Karachi in darkness and soaked in blood
Altaf Hussain, founder of MQM in 1984, and its chief was given political asylum in London after he fled from Karachi hospital in May 1992 because of life threats from his colleagues in his party. He was later awarded British nationality in 2002 and allowed to establish MQM International Secretariat in London. All the runaway MQM leaders involved in dozens of criminal cases in Pakistan were allowed to hire houses in posh area of London and are leading an affluent life. For the upkeep of their high lifestyle, MQM Rabita Committee with its HQ at Nine Zero in Karachi channelizes the needed funds. It is alleged that biggest source of earning is extortion money. MQM ministers have always vied for Port & Shipping Ministry and for Home Ministry. The then DG Rangers Sindh and now DG ISI Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar had deposed before the Supreme Court in 2013 that during Babar Khan Ghauri’s prolonged tenure, 19000 NATO containers carrying arms went missing.
Since 1992, Altaf has been remote controlling his party from London and giving regular sermons on telephone to his party workers. The MQM’s militancy was first jolted during 1992 military operation, but it couldn’t achieve much progress since the entire leadership went underground and arms dumps couldn’t be recovered. Moreover, the judicial and socio-economic prongs as well as the political will could not keep in step with the military prong. MQM’s militancy was contained to quite an extent in the 1995-1996 Police-Rangers operation headed by retired Gen Naseerullah Babar.
In that operation, 250-300 hardcore MQM militants were killed by the police, which broke the back of MQM militancy. MQM was forced to make South Africa as base of operation for its target killers. They were provided multiple passports and were called to Karachi for short-term specific ventures. MQM target killer Saulat Mirza confessed that 80-1000 target killers reside in South Africa. He also disclosed that MQM activists received training in India. The MQM also made Dubai as its economic hub center.
The MQM once again ran into trouble after the murder of revered philanthropist Hakim Said on October 17, 1998. Nine MQM workers involved in his murder were arrested by DIG Farooq Amin Qureshi and the court sentenced them to death. Sindh government was sacked and Governor Rule imposed. However, once the MQM rebounded back to power in 2001, Sindh High Court acquitted all the accused and later the Supreme Court also upheld the acquittal.
After Gen Musharraf took over power in October 1999, sagging fortunes of the MQM started swinging upwards. When Musharraf submitted to all the demands of Washington after 9/11, Altaf Hussain hastened to write a letter to the then British PM Tony Blair offering him ‘limitless resources’ for human intelligence to monitor activities of Madrassas, fundamentalists and Taliban in Pakistan. He also sought disbandment of ISI, cautioning Blair that the spy agency will produce many Osama bin Laden’s and Taliban in future. The MQM became stronger during Gen Musharraf’s nine-year rule. MQM Haqiqui under Amer Khan and Afaq Ahmad was pulverized and the two leaders jailed in 2004. Local government system suited MQM the most which enabled the MQM to gain control over almost 95% of port city. Ishrat ul Abad installed as Governor in 2001 is still in chair and is of great advantage to the party.
MQM and PPP were the biggest beneficiaries of infamous NRO issued by Gen Musharraf on October 5, 2007, which pardoned thousands of MQM leaders and activists involved in heinous crimes and dozens of PPP leaders involved in mega corruption. MQM shared power with PPP from 2008 till February 2013 and further bolstered its financial as well as its political strength in urban Sindh.
During MQM’s hey days, the MQM goons went on a killing spree against police officers involved in two operations in the 1990s. 300 police officers who had taken part in operation cleanup in Karachi in 1992 were eliminated one by one. Only SP Ch Aslam, later promoted DIG, was spared after he sought pardon, but was killed in 2013 since he had arrested Saulat Mirza. Likewise, over 100 police officers who had taken part in 1995-96 operation in Karachi were also killed by MQM thugs. Other than the police, thousands of innocent people were gunned down by unknown target killers between 2002 and 2013, but not a single culprit was arrested and convicted. The families of martyred have been abandoned by the State and the killers allowed to roam about freely.
The MQM has been in good books of USA, UK and India since its birth. Altaf and other MQM leaders based in London came on the wrong side of British government after London Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard suspected them of being involved in the murder of senior MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq and subjected them to interrogation. They were also accused of money laundering worth millions of pound sterling. MQM Secretariat in Edgware and Altaf’s mansion in Mill Hill were raided which led to recovery of bags of unaccounted foreign currency.
