Maintenance of Terrorists: Long-Term Effects for Pakistan – V
by Ramtanu Maitra on 17 Jul 2016 1 Comment
“Qadri Lives! From Your Blood, the Revolution Will Come!"


The power of latent Islamic militant forces was also exhibited recently, when tens of thousands of Islamists identified Mumtaz Qadri as a religious martyr at his funeral on March 1, 2016, the day after he was executed for murder. Qadri had been convicted of murdering Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in 2011. A bodyguard of the governor, Qadri killed Salman Taseer for criticizing the blasphemy laws that mandate the death penalty for insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad.


The Islamists celebrating Qadri were expressing their determination to uphold Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The roots of that law relate to offences against the Islamic religion. First codified by India’s British Raj in 1860, the law was used arbitrarily to put anyone who got in the Raj’s way behind bars. Pakistan inherited those laws when it came into existence with the partition of India in 1947.


Following Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s 1977 military takeover under the banner of “Pakistan’s salvation lies in Islam,” new clauses were added to the blasphemy law primarily to separate the Ahmediyas community, declared non-Muslim in 1973 by the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government, from the main body of Pakistan’s Muslim population. According to Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace - formed in 1985 by the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference - between 1987 and 2014 more than 1,300 individuals (including both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Ahmadiyas, Christians and Hindus) have been accused under various clauses of the blasphemy law. Often, as allegations that have emerged show, the law has been used to settle personal scores.


The law has created Islamic “soldiers,” like those who were in full view in Rawalpindi when tens of thousands threw flowers at the casket of Mumtaz Qadri. As they threw flowers, the supporters chanted: “He lives! Qadri lives! From your blood, the revolution will come!” While the execution of Qadri indicates the authorities in Islamabad are willing to take on the hardline supporters of the blasphemy law, it also shows the existence of a large population that can turn violent over the issue, potentially disrupting the social order.


Anti-Shi’a Policies: Boosting the Sunni Militants


During Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s regime in the mid-1970s, Islamabad encouraged resettlement of Sunnis in the Shi’a-dominated Gilgit-Baltistan area sandwiched between China, the erstwhile Soviet Union and India, sparking tensions. However, following the 1979 Khomeini-led revolution in Iran, and its stated objective of exporting Iranian revolution, Islamabad, under Gen. Zia ul-Haq - an orthodox Deobandi Sunni, if not an outright Salafist - instituted a conscious policy to bring about a change in the demographic composition of the area to counter the growing sectarian consciousness of the Shi’as and their demand for political and economic rights on par with the Sunnis.


“Zia not only encouraged and facilitated the migration of people from the other areas of Pakistan to the Northern Areas, but also assisted the anti-Shi’a Sunni extremist organization Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), then known as the Anjuman Sipah-e-Sahaba, to set up its presence in the area and start a large number of madrassahs to impart religious education to the local Sunnis in the Deobandi-Wahabi ideology and military training through the ex-servicemen in order to resist Shi’a militancy” (“Unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan”: B. Raman: A presentation at a seminar on India’s Himalayan Frontiers at the School of International Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, on February 5, 2005).


Bereft of any political skill, and imbued with plotting and the use of force, Gen. Zia helped create the radical Sunni Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), in addition to the SSP, which now goes by the name Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ). These two groups, in collaboration with many other Deobandi-Salafi affiliates, such as the Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam (JUI), unleashed a reign of terror against the Shi’as while Pakistani authorities looked aside. Throughout the 1990s, sectarian attacks continued and the anti-Sunni Shi’a militias were destroyed. During the mid-1990s, groups such as LeJ and SSP also fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan, illustrating their utility to the Pakistani state.


