PAKISTAN: Karachi killings – government combating militancy with state sponsored militancy 

Baseer Naweed

Karachi, the capital of Sindh, remains a hotspot of continuous arms clashes between different political and religious parties where the government has still not been able to use rational methods to control the fighting. The conflict between different armed groups is a clear demonstration of the collapse of the rule of law. The government and its law enforcement authorities have failed over the past years to establish peace in the various war zone areas which include most of the provinces of the country.

In the latest situation, Karachi city remains in the grip of armed clashes. There have been clashes between religious groups and separate clashes between different linguistic groups. For two months, the city has been the scene of bloody fighting where the militants have used heavy weaponry including rocket launchers, hand grenades and sub machine guns before equally heavy contingents of the different law enforcement agencies including paramilitary forces.

More than 120 persons have been killed in the latest series of clashes between ethnic groups within only five days and different areas of the city have become no-go zones. Most of the areas have been cordoned off by the militants for several days and the law enforcement agencies have become silent spectators. After many days of violence the government finally moved but instead of taking direct action transferred the responsibility for maintaining peace to the paramilitary forces. This has only made the situation worse as the paramilitaries have no knowledge of the local situations and the reasons behind the conflict in the first place.

There have been reports from different police stations in the conflict areas that many of the militants arrested with firearms were released after showing the identity cards of state intelligence agencies. Around 90 suspected militants were arrested but most of them were released with their arms through the intervention of the paramilitary forces which includes the Frontier Corps (FC). There are reports that the police stations of Pirabad, Mominabad and Manghapir have released holders of identity cards issued by the state intelligence agencies who were arrested on suspicion of target killings.

It is also reported that Taliban militants have taken over control of the different heights of the mountain around the affected areas and are using sophisticated weapons. The law enforcement agencies (LEA) are well aware of the presence of the Taliban militants but avoid taking action against them. The government as usual is engaged in political expediency by not taking action against its own allies in the government. The appeasement policies of the government towards its allies such as the Muttehda Qumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP) have given them ample time and opportunity to access heavy weapons and ammunition and train their cadres. The MQM, according to its previous record, wanted to strengthen its militant group so that no one can challenge its basic constituencies and put pressure on its voters. Whereas, the law enforcement agencies had always allied themselves with one particular ethnic group which has become a source of hatred against them.

Many affected areas are still without electricity, water and basic food items even after ostensible control by the government was regained. In some areas dead bodies remained unburied for three days until the authorities took control. During the armed clashes, according to press reports, the LEA officials were making money through providing its vehicles for evacuating people from the war torn areas to safer places. The population around the barren mountain, which is under the control of Taliban militants, has left the area and many houses unoccupied which allowed to be taken over by the militants.

A total situation of anarchy is prevailing in the largest industrial and commercial city of the country where the rule of law has been prohibited by the ruling alliance. The city is virtually under the control of armed groups. To tackle the situation, the provincial and federal governments are depending on the paramilitary organisations rather than improving its policing and investigation system. Further to its irrational actions the government has given police powers of arrest and investigation to the Pakistan Rangers and the Frontier Corps (FC) which is a backward step in the efforts to bring peace.

The citizens of Balochistan are already facing the brunt of the FC for abductions, disappearances, torture in private locations, illegal detention centers and extra judicial killings. After getting police powers in 2009 in the replacement of the army the FC has been very active in killing people, particularly activists and students. A new trend of killings was introduced by the FC officials in the cases of disappearances in which the victims are extrajudicially killed so that there is no trace or evidence of the fact that they have been keeping people incommunicado. The case of Kharootabad is very much evident when two unarmed women and one man were killed by the officials of the FC on the pretext of an encounter with terrorists.

It is the same with the Pakistan Rangers who consider themselves above the law of the land. In recent days the world has seen how six officials of the Rangers killed an unarmed boy in a public park and claimed that the boy was killed in an encounter and that ammunition was also recovered from him.

Therefore, the government is following a policy of combating militancy with state sponsored militancy. The policy to maintain law, order and peace in the city through the brutal use of force will only strengthen the militancy and misuse of the law. The handing over of police powers of arrest and investigations to paramilitary forces will undermine the working of the justice system including the courts and will also provoke the people to take the law in to their own hands.

As revealed earlier, the most alarming situation was witnessed when the agents of a particular intelligence agency were released after showing their identity cards. The persons who were released after their preliminary inquiries told the media that they were surprised when officials of intelligent agencies and some Jihadis were released without any inquiries. For these persons to have been released so easily and promptly can only mean that it was done with the knowledge and acquiescence of the forces that matter in the politics of Pakistan.

The government must do its utmost to bring an end to the violence, religious, ethnic or otherwise and conduct an inquiry into the involvement of its intelligence agencies in the armed fighting. Immediately relief should be provided to the affected people regardless of their affiliations to ethnic or religious groups. Also, the government must, once and for all, recognise the existence of the armed Taliban groups, the locations of which it is fully aware and take immediate action against them.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-042-2011
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Non-state actors, Right to life,