Pre-dawn operation: Rangers swoop down on MQM headquarters

Paramilitary force claims target killers arrested, weapons cache seized


Photo: Sajid Rauf/faraz Khan March 12, 2015
A Rangers official shows the arms and ammunitions recovered during the raid. PHOTO : PPI

KARACHI:


The paramilitary Rangers raided the Muttahida Qaumi Movement headquarters Nine-Zero in the early hours of Wednesday, arresting dozens of activists – including ‘convicted criminals’ – and ‘seizing a huge quantity’ of weapons. The pre-dawn raid at the head office of Karachi’s main powerful political party triggered protests in different cities of the province, while the metropolitan city went into a virtual lockdown.


The Rangers claimed that they apprehended nearly half a dozen target killers – including Faisal Mehmood, aka Mota, who was condemned to death by a court over his involvement in the murder of television journalist Wali Khan Babar. The paramilitary force also claimed that it had seized a huge cache of illegal weapons from Nine-Zero.

According to witnesses, it was around 5am when a heavy contingent of Rangers, including commandos, raided the MQM headquarters, located in the Azizabad neighbourhood of Karachi. The entire neighbourhood was cordoned off and no one was allowed in or out during the operation that lasted around four hours.

While speaking to the media, Colonel Tahir Mehmood claimed that the raid inside and around Nine-Zero was conducted on a tip-off about the presence of hardcore criminals. “Weapons earlier stolen from Nato containers were also seized during the raid. The import of certain ammunition recovered from Nine-Zero is banned in Pakistan,” he added.

Colonel Mehmood claimed that target killers and other criminals were arrested during the operation. However, he denied any MQM lawmaker was detained. “No MNA or MPA was arrested; however, [Rabita Committee member] Amir Khan was held for questioning and will be allowed to leave once interrogation is over. Amir Khan will be questioned on how the criminals made their way into Nine-Zero,” he said.

According to a Rangers spokesperson, apart from Faisal Mota other alleged target killers arrested include Nadir, Farhan Shabbir alias Mullah, Amir, Ubaid K-2 and Nooruddin Subhani. He also shared with the media photographs of three of the criminals identified as Subhani, Ubaid and Mota.

The spokesperson did not disclose the specific location from where these men were arrested but said the culprits were taken into custody in a series of targeted raids in the surrounding of Nine-Zero including Khursheed Memorial Hall.

Mysterious killing of MQM worker

Following the raid, MQM workers gathered at Nine-Zero and staged a protest. Tensions escalated when a young unarmed party worker, Waqas Shah, was shot dead during the scuffle between MQM workers and paramilitary troops at a time when the Rangers were leaving Nine-Zero after concluding the operation.

The party claimed that their worker was killed by the Rangers. However, Rangers’ Director General Maj-Gen Bilal Akbar, refuted the claim, telling a TV channel that Shah was hit by a bullet fired from a pistol, a weapon not part of the paramilitary force’s armory.

The body of Waqas Shah was later taken to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for autopsy. “The bullet hole was small which suggests a small weapon was used to fire the shot. Now it is up to investigators to find out what weapon was used,” said a source at the hospital’s medico-legal section. No case was registered regarding the mysterious murder, but the police have opened investigation.

Sindh paralyzed

The news of the raid spread like a wildfire and MQM workers poured onto the streets to stage protest in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and other towns of Sindh. Karachi wore a deserted look following the protest call by the MQM as all major commercial centres and markets were shuttered while public transport remained thin on main thoroughfares throughout the day.

The situation remained tense despite repeated appeals by the Rangers and police to traders to resume business activities. All educational institutions in Karachi also remained closed and announced to postpone exams scheduled for the day.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2015.

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