For the first time after May 2013 elections, the party lost its blackmailing tactics since the PML-N didn’t require its political support in the Centre; so was the case with the PPP in Sindh. There on it has been on a downhill journey. As a result of PTI’s political activism in Karachi, which again was seen as a threat to MQM’s vote bank, Altaf delivered an inflammatory speech on phone. He exhorted his workers to cut the fingers of burger type supporters of PTI. Imran Khan held MQM responsible for the murder of PTI senior worker Zahra Shahid, who was targeted in front of her house in DHA-4 on May 18, 2013. Her murderers Kaleem and Rashid belonging to MQM have been arrested and are being tried.
London Metropolitan Police received unprecedented numbers of complaints from Pakistan, Britain and elsewhere asking it as to why it was not taking notice of incitement of violence by British national Altaf Hussain? He was accordingly charged and cautioned to control his reckless behavior and not to incite violence in future. Once the noose tightened, he and other party leaders cried out that the London Police and British government were conspiring to kill him. Unlike in Karachi where the MQM has the power to paralyse the city, it couldn’t carry out any sort of violent act in UK except for propaganda war which also boomeranged.
Reportedly, mystery of Dr Imran Farooq murder case will soon be solved since hired killers have been traced to be in the custody of Pakistani security agencies. Of late, the government is seriously contemplating to provide full details of the two prime suspects to Scotland Yard who killed Dr Imran. Other players are MQM MNA in Karachi who received orders from MQM International Secretariat in 2010 to arrange murder of Dr Imran. He had deputed Khalid Shamim, who in turn tasked Hammad Siddiqui. The latter picked up professional killers Mohsin Ali and Kashif Khan and sent them to London on student visa. The pair was briefed by an MQM official Haroon in London about the daily routine of Dr Imran, who was stabbed to death in front of his house on September 16, 2010.
Soon after committing the murder, the killers spoke to Khalid Shamim on phone saying that they had accomplished the mission. They were told to board a flight to Colombo to mislead the investigators. After two days, Shamim having planned to kill them phoned them to return to Karachi. This conversation was taped by Pak intelligence Agency. Once they arrived at Karachi airport, they were whisked away from the tarmac by the agencies. Ongoing probe is giving nightmares to Altaf. The dilemma is that the party cannot survive without Altaf, and the latter can neither return to Pakistan, nor can live safely in London.
On one hand MQM’s hold over the city is weakening, and on the other its Supremo’s credibility has been dented because of charges of Dr Imran’s murder, money laundering and accusations made by his former wife Faiza Gabol in her divorce case. There are reports of cracks within the party, which had become the principal cause of Dr Imran’s murder. Mounting internal and external pressure has upset Altaf so immensely that he seems to have lost his sense of coherence. Feeling increasingly insecure, he keeps changing his goalposts in each of his telephonic address and goes reckless. He is past master in theatrics, but other than his diehard followers, who also get embarrassed by his cheap histrionics, great majority loathe his lengthy and mind-numbing jumbled speeches.
Terrorised media can dare not cut short his long-winded telephonic addresses. Altaf calls the TV newsroom directly asking them to give him live airtime. Any media house defying his orders is attacked by MQM goons. Dozens of journalists and media persons have been killed in Karachi. Religious and political opponents and police officials also remain on the hit list. Worst affected have been Urdu speaking community opposing Altaf’s policies.
In the wake of high spate of target killings and kidnappings in Karachi and Sindh government’s inability to rein in the criminals, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar had taken suo moto action and established Supreme Court Bench in 2013 to take stock of the situation. The JIT presented a report to him, stating that the MQM, PPP, ANP and Sunni Tehriq had militant wings and were patronizing the criminals. Chief Justice directed the concerned parties to abolish the armed wings, but no action was taken and criminal acts continued unabated.
In September 2013, in a meeting chaired by PM Nawaz Sharif and attended by Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and heads of all Sindh political parties, it was mutually decided to restore peace in Karachi by launching intelligence driven Rangers-Police operation against all criminal elements and giving enhanced powers to the Rangers. Owing to politicization of Sindh police and dysfunctional administrative machinery, the progress has been slow but gradually the law and order situation improved. Besides getting hold of criminals of PPP, TTP and others, law enforcers also tightened the noose around MQM’s militant wing involved in target killings and other crimes. However, whenever any action is directed against MQM workers, MQM leaders raise hue and cry saying that Muhajirs are being victimized. They threaten to go their way if pushed against the wall.
Rauf Rajput, sector in-charge Mehmoodabad after his arrest by the police on February 8, 2015 revealed that he and his accomplices were involved in May 12, 2007 killings of 166 persons in Karachi on the occasion of arrival of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. He disclosed the secret places in the city where arms were dumped for target killing. Rizwan Qureshi, an MQM worker, arrested by Rangers on June 22, 2013, confessed before the JIT that fire in Baldia town garment factory on September 11, 2012 was not accidental but deliberate. He disclosed that fire in factory was lit by sector in-charge of Baldia Town Rehman Bhola and his accomplices on the instructions of Hammad Siddiqui, in-charge Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, after the factory owners refused to pay Rs 200 million extortion money. As a consequence, 289 people were burnt to death.