That utility status allows the LeJ to carry out Shi’a killings even today, long after the anti-Sunni Shi’a militants have been wiped out. LeJ is reported to have links with the TTP and al-Qaeda. In a 2014 report, the International Crisis Group had this to say: “Criminality has thrived for decades in the urban centers, but the convergence of criminal and militant networks has raised the stakes. Kidnappings for ransom and bank robberies have become integral to militant fundraising. Sectarian extremists such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) operate in all four major Pakistani cities, threatening religious and sectarian minorities, state institutions and citizens. Simultaneous militant attacks on 10 October 2013 in all four provincial capitals symbolize the national scale of the problem. While the spread of jihadi militancy is a common threat, each city also faces a unique set of challenges” (“Policing Urban Violence in Pakistan”: International Crisis Group: Asia Report No. 255: 23 January 2014).


Since 2011 LeJ has targeted the approximately 500,000-member Shi’a Hazara community of Balochistan. From July to October 2011 at least 90 Hazaras were gunned down in and around Quetta. In October 2011, 13 people were killed when gunmen stormed a bus carrying Shi’as and opened fire. LeJ claimed responsibility for all of the attacks. In June 2012 it also claimed responsibility for an attack on a bus carrying Shi’a pilgrims returning from Iran to Quetta, killing 14 and injuring more than 30 (Islamopedia Online).


…A Congenial Environment for Terrorists


There are other factors that make up a nurturing atmosphere for latent terrorist threats. One is the transformation of Pakistan’s largest city, its commercial hub and its main port, Karachi, into nest of criminals where a number of terrorist outfits function. In recent years, militant groups have taken advantage of the city’s lawlessness to establish a foothold, effectively taking control of certain areas. Now, suicide bombings and violent attacks on state targets have been added to the regular gun battles between rival criminal gangs and the steady stream of targeted killings of political party activists there (“Karachi vice: inside the city torn apart by killings, extortion and terrorism”: Samira Shackle: The Guardian: Oct 21, 2015).


In September 2013, Islamabad initiated an ongoing clean-up operation by the Pakistan Rangers, a merger of two paramilitary organizations, the Punjab Rangers and the Sindh Rangers. The targets of this operation were criminals already identified by federal military and civilian agencies for their alleged involvement in targeted killings, kidnappings for ransom, extortion and terrorism in Karachi.


In February 2016, at a press conference in Karachi, Pakistan’s chief military spokesman Lt. General Asim Bajwa said the Pakistan Rangers had conducted more than 7,000 raids in the city during the more than 2-year-long operation and arrested more than 12,000 people, of whom 6,000 had been handed over to the police for legal action. He said the city was infested with street crime, targeted killings and kidnappings for ransom.


Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Bajwa said, were the biggest terrorist groups that had conducted attacks in the city in collusion with the banned terror outfit, Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) Pakistan. All the terrorist organizations, he added, were trying to consolidate their presence in the city. A pool of terrorists used by all the militant groups, including 94 hardcore terrorists, was arrested. About 26 of them carried a reward for their capture or slaying, said Bajwa. The same group, he said, had planned and executed the attack on the Minhas air base at Kamra, the attack on an ISI base in Sukkur, the attack on the Karachi Airport, the Karachi jail-break attempt and the assassination of top Karachi policeman Chaudhry Aslam (“Terror outfits forging alliances in Karachi”: Pakistan Today: Feb. 13, 2016).


Beside the kidnappers, extortionists and hardcore terrorists that operate within the city of 16 million people where anyone can come and live and where outsiders do not get noticed, Karachi is also a haven for drug traffickers. Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s heroin, with almost half of its production channeled through Pakistan to Europe or Asia, hidden in containers shipped from Karachi. In recent years, a new crossover between the Afghan heroin destined for Europe and Asia and imported South American cocaine was observed in Karachi, fueling speculation of collaboration between Latin American cartels and Pakistani drug lords or the Taliban, who are partly funded by the traffic (“Pakistan drug trade blights ‘Land of the Pure’”: AFP: Dec. 15, 2013).


These criminals have been allowed to thrive in Karachi by various administrations and contesting political groups who use their services from time to time. They are on hire to carry out terrorist operations for one group against another. These are the scorpions that live in the cracks.



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