SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Karachi: Metropolis of Terror
There is a method in the madness of Islamist extremism in Pakistan, and this is constantly reaffirmed.
At least 57 people, including prominent Islamist clerics, died and more than 200 people sustained injuries in a suicide bomb attack at Nishtar Park in Karachi, capital of Sindh province, on April 11, 2006. The blast occurred at a stage erected in a park where religious leaders and scores of the faithful were offering evening prayers at a meeting to mark the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed. Among those killed where top leaders of the Sunni Tehreek (ST) and Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnat.
Available indications are that the suicide-bomber wanted to decapitate the Sunni Tehreek. Its Chief, Abbas Qadri, Deputy Chief Akram Qadri and Spokesperson Iftikhar Bhatti were, in fact, killed in the attack. Some leaders of the moderate Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnat, including Haji Hanif Billo and Hafiz Muhammad Taqi, also died in the blast.
The ST, which is of Barelvi orientation, was formed in 1992 by Maulana Saleem Qadri to counter the dominance of the Deobandi and Ahle Hadith schools of thought. Incidentally, Saleem Qadri was himself assassinated on May 18, 2001, in Karachi. His attackers were identified as belonging to the now outlawed Sunni group, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). Under its just-assassinated Chief, Abbas Qadri, the ST grew rapidly on the strength of large sums of money from the affluent business community in Karachi, who were primarily scouting for protection from other groups such as the SSP and its armed wing, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
Preliminary indications suggest that the latest incident was the result of the ongoing conflict between the Barelvi and Deobandi schools. No official determination has still been made regarding those responsible for the incident, but many suspect that the LeJ engineered it. A majority of the Jihadis in Pakistan swears by the Deobandi school of thought, while the Barelvis, including the ST, have largely, though not entirely, abstained from militancy. The Barelvis, however, are major players in the politics of the mosque. The ST, for instance, is locked in a long battle with Deobandi groups over the control of various mosques in Karachi and over the collection of endowments. While such an intra-Sunni confrontation often leads to violence in Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) regime in the Sindh province is also under acute challenge from the extremist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance. And violence between Sunni groups, allegedly at the behest of agencies in Islamabad, is believed to weaken the MQM and mainstream parties like the Pakistan People's Party.
Karachi, Pakistans commercial capital, has seldom been out of the headlines. While sectarian strife between the majority Sunni and minority Shia Muslims dominated the news in the past, the city has also been a safe haven for Islamist extremists linked to the Al Qaeda. There was an alleged assassination attempt on the life of President Pervez Musharraf in September 2002 and US journalist Daniel Pearl was abducted and subsequently killed in Karachi in February 2002. Indian mafia don Dawood Ibrahim, the prime accused in the 1992 serial blasts in Mumbai, has a Karachi address (White House, near Saudi Mosque, Clifton), and it was to Karachi that a reporter from Al-Jazeera was invited to interview two top Al Qaeda leaders. Many Al Qaeda operatives, including Ramzi Binalshibh, have been arrested from Karachi since 9/11. Abu Zubaydah, before his arrest, reportedly oversaw the establishment of Al Qaeda cells in Karachi. The city also houses the Binoria mosque complex, which has long been the nerve centre of the Military-Jehadi enterprise. While Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai (assassinated on May 30, 2004) of Binoria is believed to have been a patron of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), one of his many infamous students, Maulana Masood Azhar, launched the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
The metropolis, with a population of approximately 16 million and counting, has also seen crimes like abduction for ransom, car-jacking and armed robbery increase in the recent years. According to sources, a substantial section of such crime is attributed to people with links to the various political and Islamist extremist groups. Indeed, an elaborate underground economy of terror exists in this city where everything is available for a price.
The multi-ethnic city regularly witnesses incidents of terrorist, sectarian, political and organized criminal violence. According to Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) data, there were 58 such incidents in 2004, 37 in 2005 and seven in 2006 (till April 14). According to the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee, a Karachi-based NGO that maintains a database on crime, there were 130 terrorism-related killings in 2005, 163 in 2004, 87 and 76 in 2002 and 2003 respectively. According to ICM data, 147 persons were arrested in 2004 for terrorism-related activities, 81 in 2005 and six in 2006 (till April 14). Karachi has for long been a centre for Islamist terrorists. It's logical they'd try to regroup here, and they wouldn't even have to shave their beards, Tariq Jamil, Karachi's deputy chief of Police, had said in June 2002. According to him, It's so easy for anyone to melt into Karachi. It's easy for any kind of fanatics or terrorists to operate here. Karachi, or mini-Pakistan as it is called, offers an expansive compass and space for radical Islam to flourish.
