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sunni tehrik workers, karachi
The cable notes that the “ST is a small religious/political group with a presence in small pockets of Karachi. The group has only managed to win a handful of council seats in local elections but militarily it is disproportionately powerful because of the influx of MQM-H gunmen. ST has organised the party and its gunmen along the lines of MQM by dividing its areas of influence into sectors and units, with sector and unit commanders”. – Photo by Reuters (Thumbnail illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/

KARACHI:  “The police are only one of several armed groups and probably not the most numerous or best equipped,” according to a secret assessment of the ‘The Gangs of Karachi’ by then US consul general Stephen Fakan in April 2009.

The assessment focuses on the Pakistan People’s Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Awami National Party, Muhajir Qaumi Movement (H), Sunni Tehreek and “Pashtun terrorists”, besides some armed gangs operating in Lyari and other parts of this megapolis. It states that “the PPP’s decision to include MQM in coalition governments in Sindh and at the centre has helped preclude a return to the PPP-MQM violence of the 1990s. But the potential for MQM-ANP conflict is growing as Pashtuns challenge Muhajir political dominance and vie for control of key economic interests, such as the lucrative trucking industry.

“Any sign that political violence is returning to Karachi, especially if it is related to the growing strength of conservative Pashtun ‘Taliban’, will send extremely negative shockwaves through the society and likely accelerate the flight from Pakistan of the business and intellectual elite of the society,” the report says.

Assessing the overall situation that prevailed in the city, the cable adds that the police consider many neighbourhoods to be no-go zones in which even intelligence services have a difficult time operating.

“Very few of the groups are traditional criminal gangs. Most are associated with a political party, a social movement, or terrorist activity, and their presence in the volatile ethnic mix of the world’s fourth largest city creates enormous political and governance challenges.”

About the presence of armed groups in the city, the US assessment mentions many parties. It says that the MQM’s armed members, referred to as “Good Friends”, are the largest non-governmental armed element in the city and that “the police estimate MQM has ten thousand active armed members and as many as twenty-five thousand armed fighters in reserve.”

According to the cable, the local police believes that “MQM-H still maintains its armed groups in the areas of Landhi and Korangi, and that the party will re-organise itself once its leadership is released from jail.  MQM-H had broken from the main MQM and its strongholds in Landhi and Korangi were regarded as no-go zones. It was in 2003 that the MQM, as a precondition to join the government, asked for the elimination of the MQM-H. The local police and Rangers were used to crack down on MQM-H, and its leaders were put behind bars.  The rank and file of MQM-H found refuge in a local religious/political party, Sunni Tehrik,” the assessment reads.

The cable goes on to note that the “ST is a small religious/political group with a presence in small pockets of Karachi. The group has only managed to win a handful of council seats in local elections but militarily it is disproportionately powerful because of the influx of MQM-H gunmen. ST has organised the party and its gunmen along the lines of MQM by dividing its areas of influence into sectors and units, with sector and unit commanders”.

About the PPP, the US diplomat comments that “traditionally the party has not run an armed wing, but the workers of the party do possess weapons, both licensed and unlicensed. With PPP … having an influential … Home Minister, a large number of weapons permits were currently being issued to PPP workers.” He quotes a police official as having said that he believes, given the volume of weapons permits being issued to PPP members, that the party will soon be as well-armed as MQM.

The Awami National Party (ANP), says Mr Fakan, “represents the ethnic Pashtuns in Karachi” and has begun to “organise formal armed groups.” Karachi’s Pashtuns, he continues, “do possess personal weapons, following the tribal traditions of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). … With the onset of combat operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in August 2008, a growing number of Pashtuns fled south to swell the Pashtun ranks of what already is the largest Pashtun city in the world.  This has increased tensions between ANP and MQM.

“If rhetoric of the police and the ANP leadership is to be believed, these armed elements may be preparing to challenge MQM’s control of Karachi,” the cable adds. “In March [2009] the Karachi Police Special Branch submitted a report to the Inspector General of Police in which it mentioned the presence of ‘hard-line’ Pashtuns in the Sohrab Goth neighborhood.”

This report, according to the cable, said the neighborhood was “becoming a no-go area for the police” and claimed “the Pashtuns are involved in drug trafficking and gun running and if police wanted to move in the area they had to do so in civilian clothing.  A senior member of the Intelligence Bureau in Karachi recently opined that the ANP would not move against MQM until the next elections, but the police report ANP gunmen are already fighting MQM gunmen over protection-racket turf.”

