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Islamic Society ( 25 Jul 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Karachi: ghosts on target killing mission

The city witnessed 120 fatalities during June only due to target killings. Twenty five (25) out of them were political activists belonging to MQM, MQM (H), PPP, and ANP. Karachi lost 256 people to the target killings within last six months of 2009.

By Mohammad Nafees

A good man would prefer to be defeated than to defeat injustice by evil means - Sallust

All kinds of target killers seem to have landed in this country of pious people. You name them and there they are holding a gun in their hands and ready to take a shot at the target any time they wish. Every location in the country has different brands of target killers with different aims and objectives. At domestic level, we have target killers that mostly target women in the name of honour and feel pride in successfully accomplishing their tasks. At city level, we have target killers hunting the people belonging to certain ethnic, political, and sectarian communities. At provincial or national level, there are target killers aiming at government officials, Muslim and non-Muslim minority personnel, and common people in the name of jihad. Places like Mosques, Imambargahs, Schools, Government Facilities, Worship Places of non-Muslims and Public Places are also being targeted. We have our international level target killers as well who can go beyond our national boundaries and target foreign nationals and their properties. Added to all these target killers are the US and NATO forces sitting in the neighbouring country with an aim to target all those who, according to them, pose a serious threat to their security. We appear to be the best example of the "survival of the fittest". With so many guns pointing at us, we still manage to survive all these threats on our lives and we continue living our daily life without much care for what has been going around us.

We also have supporters of these target killers that are ready to offer all kinds of excuses, justifications, and even ignorance to these heinous crimes as long as they suit the mindset of these supporters. There are protestors who very selectively go out and lodge their protests against those killings that don't fit well into their scheme of things. Women are killed in the name of honour and our parliamentarians and senators justify them as local traditions. Suicidal attacks are carried out by the terrorists and the Taliban take responsibility of them. Yet, there are supporters that are ready to find a secret hand of Black Water or Indian agencies in it. There are ghost-like killers that remain unknown forever and those who are known killers feeling no fear in admitting their involvement in the crime. Law enforcement agencies make pledges of bringing the culprits to the book and later hopelessly admit their failures to achieve their goals. If they ever manage to arrest a criminal the lack of sufficient evidence becomes a reason for the court to release them. People watch helplessly these action replays everyday and accept them as their fait accompli.

In the Dawn of 26 June 2010, the metropolitan city of Karachi was reported to have witnessed 120 fatalities during the month of June due to target killings. Twenty five (25) out of them were political activists belonging to MQM, MQM (H), PPP, and ANP. Besides political activists, there were sectarian killings too and the targets were the people mainly belonging to Shia sect. Land or drug mafia and gangsters have also been blamed of playing their roles in these target killings. These target killings are not confined to Karachi only. Quetta is the second city where several people lost their lives to target killings during this year and majority of them were policemen from Hazara Tribe and medical or educational professionals from Punjab. BLA claimed responsibility for many of these killings while in Karachi nobody came forward to make such claims.

Moving forward from cities to the country level, we experience Target killings by the jihadi militants that kill people in hundreds using bomb and suicidal attackers. Since 2001 they have killed several thousand people besides injuries to the people and damages to the property. No place in the country is safe from them. Military has carried out an operation that mainly targeted these militants and brought peace and normalcy to the areas that were once considered to be the sanctuaries of the militants. Militancy invited the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan from where they launch unmanned Drone attacks that target militants mostly in the areas where writ of the country is almost non-existent.

While all kinds of the target killings at most of the locations are somewhat identifiable to one or the other group of extremists, the killers in Karachi remain like ghosts that have no name or identification. Different groups protest against these events and demand that the government should take notice of these killings but nothing happens at the end. One January 8, 2010, the federal government had formed a committee headed by an additional secretary of the ministry of interior to investigate incidents of target killings in Karachi. At that time Karachi had already lost 256 people to the target killings within the last six months of 2009. Since the formation of this investigation committee another 300 persons have lost of their lives in the city and there is no clue of the perpetrators.

Different reasons are offered by the analysts to explain these target killings and some of them are; existence of underworld and land mafias, different ethnic and lingual groups, and sectarian parties. No doubt, most of the victims of the target killings in Karachi belong to different segments of the population and the hands of these groups are highly suspected. Burning of 3,000 shops in Karachi after bomb explosion in the Ashura procession leads one to believe that it might have been an act of the underworld and land mafias. Killings of medical professionals belonging to Shia sect hint at the sectarian parties for committing this crime. Targeting of people belonging to different ethnicity with or without political or religious background makes one believe that there must be a hand of a certain ethnic group behind these events. Besides all these assumptions, the main question continues haunting the people's minds; "Which one of the ethnic or sectarian groups is involved in it?" "Is there any name of them or they are all nameless creatures??" On 21 May 2010, the Dawn reported the CCPO, Waseem Ahmed as saying that over 600 persons have been arrested out of which 200 are suspiciously involved in the target killings. Within a week later, The News reported that according to the Chief Secretary Sind, Fazlur Rehman, all agencies are busy in consultation to control the target killing but so far not a single person has been arrested in this regard.

The interesting point is that even the people belonging to the ruling political parties are being targeted and the government watch this menace to take its toll with no control over it. Among the 256 people that were killed during the last six months of 2009, there were 69 persons belonged to MQM, 60 to MQM-Haqiqi, 29 to PPP, 24 to ANP and 41 to other organisations. People belonging to the coalition partners of the current government, MQM, PPP, and ANP, were the highest targets among all others. Is there a political struggle going on among these coalition partners for redefining the roles each of them want to play in this metropolitan city? Fight between MQM and MQM-H is not a new thing. It has been going on for years and no respite is unfortunately foreseeable in the future. However a change in MQM's reactions to the target killings is noticeable. Their main focus of criticism is now on the Taliban and other sectarian outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. They also blame drug mafia for these crimes. The Pashto-speaking community disagrees with MQM and criticises them for making no effort to distinguish between honest workers and militants. The reaction from PPP and JI is similar with a point of reference that differs from each other. Nabeel Gabol of PPP blamed involvement of a "foreign agency" that works in collaboration with a religious party while JI leader Dr Mairajul Huda, on the other hand, accused foreign forces and their local agents for their hands in the target killings in Karachi. He even claimed that a terrorist belonging to a party had been caught red-handed but police let him escape. One can sense the party he had in mind when he made this comment.

From political parties to the law enforcement agencies, everyone is tight lipped in naming the culprits that are behind these killings. A ghost hovers over this metropolitan city and makes its presence felt when it targets a person. People die every day at the hands of these ghost-like killers. A Fear runs high among the people of an impending battle that may erupt at any time among the different stakeholders of the city. Unless peaceful measures are given preference over the extremist methods and due space is given to all stakeholders this fear will continue taking more lives. Being selective against one kind of terrorism and keeping silence against the other kind of similar crime may not bring the durable peace we aspire for. Those who claim to be the leaders of this fear-ridden city have a great responsibility of carrying the people out of this fearful situation without spilling more blood. Would they prove their mettle by acting differently?