The city has also seen recurring violence targeting western interests. After a suicide-bomb attack at a Shia mosque in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal area on May 30, 2005, in which six persons were killed, six more died in a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant due to mob violence. On September 9, 2005, a KFC franchise and a McDonald's restaurant were bombed, although no fatalities were reported. On November 15, 2005, at least three people were killed and 20 others, including two South African women, wounded in a powerful car bomb explosion in front of the KFC restaurant. The U.S. Consulate in Karachi has been the target of several terrorist attacks in recent years. On March 2, 2006, US diplomat David Fyfe, his Pakistani driver and a Rangers official were killed and 54 persons injured in a suicide car bombing near the US Consulate, a day before President Bush visited Pakistan.
Karachi, for long, has been considered an extremely difficult city to police. The police force of 30,000 is relatively inadequate and the rapidly changing population profile as well as an intricate web of Islamist terrorist groups, compounds the problems of enforcement. Karachi Police, a much-beleaguered force, according to a June 2004 estimate, was deployed at 2,223 mosques and Imambargahs, 869 Madaris (seminaries). Besides, there is also substantial deployment at 103 foreign missions, 31 foreign food outlets, 205 vital installations, 84 temples, 213 churches, 99 multi-national companies and 227 petrol pumps. 100 police mobile vans and 7,000 police personnel are engaged in VIP duty. That leaves precious little for the routine tasks of policing or for aggressive counter-terrorism activities.
Within the common and unpredictable nature of terrorism and political violence in Karachi, a new development has added to the complexity. In November 2005, three persons were killed in a car-bomb explosion outside the Pakistan Industrial Development Company building in Saddar Town. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which was proscribed on April 9, 2006, claimed responsibility for the attack. This was the first instance of an attack claimed by the BLA within Karachi, an indication that unrest and insurgencies that afflict other provinces are now ominously reverberating across the length and breadth of Pakistan.
Disturbances in Karachi, which reportedly generates more than 60 per cent of Pakistans total revenue collection, will have national ramifications. The instability due to terrorist violence adversely affects economic activity and dampens investor sentiment. Amidst a plethora of terrorist incidents, thousands of masons, painters, plumbers, carpenters and ordinary workers, who scout for work on a daily basis in the city, are among the worst affected. The three days of shutdown after April 11 are reported to have resulted in a loss of PKR seven billion. Pakistans industry is already finding it difficult to get orders from foreign buyers owing to the law and order situation in Karachi, said Khalid Ferooz Arfeen, President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, adding, If these kinds of incidents were not stopped in future, no foreign buyers would sign contract with this country. With a complete shutdown of industrial activity in the area, and hardly any production, Arfeen noted, After this incident, we have gone back around one year in business and trade.
Amidst the seemingly indiscriminate spread of radical Islamist violence, President Pervez Musharrafs regime, nevertheless, continues to display an extraordinary level of tolerance and encouragement for Jihadi groups.
The central bank in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Bank, on April 5, 2006, imposed a paltry fine of Taka One Lakh (US $1447) on the Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL), the largest Shariah-based bank which has 169 branches and a total deposit of Taka 110,721.23 million for its alleged violation of the Money Laundering Prevention Act, 2002. Action was taken after eight transactions involving the IBBLs Gazipur and the Lal Dighirpar Branch in Sylhet, amounting to Taka 4.5 lakhs (US $6511), were found to have violated basic banking norms, and in which the money had found its way into the hands of the militants of the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an Islamist terrorist group proscribed by the Government on February 23, 2005. Bangladesh Bank has reportedly asked the IBBL to take action against 20 of its officials, who the investigators found had colluded with the militants. Irrespective of the results of such belated measures, however, it seems evident that Bangladesh, claiming to have launched a successful and sincere war on Islamist militancy in the country, is still at the very beginning of what could be a long and arduous effort.
