By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty*
Former Member of National Assembly (MNA) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader, Syed Ali Raza Abidi (46), was shot dead near his residence at Khayaban-e-Ghazi Street in the Phase-V area of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh on December 25, 2018. Abidi was elected to the National Assembly in the 2013 General Elections from Karachi’s NA-251 constituency.On November 13, 2017, he had resigned from his National Assembly seatin protest against the talks between MQM-P leader Farooq Sattarandand Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) leader Syed Mustafa Kamal, to forge an alliance between the two parties, stating that “this is not what I believed in and stood for”. The talks, however, failed. Abidi then contested the July 25, 2018, General Elections from Karachi’s NA-243 constituency as the MQM-P candidate, but lost to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan, who eventually became the Prime Minister (PM) on August 18, 2018.On September 2, 2018, Abidi tendered his resignation from the MQM-P’s “basic membership” citing “personal reasons”.
Two MQM activists, including the former Union Council Secretary, were among four persons killed in separate incidents in Karachi on December 8, 2018. Intisar Alvi (40), MQM’s former Union Council Secretary, was shot dead in a targeted attack in Jahangirabad area when he was sitting at a teashop near his home at Petal Wali Gali in Gulbahar. MQM worker, Mohammad Abid (40) was shot dead in a targeted attack near Gol market in Paposh Nagar, North Nazimabad Town.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Sindh registered a record low of 46 fatalities, including 25 militants, 12 civilians, and seven Security Force (SF) personnel through 2018. There were 243 such fatalities, including 114 civilians, 23 SF personnel, and 106 terrorists, in 2017. Overall-terrorism related fatalities in 2018 thus registered an 81.06 per cent decline in comparison to 2017.
Other parameters of violence also witnessed considerable diminution. While Sindh accounted for 20 major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) of violence, resulting in a total of 199 deaths in 2017, 2018 witnessed eight such incidents, accounting for 33 fatalities. One of the major attacks of the year was the November 23, 2018, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) suicide attack on the Chinese Consulate at Block 4 in the Clifton area of Karachi. At least six people, including three civilians, two Policemen, and a private security guard, were killed. Three terrorists involved in the attack were also killed by SFs. No Chinese national was hurt. Claiming responsibility for the attack, BLA disclosed that the attackers had been tasked to target the consulate.
There was also a considerable decrease in the number of explosion-related incidents in 2018. In comparison to 10 blasts resulting in 89 fatalities and 57 injuries in 2017, year 2018 recorded six explosions resulting in 17 fatalities and 14 injuries.
Incidents of sectarian attacks also declined from three in 2017to just one in 2018, with resultant fatalities dropping from 93 to one, respectively.
Except for one incident of civilian killing and one incident of arrest, both from the Hyderabad District, all other incidents in 2018 were reported from Karachi District. Sindh has a total of 29 Districts.
Meanwhile, on December 31, 2018, the Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) released a performance report of its ‘Karachi Operations’ between the period September 4, 2013 and December 31, 2018. The report claimed that 2013 recorded 57 incidents of terrorism, which increased to 66 in 2014 and further to 199 in 2015. The number of incidents decreased to 16 in 2016. No such incident was reported in 2017. Two incidents were recorded in 2018. Also, incidents of target killings saw a steep decline: 965 in 2013; 602 in 2014; 199 in 2015; 89 in 2016; 45 in 2017; and nine in 2018. Similarly, recorded cases of extortion also declined: 1,524 in 2013; 899 in 2014; 303 in 2015; 101 in 2016; 65 in 2017; and 51 in 2018. Incidents of kidnapping also decreased from 174 in 2013 to 115 in 2014, 37 in 2015, 26 in 2016, 18 in 2017 and 13 in 2018.
Much of this success has been due to the ongoing operation of the Pakistan Rangers (Sindh). The report claimed that at least 15,838 operations were carried out during this period. A total of 11,619 terrorists and other ‘criminals’ were handed over to the police and 2,210 terrorists, 1,881 target killers, 852 extortionists and 227 kidnappers were arrested. A total of 169 kidnapped people were also successfully rescued. The operations were not without SF casualties; 28 Rangers were killed in the line of duty and another 100 were injured. In 2018 alone, four Sindh Rangers were killed. The Rangers also recovered 13,224 weapons and 876,083 bullets of different weapons.
One of the major achievements in 2018 included the killing of Ghaffar Zikri aka Saeen, the last ‘commander’ of the third generation of Lyarigangsters, who carried a bounty of PKR 2.5 million on his head. Ghaffar Zikri was killed in a Police encounter on October 2, 2018. During the encounter Zikri allegedly used his four-year-old son as a human shield and tried to escape by throwing grenades at the Police. The child was also killed in the exchange of fire, while two Police personnel sustained bullet wounds.
The Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) were called in on September 4, 2013, when violence in the city was surging, with a total of 1,553 fatalities recorded in 2012. The fatalities increased further to 1,668 in 2013. Since then, the Ranger’s operations in Karachi have been extended on a 90-day basis, requiringthe Provincial Government’s requisition to the Federal Ministry of Interior, for approval of each extension. The latest extension was given on October 8, 2018, which ended on January 5, 2019. There has been no report till the time of writing regarding further extension.
The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit to the Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) Headquarters on November 17, 2018, stated, “Karachi is the engine of national economy and we shall further improve its security environment so that positive business trajectory is maintained.”
Meanwhile, different parameters show that the general law and order situation in Sindh remained far from satisfactory. According to the Sindh Police, as many as 1,520 people were murdered across the Sindh Province in 2017,and another 1,298 were killed in 2018.On December 21, 2018, the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) issued a list of street crimes in Karachi during 2018, and noted a hike in the rate of such crimes in the city. According to the report, between January 1, 2018, and December 20, 2018, at least 26,972 motor cycles and 1,319 cars were snatched or stolen. 34,188 cell phones were also snatched over the same period, with miniscule rates of recovery of the stolen devices. On December 4, 2018, during a meeting of the Sindh Chief Minister’s Apex Committee, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kaleem Imam stated that the number of extortion cases in the city had increased over the preceding 11 months, and 14,051 citizens had been robbed of their cell phones. The Chief Minister was also told that 12,187 mobile snatching cases had been reported in 2013.
After becoming Prime Minister, Imran Khan, during his maiden official visit to Karachi on September 16, 2018, expressed concern over the reported surge in street crime in the metropolis, and called for coordinated efforts to purge the city of criminal activities, which he linked with the city’s “growing underclass”.
Keeping in view the unabated street crimes, the Karachi Police established a new ‘street watch force’ on October 13, 2018, comprising 1,870 Police personnel.Additional Inspector General (AIG) Dr. Amir Ahmed Shaikh announced that the force would be deployed at “hot spots” where street crimes are rampant.He pointed out that new motorcycles had been provided to SFs: 80 to South and City areas, 80 to District East and 20 each to Malir, West and Korangi.
The Pakistan Rangers operations have marginalised terrorist and organized criminal gangs, but persistent street crimes remain a cause of concern and retains the potential for a resurgence of organized activities once the operational deployment of the Rangers is withdrawn.
*Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management