Karachi: Pakistan’s struggle with Islamic insurgency continues, and, it is most visible in Karachi, which today is described as a violent city of 18 million people and a haven for insurgents of different hues.
The city, according to the New York Times, is said to contain infrastructure that propels the insurgency — recruits, money, hiding places, and ideological underpinning.
According to the paper, it is relatively easy to find conduits to the Pakistani Taliban among this city’s more than 3,500 religious schools, or even to go to the Pakistani Taliban here directly.
Karachi also serves as a sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban, who the Americans are fighting in Afghanistan and who are clients of the Pakistanis.
The chaos and crime that bedevil Karachi, mainly the result of gang warfare among armed wings of the political parties, create a near perfect place for fighters of the Pakistani Taliban to plan and to hide.
Amid this violence, the Taliban organize, recruit and raise funds, even as the Pakistani military has opened a series of offensives in the north that have chased Taliban fighters to other areas, like North Waziristan and Orakzai.
One senior Taliban fighter in his early 30s, who has lived in Karachi for more than six months, boasted, “We are well organized here.”
Almost all Taliban are from the Pashtun ethnic group whose ancestral homes are in the tribal areas. About five million Pashtun have migrated to Karachi over the years, and while many of the Pashtun in the city do not agree with the Taliban, their presence in the city gives the Taliban cover, the senior fighter said.
The fighters are organized in cells according to the geographical area they came from in the tribal areas, he said.
A veteran Taliban official, known as the emir, serves as the central commander in Karachi, and he receives orders on financial matters and strategy from the Pakistan Taliban high command, now in North Waziristan, the senior fighter said.
This fighter, who said he changed his address every few days in the city, declined to give his name for fear of being discovered by the Karachi authorities.
Many Taliban fighters are seasonal, and use Karachi as a winter bolt-hole to earn money, often in lowly jobs.
They migrate to the tribal areas or move onto Afghanistan in the summer.
Many of the rich Pashtun businessmen of Karachi donate to the Taliban, said the senior fighter.
“Money is not a problem for us. They like to give to get a place in heaven,” he said.
But Karachi is also an ideological motor for the insurgency, powered by a vast circuit of unregistered religious schools, known as madrasas.
Most of the militant groups, like Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, have sponsored madrasas here, where they imbue a hatred of all things Western and provide the justification for militancy, community leaders said.