It was the recovery of a cheque book issued against an account maintained in an IBBL branch, from the Sylhet hideout of the JMB chief Abdur Rahman, on March 2, 2006, that led to the investigations against the IBBL. However, any earnest inquiry into the financial empire of the Islamist militant outfits would have to proceed beyond such incidental recoveries and would need to take into account the entire gamut of linkages and networks involving local as well as international players, which sustain the radical Islamist movement.
During interrogation after his arrest on March 2, 2006, Rahman merely stated that zakat (voluntary donation), mostly collected during Ramadan, was the main source of income for his organisation. Another arrested JMB leader, Ataur Rahman Sunny, said finance for the outfit consisted of, apart from zakat, subscriptions collected for mosques and madrassas (seminaries) and monthly collections from activists. Other militants disclosed that osor (crop donation), yanat (donation) and their own contributions sustained the group.
It is also common knowledge that generous flows of finance from foreign charities sustain Islamist militancy in Bangladesh. Most notably, the Kuwait based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), with an ultraconservative Wahhabi agenda, brought in enormous amounts of money to build mosques and madrassas in the country. Nearly 1,000 mosques have been built out of such funds provided by the RIHS. The RIHS Pakistan and Afghanistan chapters find mention in the US Treasury Department's Specially Designated Nationals listing. A major proportion of such funding is believed to have gone into militant coffers.
Such funds flows have occurred with full Government knowledge through what can be considered legal channels throughout the period during which Bangladeshi authorities refused to acknowledge the presence of militants in the country. This age of innocence curiously continued even beyond the proscription of the outfits in February 2005, till the August 17, 2005, country-wide blasts. In an interview to Time magazine on April 3, 2006, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia disingenuously stated, We did not know they were there. After the August 17 bomb blasts, we knew.
International pressure has, however, forced the Government to change track, and after the post-August 17 arrests, the modes of fund transfer have undergone a change. The RIHS reportedly transferred huge amounts of money through hundi (a traditional undocumented transfer like hawala) after the arrest of Ahle Hadith Andolan Bangladesh (AHAB) chief Asadullah Al Galib in February 2005. The nexus between the Charity and Islamist organisations continues till date. A Bangladeshi national in RIHS, Akramuzzaman Bin Abdus Salam, was present during the AHAB annual conference at Nawdapara in Rajshahi District on February 16-17, 2006. Sources indicate that the RIHS funded the two-day AHAB conference and footed the entire bill, including the transportation costs of all participants.
Funds have also, on occasion, been brought in by a number of Islamist delegates who regularly visit the country. Foreign delegates who visit Bangladesh as guests of various Islamist programmes often stay back for an unusual length of time and meet militant leaders. Important among the foreign Islamist visitors to Bangladesh was Moulana Fazlur Rahman, leader of the Opposition in Pakistans National Assembly. Sources indicate that, before the August country-wide blasts, four foreign nationals including two Pakistanis, one Saudi and one unidentified man had watched dummy runs and training sessions by Islamist militants at a remote char (riverine island) of Sariakandi in Bogra district. Fazlur Rahman, during his tours to the country had visited militant facilities in Jessore. There is also a disturbing pattern to visits by RIHS officials to Bangladesh, which, in the recent past, have taken place immediately before or after several major terrorist incidents or events linked to extremist activities. Sources also indicate that top RIHS officials' visits are made through diplomatic channels and they had unimpeded opportunities to leave substantial cash behind.
Prior to the current phase of disruption, the JMBs organisational chart consisted of a seven-member majlis-e-shura (highest decision-making body), 16 regional commanders, 64 district-heads and hundreds of operations commanders. In a media interview in 2004, JMB chief Abdur Rahman indicated that he had a network of 10,000 ehsars or full-time trained operatives and one lakh part-time activists and spends about more than $10,000 a month on organisational activities.
Financial resources at the disposal of the militants were, to say the least, enormous. Arrested shura member Ataur Rahman Sunny, asked about the source of funding, told his interrogators what Abdur Rahman had told him that money was no problem. Intelligence sources indicated that JMB spent roughly Taka Six million a year for maintaining its full-time leaders and cadres, and Taka 10 to 50 million a year for buying explosives and firearms. The family of each suicide bomber had been promised Taka 50,000 to 100,000 or more as compensation for their sacrifice.
