Affrontements à Karachi avril 2009 (2)


34 killed in Pak ethnic clashes

Associated Press

KARACHI, April 30: A slew of gun attacks in Pakistan’s biggest city killed at least 34 people, officials said today, further rattling a country already tense over a military offensive against Taliban militants in a district near the capital.

The unrest came as President Barack Obama said he was “gravely concerned” about Pakistan’s stability and described its government as “very fragile” ~ although he did express confidence that the country’s nuclear arsenal was safe from militants.

Pakistan’s President urged the public to support the army’s offensive against Taliban fighters so that Pakistan would remain “a moderate, modern and democratic state.”

Ethnic tension was the suspected spark for the gun attacks yesterday in Karachi, a teeming southern port city with a volatile history. Much of the tension has been between the Pashtun population, who dominate the country’s militant-infested northwest, and Urdu-speakers descended from migrants from India.

The latter are in large part represented by the political party that runs the city, the Muttahida Quami Movement. The MQM has been outspoken against the Pashtun-dominated Taliban and has warned that the militants represent a growing threat in Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub.
The city was largely crippled yesterday after two MQM activists were gunned down by unknown shooters, sparking street violence that went on late into the night.

President Asif Ali Zardari urged Pakistanis to unite against the Taliban.

The “time has come for the entire nation to give pause to their political differences and rise to the occasion and give full support to our security forces in this critical hour,” he said in a statement.

In an extraordinary censure of the civilian government of Pakistan, US President Barack Obama today described it as “very fragile” and not seeming to have the capacity to deliver even basic services to its people.

As a consequence, it is very difficult for the government to gain the support and the loyalty of the people, he said in unusual remarks. Also contradicting Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s claims, President Obama has suggested that Osama bin Laden is still alive and he is operating under the assumption that the Al Qaida leader is not dead.


Ethnic violence erupts in Karachi

29 avril 2009

At least 34 people have been killed and 50 others injured in clashes in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, local hospital officials have said.

Calm returned to the city on Thursday, a day after the fighting erupted, with some areas left deserted.

« The situation is under control now and we are trying to maintain peace, » Rafiq Engineer, provincial minister for special development, said.

Waseem Ahmed, the city police chief, said the clashes on Wednesday were the result of a dispute between the city’s ethnic groups Mohajirs and Pashtuns.

Violence erupted in different parts of the port city after an unidentified man opened fire in a Mohajir neighbourhood in the centre of the city.

Officials at Karachi’s largest hospital said it had received 25 bodies while a senior police official said nine bodies were delivered to another hospital.

‘Indiscriminate firing’

Dozens of cars and several shops were burnt in the riots.

Al Jazeera’s Sohail Rahman, reporting from Islamabad, said two supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a party generally representing the Mohajirs,  had been found shot in the northern suburbs.

« There has been indiscriminate firing in the northern suburbs of the city with six police officers wounded, » he said.

« It is very unsure how the police will be able to respond to the violence. »

Karachi, Pakistan’s financial capital, has a long history of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence but has been relatively peaceful in recent years.

The city is dominated by Mohajirs, Urdu-speaking people who migrated from India after Pakistan was created in 1947, but there is also a sizeable population of ethnic Pashtuns.

Disturbios en Pakistán acaban con la muerte de al menos 20 personas

Varias decenas han resultado heridas en varios tiroteos y actos violentos de carácter étnico en la ciudad portuaria de Karachi

30/04/2009 |

Islamabad. (EFE).- Al menos 20 personas han muerto y varias decenas han resultado heridas en varios tiroteos y actos violentos de carácter étnico que se desencadenaron ayer en la ciudad portuaria de Karachi, en el sur de Pakistán, informó una fuente policial.

El jefe de la Policía de la ciudad, Wasim Ahmed, citado por el canal privado « Dawn », explicó que una veintena de personas perdieron la vida en varios episodios de violencia registrados en distintos puntos del municipio, entre ellos 16 de etnia pastún y tres hablantes de urdu, comunidad mayoritaria de Karachi.

Mientras el canal « Geo TV », que no identifica su fuente, elevó a 23 la cifra de víctimas mortales y situó en 22 la de heridos. La violencia estalló cuando un grupo de hombres armados tomaron posiciones en una zona montañosa del norte de Karachi desde donde tirotearon el área de Zarina Colony.