Comments (30) Closed

Abdul Qadir May 23, 2011 07:03am
What has happened to pakistan? So much for Islam being peaceful and nonviolent: just look at this society...littered with bigotry and awful violence.
Syed Sabir Shah May 23, 2011 09:25am
This report rings so true and sounds very close to reality, if not the whole truth. What have we done to this land of pures, at times I wonder????
Barooq May 23, 2011 09:53am
And here all the "educated" readers wont say a word. So quick to castigate Nawaz, so blind to see MQM kills...
saqib wasim May 23, 2011 10:15am
amazing. isn't it. the political parties posses more arms then the police in the largest city of pakistan. Among those parties are the mainstream parties like MQM and ANP. its more then obvious that if any incident takes place one of these or all of these parties are one way or involved in it. and still we look forward to such parties and leaders
Athar Mustafa Khan May 23, 2011 11:17am
The Train Leave from Peshawer to Karachi every day & brings thousands of people & dump it at Karachi without the basic ammenties. As a result of this Karachi residents are getting in minority & other communities making life very difficult for Karachi residents and I see this as a conspiracy against Karachi and no Government is interested to stop this conspiracy. As a result of this Karachi is going to be a war field and it is in the interest of bigger province.
Mubarak May 23, 2011 11:23am
{ It says that the MQM’s armed members, referred to as “Good Friends”, are the largest non-governmental armed element in the city and that “the police estimate MQM has ten thousand active armed members and as many as twenty-five thousand armed fighters in reserve.” } This speaks volumes about MQM's terrorism and also whose Friends they are and whose agenda they are working on :-(
Kashif Saleem May 23, 2011 12:33pm
Solution to this! need to learn saying "NO".
Saleem Janjua May 23, 2011 12:40pm
Just unbelievable, that this is common knowledge and nobody is doing anything about. The government and establishment by being complacent is actively participating in letting the city experience a protracted civil war.
Muhammad May 23, 2011 02:46pm
very good findings but you wasted your time. we already know this
Imran Haider May 23, 2011 02:57pm
@Ather, do you seriously believe what you said? That we in Karachi have the right to stop, kill or maim everyone coming to this city? By your logic, the locals should have beaten, threatened or killed us when our forefathers came to this land from India. How long will our youth take to get out of the illusion that the short sighted political leadership spins for us? Imran.
Kashif May 23, 2011 05:57pm
All these so called Political Parties are terrorist parties, they are running government , how can we expect that we will win the war against terror. MQM,ANP & PPPP are in the government , this is slap on the faces of those who said we should have to support this system & these political parties. This the charm of democracy terrorist become ruler of Pakistan with the support of People, People elected them …… This is hypocrite nation they believe that these are the real leaders who can solved their problem despite the fact that they are terrorist ,,, I must say please stop blaming Taliban or other Terrorist wing on National Media ,,, we are terrorist nation & we support terrorists in every election…. PAKISTAN KA ALLAH HI HAFIZ
numl May 23, 2011 05:59pm
It is common knowledge that the armed wings of these democratic terrorist parties are largely responsible for whatever happens in Karachi. Secondly, being a majoriy Party of national stature, MQM is under obligation to create an environment of peace and mutual co-existence. On the contrary, it has been supporting ethnic ideology which has destroyed the peace of this city. No doubt, other parties are equally contributuing in the mess, yet most of thier violent acts are counter productive. Karachi politics presents a dismal state of affairs and no one assumes the responsibility including the government. With the result that a perpetual civil war-like situation has been prevailing in the city. Life of the citizens has become hell. Add to this the collection of Bhatta from traders and poor shopkeepers by the rough elements in these parites. Where does the solution lie then? Millitary operation, no this is not a permanent solution, though the millitary has the potential to restore peace to the city for the time being, lasting peace would come only when the political parties sort out thier differnces. However, as an iniative, MQM could arrange weekly peace walks around the city with the collaboration of other politcal groups. Even, as polotical tactics, this could largely improve the over all image of MQM in other parts of the country where it is taken for granted that only MQM is responsible for everthing.
Sameer May 23, 2011 07:57pm