No estimate is available on the amount of money used in the August 17 explosions. However, an indication was provided by Rahman, who told Task Force for Interrogation personnel, during the first phase of remand after his arrest on March 2, 2006, that JMB collected 10,000 pounds sterling from two Saudis and the rest of the funds from bank dacoities, looting of NGO offices, zakat funds and other sources. However, on February 8, JMBs military commander and Shura member Ataur Rahman Sunny and Abdul Awal confessed before a court that two British nationals, identified as Abdur Rahman and Sajjad, provided the JMB chief a sum of 10,000 pounds to carry out bomb attacks at the end of June 2005.
Private financers also constituted a lucrative source for the outfit. Reports in March 2006 indicated that the Government was preparing a list of the 25 financiers, including high-profile politicians and businessmen, who provided money to JMB cadres. The names included five Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, and had been recovered from the SIM cards found in a JMB hideout in Sylhet on March 2, 2006.
Intelligence sources indicate that massive extortion drives also sustained JMBs activities. The group had about 500 dedicated cadres for collection of funds, mostly targeting the countryside. Evidence suggests that this team is still intact and after the security operations netted about 700 cadres of the outfit, these cadres have moved into the rural areas in different Districts in a bid to collect toll taxes and are reportedly spending this money to recruit new cadres for the outfit.
Even after the August 17 blasts, JMB leaders continued to transact through several of their Bank accounts throughout the country. Chequebooks recovered from the JMBs Rangpur hideout on November 23, 2005, revealed that the group had withdrawn Taka 900,000 from three accounts with two Banks Al Arafa Islami Bank, Dhaka, and the Bogra Bazar Branch of Sonali Bank in the Bogra District.
Phases of wilful inactivity on part of the Government continue even after the JMB launched a series of suicide attacks targeting the judiciary in several districts. Late in November 2005, the bureau of NGO affairs gave consent to release about Taka 20 million to the Bangladesh branch of the RIHS for training Imams, constructing mosques and madrassas, and for installing tube-wells in the country. According to IBBL sources, RIHS distributed the freshly released fund on November 29, among its contractors through bearer cheques instead of account payee cheques, making it easier for just about anyone to withdraw money from the Bank. Large numbers of cheques for small amounts are coming in everyday", an unidentified IBBL official disclosed in the first week of December, 2005. Sources indicate that large amounts of money were withdrawn by cheques in the beginning of 2006 from a joint account belonging to the RIHS-run Kidney Dialysis Centre Director Zafar Musa Abu Moaz, an Iraqi national, and RIHS Bangladeshi Office Secretary Fazlur Rahman, from a private bank's Uttara branch in Dhaka, to pay off RIHS officials and carry out construction work.
On April 2, State Minister for Home Affairs, Lutfozzaman Babar, during a high profile meeting of bureaucrats and secretaries, expressed his unhappiness on the tardy pace of investigations into cases involving militant attacks. Given the Governments approach to the spread of radical Islam in the country, investigations have indeed progressed at a predictably slow pace. The ongoing inquiries into the financial network of the terrorists are expected to follow this sluggish pattern as well.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 10 - 16, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Maoists kill 11 police personnel in Chhattisgarh: 11 police personnel were killed in an attack carried out by the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) on Murkinar police outpost in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh on April 16, 2006. Chhattisgarh Director General of Police Om Prakash Rathor stated that the Maoists also suffered heavy casualties during the attack. The Maoists reportedly looted arms and ammunition from the outpost before escaping. Indian Express, April 17, 2006.
Prime Minister calls for better coordination among states to deal with Naxalite problem: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, addressing the second meeting of the Standing Committee of the Chief Ministers of the Naxalite-affected States, in New Delhi on April 13, said that the Naxalite movement is now characterised by superior army style operations, better coordination and trained cadres, attacks on large targets through large-scale frontal assaults and possible external links. He said that the movement might have lost much of its intellectual attraction but it has gained in strength by spreading to over 160 districts. The Prime Minister further said that the affected States must set up unified commands and undertake joint operations to fight the menace. Police action should be backed by liberal surrender and rehabilitation policies, which could be modified by the Chief Ministers to make them more attractive. He called for improved use of intelligence on the strength, weapons, membership, locations and links of Naxalite groups. The Hindu, April 14, 2006.