Un militante del partido Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), formación que defiende los intereses de la comunidad « mohajir » -hablantes de urdu- murió como consecuencia de los disparos. Fuerzas policiales se desplazaron al lugar del tiroteo y lanzaron una redada que se saldó con la detención de 16 personas.

Al menos un agente de las fuerzas de seguridad perdió la vida en los disturbios.

La violencia se extendió a otros puntos de la ciudad y los comercios cerraron sus puertas para evitar sucesos violentos.

Bajo el nombre de «mohajirs», la comunidad mayoritaria de Karachi, se conoce a los inmigrantes y sus descendientes hablantes de urdu que llegaron procedentes de la India tras la partición del subcontinente e independencia de Pakistán en 1947.

Los conflictos auspiciados por bandas criminales entre la comunidad «mohajir» y los miembros de etnia pastún, que proceden del noroeste del país y suponen cerca de tres millones de la población de Karachi, son habituales.

El titular de Interior, Rehman Malik, ha ordenado el despliegue de fuerzas de seguridad adicionales así como la elaboración de un informe en el que se aclare lo sucedido.


The Karachi question: Ethnicity or extremism?

Thursday, 30 Apr, 200

nce again, Karachi is burning, and everyone has a theory. On April 29, at least 29 people were killed in an escalating wave of violence across the port city. Most of the dead were Pathan, though the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also claimed losses. Even before funeral processions were organised and the last fires were doused, politicians began finger pointing.

Speaking from London, MQM chief Altaf Hussain appealed for peace, indirectly blaming the Taliban for the recent urban violence. He claimed that criminal elements belonging to the land and drug mafia were stirring trouble with the support – in the form of arms and money – of the Taliban. Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League chief Nawaz Sharif hinted at the ethnic dimensions of the clashes, pointing out that Karachi’s residents were being pitted against each other as part of a larger plot. For his part, Minister of State for Ports and Shipping, Nabeel Gabol, claimed that the fighting had been instigated by a ‘foreign agency’ that is working in collaboration with a religious party.

Outside political circles, there is an assumption that this week’s killings are the result of a long-standing ethnic rivalry between Karachi’s Urdu-speaking and Pashto-speaking communities. Newspaper reports, for example, have described the clashes as ‘ethnic violence’ and city police chief Wasim Ahmed even split up Wednesday’s death toll as ‘16 Pathans and three Urdu-speaking people.’

What explains the resurgence in Karachi violence? Is it an attempt by the city’s ethnic stakeholders to drawn new battle lines? Or are the recent clashes somehow connected to the broader militant threat that Pakistan is currently wrestling?

The politics of militancy

  1. For almost a year, the MQM has been warning against the Talibanisation of Karachi. The party’s cautionary rhetoric gained resonance when the MQM became the only political force to resist the passage of the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation, which has established qazi courts in NWFP’s Malakand division. In all their anti-Taliban speechifying, MQM leaders are careful to point out that they are not targeting an ethnic group. As Naib Nazim Nasrin Jalil puts it, ‘Pashtuns are not all Taliban, but some of them are harboring the Taliban. It’s impossible to identify militants from others.’

But members of Karachi’s Pashto-speaking community argue that the MQM is making no effort to distinguish between honest workers and militants. ‘The MQM is playing up the issue of Talibanisation for political gain,’ says Ameen Khattak, the secretary general of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Sindh. They’re trying to attract the attention of the international community while pursuing their hidden agenda.’

In fact, ANP officials claim that the threat of Talibanisation in Karachi is being over-stated by the MQM. They point out that the Pashto-speaking community, which has been targeted by Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal and northern areas, is most at risk. ‘Who will they kill first?’ asks Khattak. ‘They’ve killed 150 ANP workers in Swat and will do the same in Karachi.’ He adds that the ANP is determined to stave off the extremist threat: ‘We have assured the MQM that if they provide specifics of Taliban influence in the city, we’ll work together to combat the Taliban.’