The matter had been put in cold freezer by the then PPP-MQM coalition government in Sindh on the plea that fire occurred due to short circuiting. The case was presented before Sindh Court in February 6, 2015, but Rizwan disappeared mysteriously one month later. The case has once again been opened on March 16, 2015 and JIT is reinvestigating it on the basis of fresh evidence collected. It will submit the report within one month.
This revelation of Bhola’s involvement in factory fire was also made by Umair Siddiqui after his arrest on February 20, 2015. He also disclosed that he had constituted a death squad comprising 23 target killers on instructions of Karachi Tanzeemi Committee in-charge Hammad Siddiqui. He confessed that his squad killed 120 MQM opponents. Umair confessed purchasing weapons for MQM militant wing from an arms dealer in Quetta. He unveiled that 250-300 target killers were hiding in shelters around Nine Zero.
It was being widely contemplated that MQM’s mandate in urban Sindh has been gained through manipulation and under the barrel of the gun. Some TV channels had aired footages of armed MQM thugs inside polling stations in Karachi stuffing ballot boxes during 2008 elections. This perception has now been reaffirmed by Umair Siddiqui. He divulged in the interrogation that during May 2013 elections, 60-70% workers of Gulshan-e-Jauhar sector cast fake votes in favor of Faisal Sabzwari in Maymar sector on his orders. He said that he had summoned the presiding officers and gave them 15-20 ballot boxes for each polling station in the constituency. He also revealed that Rabita Committee deputy convener Anees Qaimkhani had convened a meeting at Khurshid Begum Memorial Hall (adjacent to Nine Zero) in 2008, which was attended by Hammad Siddiqui and all sector and joint sector in-charges; and they were directed by Anees to expedite killings on ethnic basis.
The real bombshell fell when the Rangers on the basis of intelligence carried out search operation of Nine Zero at 6AM on March 11, 2015 and arrested criminals against whom criminal cases of grave nature had already been registered and among them were most wanted criminals like Faisal Mahmood, nickname Mota, killer of journalist Babar Wali who had been convicted and given death sentence by the court. MQM Rabita Committee leader Amer Khan (former Haqiqi leader) was also detained since he was sitting besides the criminals. He has a close connection with militant wing of MQM. In addition, 130 prohibited bore weapons ex NATO stock, 3000 live ammunition and explosives were also seized. 29 persons were produced before the court and have been remanded for 90 days for further interrogation by Rangers.
Journalist Babar Wali employed by Geo TV had come in bad books of MQM because of his negative reporting about its activities. He was gunned down by unknown assassins on January 13, 2011. The JIT comprising five top agencies investigated the case and concluded that Faisal Mota belonging to MQM was the mastermind behind the murder. 23 witnesses were listed but only six agreed to testify for fear of being killed. They all were killed one by one between January 2011 and November 2012. Eight accused were arrested who confessed before the JIT that they had been ordered by their boss Adeel alias Agha Murtaza based in South Africa. He had directed Faisal Mota to kill Babar. Mota and Zeeshan were awarded death sentence in absentia while other 8 accused given life sentences. Mota was finally arrested on March 11, 2015 from Nine Zero. Zeeshan is still a fugitive.
Finding no excuse to justify presence of convicted and most wanted criminals and target killers and prohibited weapons in Nine Zero and adjacent houses, and failing to deny or dissociate from them, Altaf and other MQM leaders besides giving strike call, embarked upon a calculated vilification campaign against the Rangers and Army to play up the old theme of political victimization and also to distract attention. While making uproar over the killing of MQM worker Faisal Shah by Rangers, they came out with bizarre story that the Rangers had brought weapons hidden in blankets to discredit MQM. Altaf used highly abhorrent and derogatory language against the Rangers and Army, threatening Rangers officers that they had become history. Col Tahir of Rangers who had led the raid has registered FIR against Altaf.
The day Nine Zero was raided; ATC in Karachi issued black warrants for convicted Saulat Mirza involved in murder of Shahid Hamid, MD KESC, his driver Ashraf Brohi and guard Akbar Khan on July 5, 1997 in DHA Karachi. Hamid’s widow had to flee Pakistan because of threats to her life. Mirza was tried in a court and sentenced to death on May 24, 1999. He was released on parole in 2004, but was again arrested by deceased DIG Aslam. He dodged the gallows because of his patrons and later due to the moratorium imposed in 2008 which remained enforced till December 2014.
