KARACHI, Oct 29: Of the 37 policemen killed in the west zone of city police organisational structure during the current year, as many as 11 were targeted within the remit of three police stations by an armed group being described by some law-enforcement officials as ‘Taliban’, it emerged on Monday.
According to a conservative estimate, a total of 80 policemen have been killed in the city this year so far.
The law-enforcement officials attribute the 11 killings within the jurisdiction of the Manghopir, Pirabad and Site-A police stations to the emergence of a new phenomenon for the city called ‘Taliban-style elements’ or ‘Taliban’.
The same elements were believed to have targeted some policemen in the Sohrab Goth area as well, the law-enforcement officials said.
During background interviews with Dawn, several senior officials of law-enforcement agencies posted in the city acknowledged tangible presence and activities of Taliban elements.
However, they added, they were operating in a style not much different from that of criminal gangs in the city, with threat and extortion being their primary activity.
“A significant portion of money being extorted in the city is being sent to Waziristan by these elements,” the officials said.
Since the beginning of the year, a pattern began emerging in the west district where local leadership of the Awami National Party got targeted in Pakhtun settlements.
On Aug 14, a local ANP leader Ameer Sardar was gunned down along with his friends in Frontier Colony, said an official. “Between 10 and 12 men carried out the gun attack and just walked away from the area,” said a law-enforcement official.
Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) later claimed the responsibility for the assassination of the ANP workers in Karachi.
TTP Malakand division spokesman Sirajuddin told reporters by phone from an unknown location that they had killed four ANP workers in Frontier Colony, Karachi.
The spokesman added that ANP leader Ameer Sardar was an anti-Taliban leader and had been found guilty of cooperating with the government against Taliban.
He said that Ameer Sardar had killed and handed over many TTP militants to the government and that was why he was assassinated along with his three men. Anyone involved in anti-militants activities would meet the same fate, warned the spokesman.
Shortly afterwards, Sindh ANP Secretary General Bashir Jan survived a gun attack near Frontier Colony as he was leaving the residence of Ameer Sardar after paying condolences to his relatives.
“They initially targeted ANP area leadership in these Pakhtun pockets, beginning with seeking extortion money and eliminating them when they didn’t meet their demand,” said another law-enforcement official.
They also sought extortion money from narcotics dealers in these areas and in case of non-compliance, they were eliminated, the official added.
Similarly, he said, they also sent money extortion slips to marble units and some hydrants located along Manghopir Road.Sources said that pamphlets were distributed in mosques in these localities instructing the clerics to forbid people in their sermons from going to police for any issue because all the disputes would now be resolved in mosques.
The sources added that CD shops had not been forced to close down but their owners had been warned not to keep the ‘objectionable’ stuff. A similar note of caution for the barber shops had also been issued by the new force, they said.
“Recently handbills have been distributed in the Manghopir area of Sultanabad and adjoining localities, issuing a warning to women that they should not be seen outside their homes after 8pm without being accompanied by a male member of their family,” said a domestic maid living in the Manghopir area while speaking to Dawn.
The situation is no different in Sohrab Goth where all ANP offices have been closed down.
“Almost all ANP flags have disappeared from the Sohrab Goth area,” said officials.
“They [Taliban] had settled in these areas with their families with minimal belongings,” said the officials.
The situation is reminiscent of the early days of Taliban in Swat before they captured the valley.
“Actually two groups have their presence in the city; the one dominant group belongs to Maulvi Fazalullah and the other, believed to be fewer, is working under Hakimullah Mehsud,” said the officials.
“We are after them,” he said, adding that the police had picked up several such elements.
“Police have carried out raids on their houses and picked up their relatives for interrogation. Subsequently, reprisal attacks are being carried out against the policemen,” said a senior police officer.
The officer said that a number of them (Taliban) had been arrested in recent days and it was the police action that encouraged residents to cooperate with the police by furnishing information about these elements.
However, Sindh ANP Secretary General Bashir Jan had some reservations over the issue.
He said that they could simply be hit men who were hired to kill people. “We will be satisfied when agencies or police will arrest one of these killers and identify them as Taliban,” said Mr Jan.
In reply to a question about the removal of ANP party flags from Sohrab Goth, he said that criminal elements, which were taking ANP cover to carry out their activities, were publicly denounced by Shahi Syed. “They closed down the party offices in the area in reaction,” he explained.
“As a secretary general, I have not received any threat call from the Taliban so far,” Mr Jan added.
Referring to what he described as intelligence reports, he said that the reports suggested that these were criminal elements using the name of Taliban.
Trying to classify the Taliban, Mr Jan said that the Taliban from Swat belonged to the lower income group while the Taliban from Waziristan were from the upper economic class. “We can easily identify and tackle the Swat Taliban,” he claimed.