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Mafias vs terrorism — a threat to national security

Islamabad

July 20, 2017

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Injustice, impropriety and terrorism have penetrated deep into our society today. A common man possibly feels the correlation between the injustice, impropriety and terrorism however a wise man can feel. So, today through my experience, I am penning to divulge the strong link of mafia with terrorism which is undeniably turning into a threat to our national security. As, I had been subjected to several forced encounters that enlightened me about different kinds of powerful Mafia groups and their influences which are deeply rooted in our society strengthening their core as days pass.

These Mafia which I refer to are well structured and inexorable criminal organizations, operate fearlessly. They can snatch anything from anyone and grant anything to anyone. They not only consider themselves above all institutes of the country but also think that they are above the state’s laws. And, there has to be no doubt in saying that these mafia groups are also responsible for creating major societal fiasco and have contributed majorly in destroying the governance through covert unfair means.

These emerged syndicates are infiltrated in all walks of life specifically at various levels of our administration. Woefully the laws formulated against them have no effect on them and they have self-immunity against the crimes they are committing valiantly. It seems that their self-created immunity is abetting them and these mafia groups are driving the country towards the path of gradual destruction.

Their line of actions is both covert and overt and they draw their power from the powerful circles and pillars of power of our country against a price.

We have witnessed the world’s worst organized crime groups like Sicilian mafia, Solntsevskaya Bratva, Yamaguchi Gumi, Sinaloa Cartel etc. which have been operating around the world making illegal trade of billions of dollars by drug trafficking, gambling, arms trafficking, extortion, frauds, money laundering and murders. Who do you think is facilitating them throughout their operations; of course some in the governments and the powerful individuals of the society.

The mafia mindset can be classified into different classes whereas each class emerges because of injustice, poverty and greed for money. The Mafia bosses lure the poor young men to become their tools and associates not for a hefty but very small amount. Usually the associates of Mafia bosses emerge from humble and underprivileged backgrounds that can be lured easily. And the heads of such syndicates in Pakistan were used to be called as “Dada” or “Palwan Jee”. In older days, these Mafia used to spread terror in the society through their bulky and powerful physique carrying as simple weapons as a knife, but with the passage of time, these Mafia groups updated their mode of terror and also changed the tools and methods they use to spread terror in the society.

The culture of Kalashnikov and drugs became the new hotshot for mafias and now it is easy for anyone to pick up a gun and ask for money or to grab land. Similarly instead of "Small Dada "these modernized Mafia groups use terrorists’ strength to terrorize their potential victims and their mode of operation is lethal and effective.

In Karachi and in other major cities of the country, these Mafias are firming their feet as such cities are already an unfortunate hub of mixture of criminal gangs, political and religiously motivated militants. Such groups thrive on terrorizing innocents in achieving their targets, receiving as bhatta,and illegally encroaching and grabbing the land and property is a normal affair of the day. What is worse is the inaction of the authorities in providing protection to the citizens who dare to raise their voice against the injustice being done by these mafia groups. Orangi Pilot Project director Parveen Rahman in March 2013 was brutally murdered because she dared raising her voice against the Mafias in Karachi. Parveen is one of many, who are silenced for raising voice against such criminals. How many Parveens have to put their lives on the line. Because of the fear, even no witness comes forward to testify before the court and hence no justice for the victim and no punishment for the criminals.  The state finally should wake up from slumber and start witness protection programme like in the other civilized countries.

In general, all mafia groups operate across the country follow one basic formula; these mafia groups are a nexus consisting of corrupt politicians and government officials, militants and criminals, property dealers and powerful businessmen, and national and international interest groups. The question arises however that how since 1970 these mafias have grown even stronger than the institutions that are supposed to curb them and their illicit activities.

The drug and land mafia for example, are now stronger than ever and somehow their activities and organized crime patterns are interlinked. All over the country land Mafias use drug trafficking to generate funds that are then used for owning illegal arms and rising armies of criminals to create terror in prime areas in prominent cities. In almost every major city of the country, well-connected land mafias are actively involved in illegal drug trafficking and abuse, robberies, holding and using of illegal weapons, kidnapping innocents for ransom, murders and several other crimes. Thus Land mafias also have connections with small to large scale bhatta mafias in many cities. Similarly cities like Lahore and Islamabad are no longer safe from these terror mongers and their influence on the institutions. The crime patterns are similar; uninhabited plots/buildings/lands in high profile areas are illegally acquired by generating forged documents with the help of local police and administration and even manage court through the court processes. Mafias earn their loyalties by either large scale bribery or scare tactics.