During his internment, Mirza masterminded and ordered killings of 40 police officers and jail officials interfering in his work. To detach him from his network, he was shifted to Mach jail in April 2014, much to the chagrin of MQM high command. When his death warrants were issued and he was to be hanged on January 7, 2015, the federal government wilted under MQM pressure and halted the execution. Like many, Balqis Ashraf, widow of slain driver Ashraf Brohi is also apprehensive that Mirza may again dodge the gallows on March 19 because of MQM pressure.
Hours before his hanging, Saulat Mirza gave out bone chilling details about the criminal activities of MQM leadership and its agenda, which were aired by media channels. He categorically stated that he, deceased Rashid Akhtar, Asad and Athar had been ordered by Altaf Hussain and Babar Ghauri to murder Shahid Hamid. He said Altaf and senior MQM leadership use MQM workers and then ditches them after achieving their purpose; and also gets rid of MQM leaders like Azeem Tariq and Mustafa Kamal getting popular. He stated that hidden agenda was to destroy industry of Karachi and break up Pakistan. These startling revelations impelled the government to halt Mirza’s execution for another 72 hours so that more information could be gathered from him. Eight MQM senior leaders have been put on ECL.
The APDM had pledged in London in 2007 that because of fascist policy of MQM, no winning party will share power with MQM in future. This rule was broken when PPP came to power in 2008. Karachi went from bad to worse when coalition government of PPP-MQM-ANP was ruling the roost from 2008 till March 2013. Whole efforts were devoted towards keeping MQM appeased than in sorting out the affairs of the province. On the average, 10-15 target killing took place daily and the same phenomenon is continuing. 10,000 people have been killed in last five years and not a single target killer punished. One of the nabbed offenders Ajmal Pahari confessed to have target killed over 100 people, but was let off by courts. Jailed target killers were patronized and facilitated to maintain their network to kill persons on hit list. In addition, street crimes like purse/mobile snatching, kidnapping and bank robberies had peaked.
PPP less MQM is still in the driving seat and with the same captain who had miserably failed to control lawlessness and target killings in Karachi. Incumbent government in Sindh is part of the problem and not the solution. The former President Zardari, Chief Minister, Governor Sindh, Police, Bureaucracy and three ruling political parties were responsible for making Karachi anarchic and for the loss of so many lives. Former President and Army Chief Gen Musharraf, now being projected as the next MQM Chief, is also part of the problem for having patronized and protected MQM and issuing black NRO.
Out of the 450 target killers and extortionists identified by the JIT in 2013, majority was from the MQM. Taliban entered the fray in 2009 after operations in Swat and South Waziristan. Besides, there are land and drug mafias patronized by politicians and police and the latter is heavily politicized. Karachi has been plundered with both hands. Rs 10 million is earned from extortion daily, Rs 50 million from kidnapping for ransom, 2.4 million from parking mafia, Rs 100 million by water mafia, Rs 150 million by narcotics/gambling dens. Roadside stalls pay Rs 8.25 million bhatta daily, while public transport, containers, oil tankers, trucks pay Rs 14.8 million goonda tax daily. Rs 15 million is lost in power theft while hospitals collect Rs 3 million for medical slips daily. 40-50 motorcycles and 20-25 cars are stolen daily accounting for loss of Rs 2.5 million. Police has its share in the loot and so has other government departments whose palms are greased to get petty works done. Total loss each day comes to Rs 830 million.
MQM and JUI-F are a load on any government since both believe in blackmailing tactics to acquire prized ministries and perks and privileges. The two remain friendly as long as their demands are met. The only difference between the two is that the MQM resorts to violence, strikes and wailing when its demands are not met. It also threatens to breakaway when it finds itself cornered.
Karachi is in darkness and soaked in blood. The Army under Gen Raheel Sharif has vowed to rid Pakistan from the scourge of terrorism and to make Karachi peaceful and the city of lights. Sindh Rangers have also vowed to take the operation to its logical end. Nawaz Sharif had wilted under pressure of the MQM in the past and he preferred political expediency over national interests and people’s security. He is once again under test and it is to be seen how he behaves this time. He has so far shown guts, but history will never excuse him if he fails the nation again. Governor Sindh must be immediately removed as demanded by PTI and Altaf’s telephonic addresses banned.
Those espousing the cause of MQM and expressing dreadful scenarios in case a ban is imposed on MQM as in the case of 38 terrorist groups must explain how MQM’s fascism will be reined in and how the people of Karachi protected from its terrorism? They must take into consideration the sentiments of jubilating people in Karachi feeling relieved and expressing high hopes that they will be able to breathe freely.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst/columnist/book writer, Director Measac Research Centre. firstname.lastname@example.org