Brussels: A report released by a think tank describes the Pakistan port city of Karachi as a hub of anti-India jihadist groups.
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group, in the report titled `Pakistan: Stoking the Fire in Karachi`, noted that “decades of neglect and mismanagement have turned Karachi, Pakistan’s largest and wealthiest city, into a pressure cooker”.
“Anti-India outfits like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa (LeT/JD) and Jaish-e-Mohammed continue to operate madrasas and charity fronts with scant reaction from the the Pakistan Rangers or police,” says the report.
It further notes that “Pakistan’s most dangerous groups actively contest Karachi’s turf and resources. The anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and anti-India LeT/JD and Jaish-e-Mohammed have umbilical links with the city’s large, well-resourced madrasas.”
The report highlights that ethno-political and sectarian interests and competition, intensified by internal migration, jihadist influx and unchecked movement of weapons, drugs and black money have created an explosive mix.
It adds that a heavy-handed, politicised crackdown by paramilitary Rangers is aggravating the problems and recommended that to address complex conflict drivers, the state must restore the Sindh police’s authority and operational autonomy while also holding it accountable.
Over the longer term, it must redress political and economic exclusion including unequal access to justice, jobs and basic goods and services, which criminal and jihadist groups tap for recruits and support, the report suggests.
Criminal gangs to varying degrees in collusion with political parties and state authorities have flourished including Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)-linked extortion groups and a Baloch-dominated outfit that had Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) patronage.
Jihadist groups have benefited from a combination of lax law enforcement and state support. With sectarian violence again threatening Karachi’s peace, some of the country’s most dangerous religious and sectarian groups are actively contesting turf and resources, compounding law and order challenges, says the report.
Tensions are escalating fast, and failure to defuse the impending ethno-political crisis and rein in criminal and jihadist networks threatens to sink Pakistan’s most important economic centre further into conflict.
The PPP and MQM leaderships should recognise that their governance failures have opened opportunities for the military’s counterproductive intervention in Karachi’s political affairs on the pretext of restoring stability. Reversing the military’s impositions on civilian authority gives them a mutual interest in depoliticising and strengthening the police, it says.
Sindh’s superior judiciary must also assume its primary responsibility of dispensing justice and protecting citizens’ rights.