writer is not neutral and is total unfair. Lets say BAD is BAD even if it is me.After all we have to face ALLAH.Accept the truth.Recommend

  • Ali
    Mar 11, 2015 - 3:21PM

    sorry too lame… this is not the 90s dude.Recommend

  • khan
    Mar 11, 2015 - 3:32PM

    What a confused and confusing piece . The writer claims that the incident , perhaps , has something to do with the senate elections and PMLN is sending some kind of signals through this. Then he goes on to claim the real shots are called by the GHQ. So which version is correct ?. Recommend

  • usman zahid
    Mar 11, 2015 - 3:35PM

    what a bad biased article maligning political parties like PMLN when the writer well wont call him a write but whatever sort of writing he has done in his article, is saying himself that shots are being called by GHQ! Poor Poor Poor set of mind rather focusing on the huge cache of weapons being found focus on disloyalty over Senate Chairman! What a petty mind, rather go back to 99 when Army wasn’t inclined to take Gov into confidence over Kargil! so yea they must have waited for the nod from Government for not helping their candidate Recommend

  • Hasan Askari
    Mar 11, 2015 - 4:01PM

    Most of the comments here are from Non-Urdu speakers or people disguised as Urdu speakers. I am from UP…lol.

    We the real Urdu speakers will continue to support MQM because it is the most educated party and when its educated people speaks it connects. Sure its not perfect.

    SO yes get this into your head and stop doing these dramas every 5 year. Let us live in peace and continue with your tribal and feudal ways..just mind your own business and stop hating othersRecommend

  • Firoze
    Mar 11, 2015 - 4:06PM

    @Humad NIsar:
    Please read the article carefully. Rangers have said that the weapons siezed include some which are banned in Pakistan. So there is no question of licenses.

    In the interest of fairplay and being
    seen as even-handed, operations should
    be conducted against all such entities
    lest the city’s biggest political
    party and its supporters were to feel
    that they were being unfairly singled

    They are being singled out but not unfairly. MQM is the hub of criminal activity in Karachi so targetting them is the right course of action.

    They should go after the other groups as well though. But they can’t go after them all at once and whether they do it at all depends on the success of this operation. If pressure is brought to bear on the architects of this operation they will never target the other parties and the law of the jungle will prevail.Recommend

  • Urban Legend
    Mar 11, 2015 - 4:32PM

    Height of coincidence – no MQM worker was apprehended, produced to media or killed – right after MQM agreed to support PPP in the Senate elections. The moment it said NO to PUNJAB, they have come hard on them. Choice between the rock and the hard place. Pakistan is a dirty place for Karachi ppl.Recommend

  • Karachi Man
    Mar 11, 2015 - 4:36PM

    I smell the hatred and bias of the bigger province towards Karachi. The dictatorial way has been tried in the past and we are left with our one half separated. The stupidity still prevails and I dont want to think what shape or form this country would eventually end up with.Recommend

  • Shakil
    Mar 11, 2015 - 4:48PM

    Any explanation cant justify arms and criminals found in so called a political party!
    It should not be safe haven for criminals and militants FULL STOP. stop justifying by saying its not fair to only target MQM, fairness aside all criminals should not be feeling safe whatever party they belong to.
    These parties thrive on criminal proceeds from Karachi hence the area grabs and no go areas. Get rid of them. Recommend

  • Aisha Shaikh
    Mar 11, 2015 - 4:58PM

    The US Embassy’s official position was there was no stolen container and hence no ammunition from there. This is completely false and planted information through set up of putting weapons there. Recommend

  • Urban Legend
    Mar 11, 2015 - 5:13PM

    @Shakil: You are not living in Pakistan. Arms are “licensed” and every political party or religious leader and every a business man have their own security guards who carry big weapons. And its a common scene on Karachi roads with the Vigos having shalwar qameez wearing big moustache guards.Recommend

  • Syed Mohiuddin
    Mar 11, 2015 - 5:15PM

    @Hasan Askari… Please dont spread the stereotype that all urdu speaking support MQM. I am also a REAL (if i go by your words) urdu speaker, and my family & friends have no sympathy, let alone affiliation with MQM. MQM mindset is history, and we need a progressive party for everyone in Pakistan, not just urdu speakers. And yes, pro ethnic mindset is also becoming history, so you better jump on the wagon of future united pakistan, or die rotting in your segregated ethic mindset, because our children wont forgive us if WE don’t changeRecommend

  • EMAD
    Mar 11, 2015 - 5:32PM

    I am a PTI supporter but this notion that MQM did not side with PMLN in the senate election lead to this raid, is baseless. Altaf’s claim that rangers smuggled these weapson into HQ, in blankets = lies Recommend

  • jock
    Mar 11, 2015 - 6:06PM

    @Hasan Askari:
    So how are the things back home in your UP? Are folks there as judgmental as you are? Hope not. So his is why you and your type act differently when the general is urdu-speaking.Recommend

  • Humza
    Mar 11, 2015 - 6:18PM

    @Hasan Askari: Who cares whether you are an Urdu speaker from India or a native Pakistani of any background. You should speak up against violence done by anyone regardless of ethnicity. It’s obvious all those heavy weapons at the MQM Headquarters don’t belong there and the Rangers are doing their job like they should.Recommend

  • Hasan Askari
    Mar 11, 2015 - 6:23PM

    Syed Mohiuddin

    My first comment would be to go and learn some manners and stop acting like a tribal by wishing others death.

