By Ambreen Agha
Sindh, Pakistan’s Southern Province, witnessed spiralling violence throughout 2010, as did the rest of the country, with the number of terrorist attacks resulting in fatalities rising from 19 in 2009 to at least 62 in 2010 (all data till December 19, 2010). Significantly, after one of its worst incidents last year, the suicide bombing that killed 43 people in Karachi, the provincial and economic capital of the terror-ridden nation, on December 28, 2009, Asmatullah Shaheen, a Tehreek-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) ‘commander’, had threatened more attacks on “the US ally, declaring, “My group claims responsibility for the Karachi attack and we will carry out more such attacks within 10 days.”
Though the outfit just missed its declared deadline, an explosion was engineered on January 8, 2010, killing six persons in a house near the Babri mosque in Karachi’s Baldia Town locality. This was only the beginning of an unrelenting succession of terrorist strikes through the year. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, at least 162 persons were killed, including 111 civilians, 26 Security Force (SF) personnel and 25 militants, in as many as 62 incidents through 2010. [This data excludes ‘Targeted Killings’, which many believe are carried out by the terrorists, backed by warring political parties, and that are rampant in Sindh]. In 2009, total terrorism related fatalities stood at 66, including 49 civilians, 14 militants and three SFS, in 19 incidents.
Incidents of Killing
*Data: Till December 19, 2010
With total killings in terrorist incidents rising nearly two-and-a-half fold between 2009 and 2010, SF fatalities rose eight-fold. The number of civilians killed went up from 49 to 111, and of terrorists, from 14 to 25. Only two major incidents (involving three or more fatalities) had occurred in 2009, but their number increased to seven in 2010. The worst of these included:
November 11, 2010: At least 20 persons, including Frontier Corps officials and Policemen, were killed, and over were 100 injured, when an explosive-laden truck blew up inside the head office of the Crime Investigation Department (CID), which is located inside Karachi’s main ‘red zone’.
October 7, 2010: 10 persons, including two children, were killed and another more than 65 sustained injuries, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in the Clifton area of Karachi. The suicide bombers were reported to be teenage boys.
June 28, 2010: Five persons, including two members each from the Shia and Barelvi sects, were shot dead in different areas of Karachi City in the ongoing spree of sectarian killings.
February 5, 2010: At least 33 persons were killed and at least another 100, including women and children, were wounded in twin blasts in Karachi as the city marked Hazrat Imam Hussain’s Chehlum (40th Day after death) ceremony. The first explosion occurred at around 3:03 pm (PST) in the Shahrah-e-Faisal area of Karachi, targeting a bus taking 30 to 40 mourners to the city’s main Chehlum procession at Nishtar Park. The second explosion took place at about 4:55 pm at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where those injured or killed in the first explosion were being taken, amid a crowd of the victims’ relatives and the media.
A total of 133 incidents related to terrorism [including incidents of arrest, surrender, threat, explosion, killing, etc.] occurred in 2010 in Karachi as compared to 45 in 2009. SAIR had earlier (Volume 8.51), noted that Karachi had come to provide an entire infrastructure for terrorist organisations to flourish. The TTP, Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, facing some pressure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP, formerly known as North West Frontier Province, NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), continued to pour into the port city, further damaging an already dwindling Pakistani economy. The city had already become a safe haven for Islamist terrorists, and was evolving as a significant theatre of violence.
Unsurprisingly, Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, on December 14, 2010, rued, “The situation in Karachi will worsen and a large number of Urdu-speaking people will lose their lives if these ethnic groups [Baloch, Pakhtun, Sindhis and Punjabis] come forward and make an alliance.”
Meanwhile, sectarian violence has become the order of the day in Sindh. While only eight sectarian attacks took place in 2009, killing 36 persons and injuring another 69, there were 24 such incidents in 2010, with the number of persons killed and injured rising to 39 and 96, respectively. Though the fatalities remained almost the same, the increase in number of such attacks is of great concern.
The most disturbing development to engulf the Province in general and Karachi in particular, is the phenomenon of targeted killings, the outcome of political manoeuvrings, religious differences and ethnic hostilities. In the worst of such incidents in 2010, at least 73 persons were killed in four consecutive days of violence which began after Awami National Party (ANP) Sindh President Shahi Syed declared, on October 16, that his party was boycotting the by-polls in Orangi Town. [The by-poll was held on October 17 and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) emerged the winner.] Such incidents remain unchecked in the Province.
A report published in Dawn on August 30 indicated that as many as 249 people had been the victim of targeted killings between January 1 and August 6, 2010, just in Karachi. People from a wide cross section of society have been targeted for their political affiliations, sectarian beliefs or for the language they speak. In addition, 11 Policemen were also killed by unidentified assailants.
A June 6, 2010, report had earlier noted that as many as 256 people, including workers of the MQM, the MQM (Haqiqi), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the ANP, were victims of ‘Target Killings’ in Karachi over the preceding six months. The report claimed that most of the murders were ‘political’, and included 69 members of the MQM, 60 to the MQM (Haqiqi), 28 of PPP, 23 of ANP and other political parties, and 41 people identified by religious (sectarian) grouping. According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) data, a total of 711 people had been killed in ‘Target Killings’ in Karachi in the first 11 months of 2010. HRCP’s 2009 report had recorded 291 ‘Target Killings’ in Karachi.
Government agencies have largely remained paralysed and numbed by this onslaught. The SFs had arrested just 124 militants belonging to the TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), in 2009. That number rose slightly to 144 in 2010.
Unsurprisingly, Sindh continues to experience ever-increasing violence because of the mushrooming of terrorist outfits that appear and capriciously disappear, deepening the future possibility of a weakened society and a failed polity.
The extreme violence in Sindh, and particularly in Karachi, is a demonstration of the entrenched character of the national bourgeoisie and the political elite, who have long engaged in reactionary national-ethnic and religious political and militant mobilisation, collapsing the structure of society and of the state. There is little evidence of the emergence of any progressive forces with the capacity to reverse these trends and stabilise Pakistan’s failing system.
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management