Killing and abduction again

July 10, 2016

After the killing of Amjad Sabri and kidnapping of Awais Ali Shah, Karachi is once again in the grip of terror

Killing and abduction again

Before the killing of Amjad Sabri and kidnapping of Awais Ali Shah, the law enforcement authorities were adamant that target killings and kidnappings for ransom had been wiped out from Karachi. So, what happened? The events of the last fortnight clearly show that terrorists still have the capacity to fight back.

The situation in Karachi is not satisfactory. According to data collected by the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), there have been 17 cases of kidnapping this year, compared to 25 the last year. Of these, four people are still in captivity, including Awais Ali Shah. One was kidnapped last year.

Awais Ali Shah, son of Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Chief Justice Sindh High Court, was kidnapped on June 20 from near Agha’s Supermarket in Clifton, Karachi, at 2.35pm but the family came to know about it around 9.10pm.

Awais Shah’s cell phone was switched on 72 hours after his abduction in Landi Kotal, Khyber Agency. Investigators believe it was a move by the kidnappers to mislead the high-profile investigators while Shah was still in the city.

But, a Karachi-based investigator, who requested anonymity, has a different take: "Between the kidnapping and reporting of the crime, the kidnappers had enough time to leave the city safely along with their target."

Zubair Habib, Chief of Citizen Police Liaison Committee, says, in case of Shah’s kidnapping, "Obviously it’s a clear message, a direct threat to the entire judiciary."

Two days after Shah’s abduction, on June 22, renowned qawwal Amjad Sabri was attacked in Liaquatabad No 10, when he was going to a television channel for Ramzan transmission. The two motorcycle riders fired, according to the additional police surgeon, three shots -- two in the head and one in the leg.

The terrorists used 30-bore pistol for target killing in Karachi after a long time. Forensic examination of the bullet casings recovered from the crime scene revealed that the weapon was used for the first time to commit an offence.

In the Rangers-led Karachi operation, some law enforcement agencies (LEAs) officials believe that there is a political motive behind Amjad Sabri’s murder. "The game in Karachi is very complex. ‘Channel 2’ was used to achieve the[ir] goals i.e. paid killers were hired by another element, therefore, nobody knows about the actual perpetrator. It is professionally pre-mature to say who is the real orchestrator of Amjad Sabri’s killing."

‘Channel 2’ is a code coined by terrorists to delegate the job to the third party, mainly banned outfits or hired assailants.

However, no major breakthrough has been made in the two cases, so far.

"When people feel that enemy is almost captured, it goes for tactical retreat, goes underground, and we assume that everything is hunky-dory and get relaxed. This is what happened. Once we had cut it significantly, the enemy adopted a practical approach; it retreated and regrouped itself and attacked because it was in a better position. We need to concentrate on it again and clear these elements", says CPLC Chief Zubair Habib while explaining the resurgence in terrorism related violence in the city.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan along with Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and DG ISI Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar visited Karachi on June 26. In an ISPR statement, Army Chief assured the people of Karachi that, "nexus of terrorists, their abettors, sympathisers and financiers will be broken at all cost and the ongoing operation will be taken to its logical conclusion".

Karachi Police Chief Mushtaq Mahar says there is drastic drop in target killing, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, vehicle snatching and theft. On June 21, after the kidnapping of Shah, Mahar constituted a special team to investigate the case. Sultan Ali Khawaja, DIG CIA, was appointed the chairman of the team.

A high-level security source privy to the ongoing investigation of Shah’s kidnapping disclosed that on June 17 that a call and an SMS was received in Karachi from Afghanistan, where the caller demanded to halt the execution of Safoora carnage attackers.

On the first anniversary of the brutal massacre of Ismaili Shias on May 12 this year, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif approved the hanging of five militants awarded by the military court.

DIG CIA Khawaja points out that Shah’s kidnapping is not an ordinary case for ransom. It is similar to the abduction of Shahbaz Taseer and Ali Haider Gilani.

While sharing the details of both the high-profile kidnappings of Punjab, a top official of police revealed that Shahbaz Taseer was drugged and kept in Valencia Society of Lahore for one day. "Both Taseer and Gilani were covered in burqa, shifted to Faisalabad from their hometowns and transported to North Waziristan. In both case, al-Qaeda was involved and wanted the release of their men in exchange".

Mushtaq Mahar claims that the Sindh police history shows it has solved 95 per cent high-profile cases. "We have never claimed that everything is alright in Karachi. For the last 30 years, the city has been entrenched in a troubled law and order situation. We need time to weed out this menace".

After his visit to Karachi, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan held a press conference on June 28 in Islamabad where he announced the recruitment of 20,000 additional policemen and 2,000 ex-army men in the Sindh Police.

This is not the first time that such recruitments have been made in Karachi. The same decision was taken in August 2013, prior to the start of Karachi operation, when 2,000 retired soldiers of armed forces were hired. After completing the process of hiring, the retired khakis joined Karachi police in April 2014. They were strictly meant to perform their duties only in Karachi.

Initially they were tasked for the security of sensitive installations but, in July 2014, a decision was taken to deploy them in police stations. Last year’s VIP security details (copy available with TNS) revealed that besides posting ex-servicemen to the police stations, they were also guarding VIPs in the city.

However, some of them got transferred to their native town of Interior Sindh. A report (copy available with TNS) states that at least 137 have been transferred to various districts of interior Sindh. A letter was written by Additional IG Karachi to IG Sindh in April this year to highlight this issue. According to reports, some of these ex-servicemen are working as drivers and cooks at the homes of serving police officers.

Ultimately, no reform was brought about to uplift the condition of police stations. The data shows that the sanctioned strength of Karachi Police is 32,749 but only 20,000 are at the disposal of metropolitan police. Remaining 12,000 are serving various security duties.

There are 111 police stations or police posts across Karachi where sanctioned strength is 12,618. Interestingly, only 8,746 policemen are posted in those stations or posts, that too, in two shifts of 12 hours. Essentially, 4,373 policemen guard Karachi round the clock.

Zubair Habib says that there is a dire need to equip Karachi police with latest gears and techniques. "These snap checkings will not serve the purpose, we have to adopt modern methods of policing. If you compare Karachi with other densely populated cities of the world, there should be at least 100,000 surveillance cameras and Rescue 15 should be transformed into real emergency response force".

Killing and abduction again