    Second, of course it is illogical to say ALL Urdu speakers support MQM. But when we make such statements it is a figure of speech and means majority. In countless elections, under different circumstances MQM has won there. And please please do not reply and say “dhandli” hoti hai “gun point” pe hotein hain. We are educated people here.

    And United Pakistan will only come when you respect everyone. Musharraf gave them their due and they changed Karachi and did good. Then your lovers of United Pakistan came back and shut the local system to grab the money. United Pakistan means merit. United Pakistan means respecting mandate not doubting mandate. United Pakistan means going after lashkar jhnagvis in punjab, united pakistan means not celebrating a killer like qadri, united pakistan mean going after abdul aziz in lal masjid. There your legs shake.

    There is a reason MQM wins…this action only makes it stronger. If people behind this understood that point then they would not have to do these dramas every few years.Recommend

  • Naeem Ahmed
    Mar 11, 2015 - 6:31PM

    I am an Urdu Speaker who lives in Area 252 Defense…( PTI vs MQM dispute) ; I belong to lets say highest possible income tax group and been educated overseas……I had been studying the situation closely ever since the hysteria about PTI and against MQM by my near and dear ones…….todays episode has re-affirned my belief that the imported thugs from bigger province and the racist attitude of Establishment is the EXACT reason why MQM was most logical natural choice. Todays thuggery proves just exactly why MQM needs to exist. It has been demonstrated yet gain how the bigots/racists detest the unambiguous chosen party of Karachi.
    Thank you Pakistan Kunjars , for making us harder and more seasoned supporters of MQM.

    All you closet racists. You need to get a reality check.

    No wonder this is a Banana Republic and a Police State. It suddenly makes total sense why Baloch Nationalists treat the Punjabis( In Baluchistan) the way they do! Recommend

  • Jafri
    Mar 11, 2015 - 7:19PM

    MQM is a reality and will remain a reality. We the people of Karachi vote for MQM and will continue voting for MQM. This is the only party which was formed through a student movement during a dictatorship. If the media was as big as it was back in the day MQM it would have been the largest party in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hasan Askari
    Mar 11, 2015 - 7:21PM


    jock? lol. I was referring to someone claiming to be from UP.

    Yes that is one reason. And of course the fact that he happened to be a good leader as well who did not loot like Zardari and Nawaz, your types. Recommend

  • MA
    Mar 11, 2015 - 7:31PM

    @Naeem Ahmed:
    No disrespect to your intelligence but there is a fine difference between ‘studying closely’ and have direct one hand experience. I grew up in Nazimabad and still live there.

    I have seen and experienced forced shutter downs of schools and shops by MQM activists in my area. I have seen more than that you could even imagine or ever would. In 2013 elections my sister along with other voters were locked out from the Election office by your party members. My mother, an ex teacher was forced out from the school during 2007 elections by MQM activists, though she was on the duty but was told blatantly to either obey or get ready!!…..You can call MQM adversaries whatever you may want but that won’t change the reality. But perhaps that would be too difficult for you to digest since you belong to the ‘highest possible income tax group and been educated overseas’ and live on the other side of the bridge. if you know what i mean…

    ET, please print this…don’t fear when Maula Jatt is here!!! :-)Recommend

  • Hasan Askari
    Mar 11, 2015 - 7:45PM

    And I have seen family and friends voting for them without any force. They come and respectfully ask for the votes. People outside Karachi are not getting this. We connect with MQM. It is cultural affiliation as well. Big deal. Are Punjabis not voting for Nawaz? Sindhis for PPP?

    We do not connect with Punjabis, Pathans, Sindhis. It is not racism. However if a good educated leader comes who is fair to all and treats everyone on merit then yes we can support that person. However there is no one. All are going for their own.

    In such a scenario MQM flourished and InshAllah will continue to do so.

    Look at rangers…wearing masks like terrorists.

    They do not have the courage to say a word to evil like Aziz in Lal Masjid. There that terrorist is enjoying government perks and a respected person. A judge of Lahore High court is defending Qadri a murderer. lahkars, sipah, jais are from Punjab. TTP from NWFP.

