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Tuesday July 16, 2024

‘Crackdown on JSMM intensified to protect Chinese nationals’

By Zia Ur Rehman
August 07, 2017

As part of the strategy to provide infallible security to Chinese nationals working on various projects across Sindh, law enforcement agencies have intensified their crackdown on a banned separatist party in various parts of the province.

Last month, a roadside IED went off minutes after a Chinese convoy passed through the Steel Town locality in Karachi’s outskirts. In May the year before, a person was injured in a remote-controlled explosion targeting a Chinese engineer in the same area.

In both the cases, according to law enforcement officials, leaflets written in the Sindhi language and bearing the name of a group called Sindhu Desh Revolutionary Army (SDRA) were recovered from the crime scenes. The leaflets denounced “foreign control over Sindh’s natural resources”.

The Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) is among the 65 groups that have been declared proscribed in the past few years by the Ministry of Interior under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997. The government had banned the JSMM in March 2013 for its alleged involvement in acts of province-wide violence, and put the name of its chief Shafi Burfat on the wanted list.

Law enforcers believe that the group uses the platforms of the SDRA and the Sindhu Desh Liberation Army for carrying out subversive attacks, including the recent assaults on Chinese nationals.

An intelligence official told The News that the JSMM lacked recruits, resources and training, and primarily engaged in acts of sabotage, such as small-scale attacks on railway tracks, electricity pylons and state-run banks. But the group has recently launched attacks on Chinese interests in Sindh, he said.

A Special Branch official posted in District Malir said his department had recently shifted its focus to the city’s Sindhi-populated neighbourhoods, mostly in the rural and coastal parts, and compiled a list of dozens of workers affiliated with various Sindhi ethnic groups, particularly the JSMM and the two factions of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM).

The localities being focused on include Gulshan-e-Hadeed, Sachal, Ibrahim Hyderi, Cattle Colony, Shah Latif Town, Hazrat Bilal Colony, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Gadap and some Sindhi-dominated villages in Malir.

In 2012, the JSQM had run a campaign to boycott Chinese products. The group later attempted to stage a protest rally outside the Chinese consulate in Karachi, but they were stopped by police officials. In March 2011, local JSMM leader Zulfiqar Kolachi was reportedly killed while handling explosives inside a rented house in Ibrahim Hyderi.

“In the beginning, law enforcement agencies mainly focused on Sindh’s rural districts and public universities, such as the University of Sindh in Jamshoro,” the official told The News. “But on the basis of interrogation reports of recently arrested JSMM members, Karachi’s Sindhi-populated neighbourhoods are now on the radar screen, in order to protect Chinese interests in the city from being targeted.”

On the other hand, activists have complained that law enforcement agencies have picked up dozens of workers affiliated with different Sindhi ethnic parties, especially the JSMM, from various parts of the province, including Karachi, in recent months, and their whereabouts remain unknown.

Punhal Sario, a rights activist campaigning for their release, had said that more than 60 activists had gone missing in the past few months across the province. This past Thursday night, however, Sario was also reportedly picked up by plain-clothes officials.