The report makes it clear that the blame does not lie with one party, as is conveniently concluded in the drawing rooms of other provinces. It also makes it clear that every political party is armed and dangerous. Its not a surprise that the alleged estimates for the armed members of MQM are high, since its the biggest political group in the city. The alarming part is that small groups with little political representation in Karachi are heavily armed and spread havoc in the neighbourhoods whenever it suits them. These include Sunni Tehrik, Haqiqi, PPP. But the biggest nuisance, as the report points out, is that senseless tribal tradition of possessing arms brought into the city by intra-country migration: if not stopped by the law enforcement agencies, the ANP will turn out to be the main party that will destroy whatever amount of peace is left in this city. As an example, one of the areas where its political support comes from is Sohrab Goth, that has historically been the epicenter of drugs and weapons smuggling-an area where police cannot enter unless they are in civilian clothing (as in the report).
Gene Ralno May 23, 2011 08:47pm
Kinda' reminds me of Mexico.
Farhan May 23, 2011 08:58pm
It is the only nation on the face of the earth that was created in the name of Islam. I suppose in a similar way we are the worst possible people to be called as Muslims
Gulab khan May 24, 2011 01:03am
We Pathans are fighters and we will fight to get Karachi or even sindh if ppp & mqm Govt do not stop war in puktoon province. Putoon Afghans are our brothers. We will fight with them, Karachi Sabzi mandi
Imran May 24, 2011 02:40am
Abdul, Its the Muslims and not Islam that is bigoted and hypocrite!
Mohammad May 24, 2011 03:50am
Barelvi islam is what Pakistan traditionally was...and it was truely peaceful. With the rise of Salafi and Wahabiism things have changed !
sultan May 24, 2011 04:19am
what sort of logic is this? any citizen should be able to move about and settle anywhere in the country. people have always moved including to and from karachi. gujerati's in the early nineteenth century, makrani/baluch laborers as the port developed, millions after independence from all over the subcontinent. bangladeshis and afghanistanis in th eighties. This is the logic of the modern mega city in developing countries. the tragedy in karachi is that the different groups think they can progress by using handguns and taking part in crime and then the rather than being productive citizens. Instead blame the "bigger provinces" - what sort of logic is this? karachi is the conduit for the exports from the "bigger provinces" and imports to the "bigger provinces". Evidence, facts, logic and rationality are great approaches - try them.
shabbir May 24, 2011 05:55am
Can any one tell me why did we make Pakistan? To kill each others with armed gangs? We would have been better off as part of united India. The Hindus would have kept us in check.
Enzar Gul May 24, 2011 09:35am
It is an endorsement to the information/perception what people already had in their mind, main point is that "the government in general and Military regime in Particular knew this they have not only ignored it but have helped promote it" , and that is the most alarming situation for every one in Karachi and Pakistan itself.............. We need true leaders to lead us.
Joker May 24, 2011 11:22am
Sorry to say, but the educated and literate Pakistan have absolutely no backbone. They allow crazy fundamentalist to hijack their country, making the nation look third country world ruled by religious dictators. Seriously folks, as a Pakistani looking at the situation from inside and outside the country, it's time to wake up.
Bismillah Khan May 24, 2011 10:27pm
This is exactly what happened during the partition in 1947.
A Rasheed May 25, 2011 02:52pm
observing the current situation of civilized nation, I regretfully to say that since inception of Pakistan, some armed elements are promoted by Politician, Military and civil bureaucracy as well as law enforcement agencies because for their self interest. getting above 50 percent budget yearly it is shameful to say that no one is safe, the state of ordinary man is being coward, depressed everywhere in Pakistan living in miserable condition. being a (Asharaful-mukhlukaat) what it reflect, Are we really human being or non else? Now I feel highly dishonorable myself being Pakistani.
Syed May 25, 2011 04:54pm
At least the writer had the courage to point it out to others than by doing nothing.
SN May 26, 2011 01:04pm
Pakistan is not a failed state. It is a failed state of mind. Arguing would not do us any good. We can only beat our internal and external enemies by trying to compete with the developed nations of the world.
B1 May 26, 2011 02:23pm
Well, am not any scholar or some analyst or some opinion maker. What I am is a citizen of Pakistan and after all the stuff going around me, MY BELOVED COUNTRY, i actually would love to know the real definition of a failed state. i mean, what else you are expecting more ?
waqar May 26, 2011 10:03pm
well we all have to see the history MQM prepares its armed group to handle military operations and intelligence and MQM Haqiqi gunman. But they continue to exist after that too ANP uses poor Pakhtoon to obtain a political goal. The weapon trafficking .. khi isnt a factory of weapon so who is supplying the weapon and under whose nose?? Try to see a wider spectrum and come out of local political attitude.
Tariq Asrar May 26, 2011 10:49pm
Every body of karachi knows from where ARMS/AMMUNATION comes and who are the carrier, also know from where deadly weapon can be bought.
Hussein May 31, 2011 08:35am
Where's the link to the cable?