The Taliban factor

While they disagree about the extent to which Karachi has been Talibanised, MQM and ANP leadership do agree that militancy is on the rise in Pakistan’s commercial hub. Party leaders on both sides admit that fund-raising for militant activities is rampant. MQM chief Hussain’s comments that the Taliban is now enmeshed with the local land and drug mafia point to the well documented fact that militants and criminals have joined hands to carry out robberies and kidnappings, the gains of which are used to finance terrorism in the northern areas and Federally Adminstered Tribal Areas (Fata).

Indeed, officials of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) have stated that over one billion rupees have been raised by criminals in Karachi over the past two years to finance jihad. The Citizens-Police Liaison Committee has also confirmed that ransom money in many high-profile kidnappings is being collected in Fata. Faisal Sabzwari, an MQM leader and the Sindh minister for youth affairs, adds that ‘land grabbing in the name of religion’ is also on the rise.

In this context, ANP’s Khattak admits that some members of the Pashto-speaking community are connected with the Taliban through ‘chanda’ (alms). ‘People based in Karachi may be paying off the Taliban to keep their families in the northern areas safe,’ he explains.

Beyond criminal activities, both MQM and ANP leaders point to the resurgence of banned sectarian outfits such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, Laskar-e-Taiba and Lashakar-e-Jhangvi as the biggest threat facing Karachi (particularly in the wake of last November’s Mumbai attacks). As a police officer stationed in Karachi’s Sohrab Goth puts it: ‘The Taliban are only in Karachi to the extent that they’re reaching out to militants who have been based here for decades.’ According to the CID, there are over 5,000 trained militants with ties to banned militant groups currently stationed in the city.

Since the leadership of these militant groups trace their origins to the Punjab and Siraiki belt, how has an ethnic clash between mohajirs and Pathans hijacked the conversation about urban Talibanisation?

Drawing battle lines

In recent months, MQM party workers have been mobilizing, by their account, to ward off the Taliban threat. Hussain has called for Karachiites to arm themselves and take up martial arts training. Naib nazim Jalil adds that MQM has reinstated a ‘chowkidari’ (neighbourhood watch) system in mohajir localities. ‘Our activists are physically protecting their areas,’ she says. Moreover, the City District Government Karachi has requested that Rangers and paramilitary personnel be deployed in sensitive spots across the city.

On another level, MQM has increased vigilance across the city. ‘No other party can boast the grassroots level set-up that the MQM has,’ says Sabzwari. ‘We have been involved in ground-level information collection for some time now. Our people let us know what’s happening in their areas.’ He explains that MQM activists monitor unusual activities at mosques and note the presence of foreigners or strangers in different neighbourhoods. Noteworthy information is then passed on to the Sindh and federal governments.

Karachi’s Pashto-speaking community views this mobilization as an attempt to consolidate MQM’s stranglehold over the city and target the Pathan population. ‘There are between three and four million peace-loving Pathans in Karachi,’ says Khattak. ‘But the MQM is watching them all as if they are criminals, pretending to be on the look out for the Taliban.’ He points to several areas where MQM activists or security personnel have in effect cordoned off Pathan areas from the rest of the city. ‘If things go on like this, Karachi will be the next Beirut. The city has already been carved up and the battle lines are being drawn.’

MQM’s leadership rejects Khattak’s analysis of the situation. ‘It’s not an ethnic issue,’ insists Sabzwari. ‘It’s a criminal issue. It’s an issue of law and order. What can we do if the criminals happen to come from Pashto-speaking localities? Is it my fault if Baitullah Mehsud’s right-hand man was caught in Karachi?’ [Badshah Deen was arrested in Karachi’s Sachal area on April 13.] He adds that ANP is giving a simple law and order situation an ‘ethnic run’ so as to consolidate its vote bank.

Caught in the crossfire

Either way, it is Karachiites who end up dead. Anayat Khan, a fruit seller at Bacha Khan chowk in Karachi’s Benaras area, says a ‘political game’ is under way. ‘There are no Taliban here,’ he says. ‘We listen to music, we have functions, are women go shopping. The only people we have to fear are the workers of a certain political party.’

Meanwhile, across town, Naeem Hussain, a resident of Azizabad, shakes his head. ‘The city is completely shut down, even though the end of the month is so important for business. We’re just trying to live our lives … I don’t know who to believe anymore.’

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~ par Alain Bertho sur 30 avril 2009.

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