    Please do not mind..we just do not like leaders like Imran Khan who support terrorists. Same goes with Nawaz. Zardari is better but then he is corrupt.

    So yes MQM is the best choice. Recommend

  • Naeem Ahmed
    Mar 11, 2015 - 7:45PM

    Surprise surprise, before moving to the other side of the bridge, I was brought up in the Area b/w Norul Islam Masjd and Ahbab Musjid in Nazimabad.
    Living in both area of Karachi…..taught me exactly why MQM was fully justified 30 years ago and why it is just as relevant today.It was very same Army which sat idle when blood shed was carried out in Orangi Town massacre, Pucca Qila and firing at buses by Qadir Magsi!!!I have seen up close and personal …and that forms the basis of my argument, not just lame teenage infatuation.

    Your bad experiences ( with MQM) are only a friendly encounter compared to what goes in other areas of Pakistan.

    You give me enough man and I will get you nuclear and chemical weapons from the fortress of DG Kunjars!How about your sanctimonious Rangers raiding Bilawal House or house of any other thug ( feudal lord) in DHA. Recommend

  • Waseem
    Mar 11, 2015 - 7:50PM

    No political party can have that many of weapons in their headquarter. Only terrorist party can.Recommend

  • sohail
    Mar 11, 2015 - 8:14PM

    @Naeem Ahmed. This. Thank you sir for mentioning the truth in few words…Punjab with all its arrogance wants to repeat the episode of 1971.Recommend

  • Bahadurkhan
    Mar 11, 2015 - 8:41PM

    This incident establishes the fact that muhajir/Indian immigrant is no more relevant in Pakistan politics. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, madhya Bharat Muslims who have gone there in 47, or their relatives need to think seriously about future,Recommend

  • truth
    Mar 11, 2015 - 8:43PM

    Time for MQM to organise like MuktiBahni,Decleare independence and seek help from India and the world to get thier rights.Recommend

  • Usman
    Mar 11, 2015 - 9:17PM

    @Naeem Ahmed: Please don’t insult our intelligence by calling yourself educated. Recommend

  • Moazzam Salim
    Mar 11, 2015 - 9:45PM

    ET’s Special Corespondent seems to be specially biased. He notes that; “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected in Karachi and it is likely that the MQM will register a protest with him in person. However, given what happened the last time there was a meeting in Karachi on the Karachi situation, the real shots in this are being called by GHQ and it may prevail on the premier to let matters take their course.”

    BUT says that the Rangers’ operation came after PMLN was denied MQM support? Really? after admitting that GHQ is the real authority in Karachi, is it not hypocrisy to say that PMLN ordered the Op? Recommend

  • Ali
    Mar 11, 2015 - 9:46PM

    How did they get the license for weapons which can’t be legally imported? And why were criminals, who were given death sentence, found in 90?Recommend

  • Napier Mole
    Mar 11, 2015 - 9:47PM

    For detractors of mqm, the irony is that despite all its follies and often high handedness, mqm continues to hold the sway in Karachi and other urban areas of Sindh precisely due to the prejudicial actions of the parochial elements in Sindh and Punjab establishment.

    Yes, it is a known fact that mqm has been high handed and may or still have goons in its fold but then what is the alternative? To see hooded rangers from a supposedly legal agency raiding the head office of a political party? To see Karachi cobbled up between Sindh and federal governments by denying Karachi a fully functioning metropolitan government? To see the roads of Karachi run over by tribals? To see Karachi policed by an overwhelming number of non-locals? To see Karachiites disappearing gradually from all key provincial and federal government posts? Canada, US and middle east provided a respite for so many Karachiites to move permanently or temporarily out of their city and the country but if those options did not exist there could have been a full scale insurgency in the city.

    Hence, those aspiring to eliminate mqm must first eliminate the causes which create the sense of injustice and oppression for Karachiites. Till that time a resistance movement whether by the name of mqm or any other would continue to exist, come what may.Recommend

  • hamza khan
    Mar 11, 2015 - 10:40PM

    @Naeem Ahmed:

    your sentiment is understandable sir. i too am from karachi, and my family from a well to do area. i too have been educated abroad. the problem with MQM is not its reactionary existence to racism from other provinces, but rather its means of using violence to extract loyalty and financial gains in the same city it claims to represent and protect. is there even an iota of a doubt as to the culprits of the baldia factory fire? the JIT report, signed by intel agencies who have no problem with MQM per se, affirm this allegation. the MQM can be a mainstream political party if it follows its manifesto more closely, gets rid of the mafioso altaf hussain, and cleans up karachi and works for it rather than against it. Recommend

  • Humad NIsar
    Mar 11, 2015 - 11:43PM

    Please read http://www.dawn.com/news/1168840
    This article of dawn has more in depth details of this raid(with least biases)
    For your concern over license
    “According to Rangers spokerperson Colonel Tahir, ammunition stolen from Nato containers was also seized during the search operation at Nine Zero.”

