Islamabad: The Taliban wield control over large stretches of Pashtun neighbourhoods in five districts of Pakistan`s largest city of Karachi after chasing out workers of political parties and creating fear among law enforcement personnel, according to a media report today.
The latest players in land grabbing in Karachi are elements of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan "who have been putting down their roots in various parts of the city over the past couple of years", the influential Dawn newspaper reported.
"Large swathes of Pashtun neighbourhoods in districts west and east, as well as pockets in districts Malir, central and south are reported to be under the influence of" the Taliban, the report.
About 30-odd Taliban factions have a presence in Karachi but the greatest influence is wielded by the factions led by Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah.
The report quoted police officials and local residents as saying that the Taliban elements had entrenched themselves in the city after terrorising the Pashtun population into submission and driving out the Awami National Party, which draws its strength from Pashtuns.
On August 13 last year, an attack in Frontier Colony killed ANP leader Amir Sardar, and two party workers.
Since then, numerous ANP offices have been shut, scores of its workers killed and many driven out of Pashtun-dominated areas.
Qadir Khan, an ANP spokesman who has joined the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, said that "no political party or group can stand up to these militants".
The TTP confirmed its presence in Karachi for the first time when it claimed responsibility for an attack on the offices of The Business Recorder newspaper and Aaj TV channel on June 25, describing it as a warning to other media groups.
The report said Taliban fighters entered Karachi along with thousands of Pashtun migrants who were fleeing military operations in Swat and South Waziristan in 2009.
The migrants and the militants largely settled in `katchi abadis` or slums with large Pashtun populations, including Pathan Colony, Future Colony, Sohrab Goth, Manghopir and areas along the Northern Bypass and RCD Highway.
"In 2010 and 2011, Tehrik-e-Taliban Paksitan elements were still gaining a foothold in the city, but last year saw them flexing their muscles to establish control over areas where they had a presence," the report said.
The militants are so well-entrenched in areas like Manghopir that confronting them is "becoming exceedingly difficult even for law enforcement agencies".
When a police team arrested an imam and nine militants last year after receiving a tip-off that several militants were at Masjid-e-Tayyaba on Qasba Road, they were soon surrounded by armed men.
Other law enforcement agencies refused to provide back-up and the outnumbered police officials were roughed up by the militants and "finally had to negotiate their release and that of their men, as well as set free the nine heavily armed militants", the report said.
A short distance from Masjid-e-Tayyaba is a building that houses the Taliban office which operates by the name of "Anti-Crime Control Committee".
On Manghopir Road, there is Masjid-e-Aqsa and another office of the Taliban named Ittehad-e-Qabail (Tribal Alliance).
Last year, when the Pakistan government released several Afghan Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture, there were celebrations in parts of Karachi.
The Taliban have also set up courts for "residents looking for a quick resolution to their problems" in places like Quarry Colony, Gulshan-e-Buner (Landhi) and Sohrab Goth.
A qazi presides over a jirga-like gathering and pronounces judgment in the light of tribal traditions and the Shariah or Islamic law.
In Khyber Mohalla, the Allahu Akbar Masjid and Maulana Zarghai`s madrassa serve as a rest house for Afghan Taliban visiting Karachi.
Members of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen are reportedly holed up in Sultanabad while the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and several "good" and "bad" Pakistani Taliban have established a presence in mosques and madrassas all over Karachi, the report said.
Criminal activities like bank heists, kidnappings and extortion are among the means used by the Taliban for raising funds for their activities in the tribal areas in the northwest.