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February 10, 2019

Is sectarian violence returning to Karachi?


February 10, 2019

As Karachi experiences a renewed wave of what appear to be sectarian killings in the city, with four attacks causing killings and injuries in the past two months, religious parties representing various sects blame the provincial government for its failure in protecting their members.

In the past two months, four incidents of killings mainly on sectarian grounds occurred in various parts of the city. In the latest attack, unidentified assailants killed Muhammad Nadeem Qadri, a Liaquatabad area leader of the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, near the Parking Plaza in the Saddar area on the night of February 4.

On January 22, gunmen riding on a motorcycle killed Mohammad Ali Shah, an official of the Karachi Development Authority, while he was travelling in a car near Shahrah-e-Quaideen. Shah was also the Shia Ulema Council’s vice-president.

Two ASWJ members, who were seminary teachers, were wounded in a firing incident near Al-Asif Square in Sohrab Goth on January 18. Assailants targeted the ASWJ workers when they were returning to home after attending a party event organised at Lasbela Chowk, according to ASWJ claims.

On January 3, unknown attackers killed Fida Hussain, a shopkeeper, in Korangi’s Zaman Town. MWM leaders claimed that the victim’s son is an office-bearer of the Imamia Students Organisation, a Shia student outfit, in the Korangi area.

Concerns of sect-based parties

Showing their concerns over the renewed wave of sectarian killings in the city, sect-based religious parties have asked the government to provide security to their leaders and arrest those behind the killings.

Announcing the start of a series of protests against the attacks on its leaders, ASWJ leaders said on Thursday the peace of Karachi was restored after a long time, but now extremists wanted to sabotage it by carrying out such activities.

“The assassination of ASWJ leader Qadri is a matter of grave concern for the law enforcement agencies,” said Maualana Aurangzeb Farooqi, the ASWJ’s central chief, at a press conference held at the party’s media cell.

The group announced a series of protests in various places, including in front of the Chief Minister’s House, the Sindh police office and on the city’s main roads. On Sunday, they announced they would convene a protest outside the Karachi Press Club.

A few days ago, the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen had also convened an all Shia parties’ press conference to show their anger over the killings of Shia community members.

Allama Abbas Kumeli of the Jafferia Alliance, the MWM’s Allama Hamad Iqbal Rizvi and the Majlis-e-Ulema Shia Pakistan’s Allama Mirza Yusuf Hussain were prominent among the speakers.

Demanding the effective and fair implementation of the National Action Plan, they said that the government had failed to protect the community against people who were openly engaged in sectarian violence. They termed the recent killings a conspiracy to spoil the peace in the metropolis, saying the lull in the violence and killings had ended.

Is sectarian violence returning?

Although police officials say they are investigating the recent attacks from various angles, they believe that sectarian motive is clearly seen in some of the murders.

“Sectarian violence has decreased to a great extent because of the ongoing successful operation against proscribed sectarian groups in the city,” said a senior police official. “It is the reason that Karachi did not witness any significant sectarian attack in 2018.”

Since 2007, Karachi had been an ubran epicentre of sectarian violence with militants targeting religious scholars, leaders, doctors and traders on sectarian grounds. “At that time, Karachi, Quetta, Gilgit and Kurram Agency were flashpoints of sectarian violence. But in the past two years, Karachi has been omitted from the list because of the successful crackdown and a significant decrease in the sectarian killings,” he told The News.

His claim was corroborated by an annual security report of the Pak Institute of Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based security think tank, who, in its annual security report, said Orakzai, Quetta and DI Khan were flashpoints of sectarian violence in 2018.

“Apart from one major attack in Orakzai (claimed by the Islamic State), which alone killed 34 people, most among ten other sectarian-related attacks were of low intensity mainly incidents of targeted attacks that were reported from Quetta (6 attacks), DI Khan (3 attacks), and Peshawar (one attack),” the report said.

Both ASWJ and Shia groups claim that dozens of their members from Karachi had been picked up by law enforcement agencies and their whereabouts are unknown.

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