The common behaviors seen in all these mafias, which is rather alarming is the possession of fake ID’s and documents of all sorts, dragging the real owners of the land and property to pursue a doomed case in courts for years. CDA previously had acknowledged that in Islamabad alone 54,442 kanals of state property was also encroached upon by the criminals within local versions of land mafia. Despite Supreme Court ordering CDA to retake 20,000 acres of government owned land in the past, the civic authorities however seemed reluctant to take actions against the criminal elements, because of the influential elite backing of the mafias.

A thriving business is that of the housing societies launched by encroachment a considerable portion of land against the wishes of the inhabitants. Existing inhabitants of the land began to know about the plans and intentions, when a certain company begins to purchase the land and when in retaliation the inhabitants refuse to sell their plots, the land mafia comes in; threating and harassing the inhabitants so that they are left with no choice but to leave. Consequently they charge the housing society companies for their service. Thus by illegally encroachment of the land from rightful owners and then selling it to the housing societies, these land grabbers earn much over Rs200 million for delivering 500,000 sqyd chunk of land in prime areas.

The most rapidly growing mafia at an alarming rate is the drug mafia and what is even more alarming is the power it is gaining with passing of each day. Isn’t it alarming that out of 8.9 million drug addict Pakistanis, around 700 people lose their life every day because of use and abuse of drugs? These figures reveal that the drug addiction and wide spread drug mafia networks are even more lethal social ill than the prevailing terrorism in the country. The death toll through drug is much more than deaths through terrorism. Drug cartels started marking their ground in Pakistan, owing to the regional instability in 1980s. The entry of Soviet troops in Afghanistan aggravated the already alerted drug scenario in the country owing to the ban by the Ayatollah Khomeini regime of Iran; that had led a shift of Iranian drug barons to Helmand Valley of Afghanistan. Thus Afghanistan, which is responsible for at least 75% of heroin production in world, is the biggest indirect supplier of the drugs in Pakistan, making almost 3 million Pakistanis aging between 15-65 regular heroin addicts.

Cannabis is another famous drug trafficked through drug mafias in the country from around the world, making more than 5 million people its addicts. The most commonly used heroin agent was noted to be smuggled to Pakistan by organized and well-connected drug traffickers/ Mafia, misusing Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement. 40 to 42 percent of heroin is being trafficked to the rest of the world, finding its way through Pakistan. Thus Afghanistan, on hand is supplying Pakistan death in the form of funded terrorism, and on the other hand, the next worst ill is terrorism funded through drug proceeds being smuggled to Pakistan, with the help of neighbor India.

What are the reasons behind these figures, which indicate an increase in drug addiction at a surprisingly alarming pace? The reason is of course in front of us, but one that is not dealt with firmly in the past. Most of the drug Cartels /Mafia firming their grip to choke half of the country in the smoke of drugs are completely backed, supported and even funded by wealthy and powerful fractions in the country. Another influential factor is the reach of the mafia syndicates in making and strengthening international connections.

It is the need of the hour to contain these elements because billions of dollars’ trade in drugs results in direct or indirect funding of terrorist groups which spread fear and unrest in our country.

Moreover some political parties in cities like Karachi use their armed wings to fight over the city resources. For that very reason the target killings escalated in Karachi and ironically the land mafia with its influence is grabbing the land from poor owners.

There is no doubt in saying that corruption mafia and property mafia are in collusion. The huge chunk of corruption being done by individuals at government level is invested in properties which is further empowering land mafia groups for encroaching property from innocents thus misusing their institutional power. Similarly some politicians are funded by these powerful hidden hands in exchange of full protection to their illegal activities .This direct involvement of mafia groups in political arena is making Pakistan suffer economically and politically.

There is a very multifaceted link between terrorism, corruption and organized crime. The criminal activities induce a lax environment for terrorists and help them to become financially strong by these uncrowned mafias. The famous money laundering case of Altaf Khanani, a man who was one of the largest currency dealer in Pakistan, himself admitted in front of the US court that he was directly involved in laundering billions of dollars per year for organized crime and terrorist outfits like Taliban. This group is known to have relations with terrorist outfits and land mafia and Hawala mafia of Pakistan.

The time proves that unless and until we eliminate these terrorists/drug dealers/Land Mafia/Money launderers, we cannot make sure that our beloved country could be peaceful and prosperous up to its potential. What it needs is perhaps a more serious and practical dealing with iron hand to cleanup these mafias. These mafias brazenly and openly display their wealth and power without any accountability rather instead of setting a precedent for others it becomes a glorious display for those who raise these mafias. They hide their crimes behind so called charities and other media hype creating social events. 

So, it is perhaps becoming more difficult to fight against the evil elements that are devastating our new generations. The government should declare full-fledged war against these elements at all social and official levels by first identifying the responsible agents of evil, and then by pinning them down one by one; hunting down the source of their power because it is the second worst threat to the national security which shall be put to end. 

The writer is former Interior minister of Pakistan and chairman of think tank "global eye". @Email: [email protected], Twitter @senrehmanmalik)

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