Chhattisgarh suspends Salwa Judum movement: The Chhattisgarh Government suspended the anti-Maoist Salwa Judum movement on April 11, 2006. Home Minister Ramvichar Netam said that "the Government has just suspended the anti-Maoist movement Salwa Judum, not wound it up. We are currently focusing on construction of permanent relief camps for proper rehabilitation with all basic facilities available to refugees." DNA, April 11, 2006.
King Gyanendra calls political parties for dialogue: King Gyanendra, in a message to the nation on the occasion of the New Years Day on April 14, 2006, called upon all political parties to join in a dialogue to bear the responsibility of and contribute towards activating the multiparty democratic polity. He said, It is... our desire that with the active participation of all political parties committed to peace and democracy, a meaningful exercise in multi-party democracy be initiated through an exemplary democratic exercise like the general elections." He added further, "We are in favour of sustainable peace and the people's right to vote. Democratic norms and values demand a commitment that the goals set forth by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-1990 can be achieved only through constitutional means."
However, leaders of the Seven Party Alliance rejected the King's offer. "The King's message is just a formality and it has not addressed the burning problems plaguing the nation at present. The peaceful agitation will continue," said K. P. Oli, senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist. "No one should have confusion in what the king is trying to do (sic). It is very clear that the King is firm on his own roadmap and he doesn't want to talk with (an) open mind," said Minendra Risal, spokesman of the Nepali Congress-Democratic Party. "He has failed to recognize the spirit of (the) people's sentiment who have taken to the streets to get back their sovereignty. We will continue our movement unless complete democracy is restored," said Krishna Prasad Sitaula, spokesman of the Nepali Congress party. Nepal News, April 15, 2006.
people killed in suspected suicide bombing in Karachi:
At least 57 people, including prominent Islamist clerics,
were killed and at least 200 people sustained injuries in
a suicide bomb attack at Nishtar Park in Karachi on April
11, 2006. The blast occurred at a stage erected in a park
where religious leaders and hundreds of faithful were offering
evening prayers on the occasion of Prophet Mohammad's birth
anniversary. Among those killed where top leaders of the Sunni
Tehreek, including chief Abbas Qadri, deputy chief Akram Qadri
and spokesperson Iftikhar Bhatti, and Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnat
leaders like Haji Hanif Billo and Hafiz Muhammad Taqi. Dawn,
April 12, 2006.
LTTE suspends participation in Geneva peace talks: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on April 16, 2006, announced suspension of participation in the second round of the Geneva peace talks "until hurdles" placed before it by the Sri Lankan Government were removed and "a more conducive environment" was created for the negotiations. Referring to the stand-off between the two sides on April 15 over sea transport, the outfits political wing leader, S. P. Tamilselvan, informed the facilitator, Norway: "Until the hurdles in front of us to attend the Geneva talks are removed and a more conducive environment is created, our team is unable to come to the talks."
The Government's peace secretariat gave details of the procedures in place for sea travel and said "it had displayed extreme flexibility to facilitate the movement of 32 LTTE leaders in the face of provocation by the LTTE" in order to "encourage the LTTE to attend the peace talks in Geneva." The second round of the Geneva talks was originally scheduled for April 19-21. Last week, following a stand-off between the Government and the LTTE, the talks were postponed to April 24 and 25. The Geneva talks are to discuss implementation issues of the ceasefire agreement. The Hindu, April 17, 2006.
Claymore mine explosion kills ten sailors and a civilian in Trincomalee district: 10 Sri Lankan Navy sailors and a civilian driver were killed, while nine others were injured when a Navy convoy was targeted by a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) triggered claymore mine explosion, at Thampalagamuwa on the Trincomalee-Habarana road on April 11, 2006. Military spokesperson, Brigadier Prasad Samarasinghe, said that the LTTE was directly involved in the claymore mine attacks targeting the security forces, though the outfit was trying to cover up its role by putting the responsibility on People's Force. Daily News, April 12, 2006.
Canada proscribes Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam: The Canadian Government formally proscribed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist group. Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day, designating the organization as a terrorist group, announced on April 10, 2006, that it will be illegal for anyone in Canada to support or participate in LTTE activities. He added, "The decision to list the LTTE is long overdue and something the previous Government did not take seriously enough to act upon. Our Government is clearly determined to take decisive steps to ensure the safety of Canadians against terrorism." The Hindu, April 12, 2006.
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