    Response of MQM spokes person
    “Speaking to media, MQM leader Faisal Subzwari admitted that weapons were seized during the raid, but said that they were all licensed ”

    While their party leader response is
    “He maintained that the ammunition seized from Nine Zero by Rangers does not belong to MQM. He further said that if the weapons belonged to MQM, they would not have been stored in Nine Zero”
    So if you are done defending MQM, i would like to go back to my original question , if the weapons found in 90 were licensed, where are the license? They are supposedly the same weapons which have been stolen from NATO’s containerRecommend

  • Sajjad
    Mar 12, 2015 - 12:11AM

    Seems like an MQM sympathizer wrote or dictated this piece.Recommend

    Mar 12, 2015 - 12:27AM

    Let the stores and businesses shut down for good if they support killing, looting and extortion. If PM extended his hand in compromise to MQM then he sacrificed National Interest over Personsonal gains. Recommend

  • Anza Ijaz Chaudhry
    Mar 12, 2015 - 1:54AM

    Wow, educated ignorants do exist in Pakistan. Just the fact that a person like Altaf Hussain leads MQM is enough for a rational person to oppose their ideology and ever corrupt ppractices.Recommend

  • An Architect from Karachi
    Mar 12, 2015 - 3:40AM

    Only a free & fair election under supervision of Pak Army will reveal the true “strength” of MQM in Karachi. In reality MQM’s true strength is in fear. It has lost its following in masses. We Karahites have learn a lot from past decade. We know who is who & what is what. Its not 1990’s anymore. Only blinds can ignore the facts.
    Rangers has done a great job today. Late but right.

    P.s: what is the name of the writer? Let me guess… “Namaloom Afraad”?Recommend

  • Danish Ali
    Mar 12, 2015 - 4:13AM

    Either the writer is too innocent to understand the gravity of the “Work activities of 90” or is under the influence of MQM, beacusre any insane person who have lived in Karachi would know how MQM hire terrorists and target killers for people who don’t go by their consent. Totally support the Rangers operation in 90 Karachi.Recommend

  • Anwaar
    Mar 12, 2015 - 6:51AM

    Well,,, happy with the news that they captured weapon & some notorious target killer.
    Ranger says, armed the captured weapons are banned to import Pakistan.
    MQM says these weapons are licensed.
    What a contrast!!! Recommend

  • Mar 12, 2015 - 7:05AM

    Take a good look in the mirror. ‘…an Urdu speaker from India…..or a native pak’
    tells your racist attitude towards Muhajjirs. after 68 years they are still Urdu speakers
    from India. The muhajjir have had enough. They want a separate province. no more
    living under Punjabi Sindhi or Pathan hegemony. A province. That will happen soon.
    @Naeem Ahmed:
    Excellent comment ! Thanks. Recommend

  • S.F.Ali
    Mar 12, 2015 - 9:10AM

    Please don’t use the word JIHAD or JIHADI in a sense it is mentioned above. Jihad is something very serious in our religion. Iif someone committing any crime behind its name, so at least its our responsibility to segregate them or their acts from Jihad or Islam in anything we speak/listen/read/write. ThanksRecommend

  • Furqan
    Mar 12, 2015 - 9:19AM

    @ Hasan Askari

    First of all MQM is not an educated organization, they sold thier books to buy guns when thier leader asked them to do so in the past. secondly a terrorist organization doesnt represents Urdu speaking pakistanis living in karachi(i didnt wanted to mention urdu speaking but forced to clear Hasan askari like minded people).
    Dear all pro-MQMs, people of karachi’s mind is now changed and you know this very well by the election results as you have to work for day or two days to change the election results. Recommend

  • Eijaz
    Mar 12, 2015 - 10:01AM

    So you thought nobody knew why the raid was conducted? The reason you gave is known by every infant. What a stupid story.Recommend

  • Baba Karachi Wala
    Mar 12, 2015 - 11:14AM

    I do read the tribune paper daily. But I feel Sorry on the common sense of Tribune by publishing such biased and Unreal picture.And this article makes lame excuses.Even a blind but unbiased person can see this Terrorism going on in Karachi. where most of the political parties have there share in this Terrorism. This Party has bigger share so they must have payback.But true everybody who is responsible should be punished even if it is me myself. Don’t forget have to face ALLAH one day.Recommend

  • Morons
    Mar 12, 2015 - 10:35PM

    The discriminate minds of Punjab will not understand that mandate of MQM is genuine.Please Repsect It. Don’t create another Bangladesh!! Recommend

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