KARACHI: While security officials claimed that they have eliminated the strongholds and infrastructure of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Karachi, they are apprehensive about reports that the banned outfit was attempting to re-establish its financial network in the city in a bid to increase its capability to launch terrorist attacks.

The officials also claimed that although the capability of banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi had ‘almost’ been wiped out in Karachi, its activities were increasing particularly in upper Sindh with the help of “Afghans” and financial support from the militant Islamic State group.

They added that the IS did not have a “formal structure” anywhere in the country but there were reports it was operating in some parts of Sindh with the help of sectarian outfits and it reportedly attracted “educated militants” of Karachi.

The LJ militants who escaped from prison may target PSP, MQM workers in Karachi

The security officials assessed that the recent emergence of Ansarul Sharia Pakistan in Karachi — the outfit which was involved in a number of attacks targeting a former army official and several policemen — posed a serious threats to law enforcers.

In a recent analysis of threat perceptions in Sindh, the Counter-Terrorism Department assessed that the TTP’s infrastructure and capability had been severely eroded due to both Operation Zarb-i-Azb and the Karachi operation.

“They have largely been eradicated from the localities that were formerly under their control, such as Kunwari Colony and parts of Sohrab Goth,” the analysis said.

New TTP Karachi ‘emir’

But the CTD apprehended that by appointing Dawood Khan, a former police constable from the Quaidabad police station as their emir, or local chief, they indicated that Karachi remained a key battleground for them.

“The TTP was most likely to focus on re-establishing their financial support networks in Karachi and rebuilding the capability to launch large-scale attacks on public places or security forces,” feared the CTD.

The CTD claimed that LJ’s largest faction, the Naeem Bukhari group, had been almost completely eliminated in the provincial capital.

“While their ability to conduct large attacks has been mitigated, LJ retains a large support network and cadres in Karachi, who are most likely to either merge with other groups, such as IS, or create independent splinter cells to conduct targeted killings,” warned the CTD.

Regarding other parts of Sindh, the security officials apprehended that LJ was increasingly active there, operating largely through a network of veterans of Afghan training camps and their families, such as the Hafeez Brohi network.

“The ability, especially of Brohis, to move freely across the Sindh-Balochistan border means they can transport explosive materials and suicide bombers without hindrance.”

Citing intelligence reports that these sectarian outfits were “now receiving financial support from IS”, the CTD warned that if these groups joined hands then their capability was likely to be further enhanced, and an escalation in attacks in upper Sindh could be feared.

“They are likely to continue to target Shia community, Sufi shrines, and local political notables.”

The CTD also warned that such outfits might carry out attacks on venues like Garhi Khuda Bakhsh Bhutto.

Pointing out the recent escape of two high-profile LJ militants from the Karachi Central Prison, the CTD assessed that there was a possibility that the escaped militants might attempt to form a new cell to start targeted killings of Shias and workers of the Pak Sarzameen Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and other political parties.

IS operating through banned groups

The CTD claimed that IS did not have a “formal command and control structure” in Sindh or other parts of Pakistan but it appeared that it had preferred to act through either the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Alami, with whom it had made a strategic alliance in Kandahar, or by co-opting local factions of LJ (such as the Hafeez Brohi network).

Regarding its possible presence in Karachi, the CTD assumed that young hardliners were likely to be attracted to the militant outfit’s global image.

“While these individuals will have lower capabilities than established terrorist groups, they will likely come from more educated backgrounds, and thus will be more innovative in planning terror attacks.”

About Ansarul Sharia Pakistan, the CTD believed that ideologically it was a new and independent group that did not owe its allegiance to either Al Qaeda or IS.

The group’s modus operandi was to go after “soft targets” affiliated with the security services.

The police feared that this new outfit might target personnel of security forces, particularly ‘soft targets’ such as retired personnel and patrolling teams of police and Rangers.

The CTD also claimed that there was compelling evidence that the banned Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) and “Sindhi sub-nationalist groups” were receiving support from “hostile foreign intelligence agencies”.

“Their target pattern will focus on IED attacks on economic projects especially CPEC-related projects or other projects where Chinese nationals are involved,” it said.

About the Altaf Hussain-led MQM, commonly known as MQM-London, the CTD report said: “If Altaf Hussain perceives that he is being squeezed out of political space, he may launch an escalation of attacks in Karachi, basically meant to remind the provincial and federal governments of his nuisance value and to undermine the claims of the government that the Karachi operation has restored peace to the city.

“Attacks would be carried out by militants loyal to MQM-London and they are likely to target the media, police and law enforcement agencies and potentially plan assassinations of prominent social or political figures,” it added.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2017