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PAKISTAN : Daily stuff here please......

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« on: August 04, 2010, 06:52:37 am »

South Asia
Aug 5, 2010 
http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LH05Df01.html 
 
Al-Qaeda meddles while Karachi burns


By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD - Pakistani police claimed on Tuesday that a lawmaker from the Muthahida Quami Movement (United National Movement - MQM), Syed Raza Haider, had been murdered by the al-Qaeda-backed South Waziristan-based Fazl Mehsud group.

Haider and his bodyguard were killed on Monday by gunmen at a mosque in the Nazimabad area of the southern port city of Karachi.

The killing sparked violence in Karachi, with at least 65 people killed in clashes between supporters of the anti-al-Qaeda MQM and pro-militant groups. Hundreds of buildings and vehicles have been destroyed and the city remains extremely tense and virtually closed down after overnight fighting on Tuesday.

The unrest comes at time the country is reeling from its worst floods in living memory, with vast parts of northwestern Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, southern Punjab and parts of Balochistan affected.

The assassination has reopened deep faultlines in Karachi, the country's main financial and industrial city, where over the past six months targeted killings on ethnic as well as sectarian lines have been frequent, with 165 people killed.

Haider hailed from the ethnic Urdu community and was a Shi'ite. The alleged killers, if they did indeed belong to the Fazl Mehsud group, would be Sunnis and ethnically Pashtun.

Karachi's closure has completely choked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) supplies, of which more than 60% of non-fuel supplies and up to half of the fuel used by Western forces in Afghanistan passes through the port city.

Asia Times Online investigations lead to the conclusion that al-Qaeda desires to jack up tensions in Karachi, open up a front in central Punjab and exploit the flood-affected situation in restive Khyber Pakhoonkhwa. The belief among al-Qaeda leaders is that NATO's combat operations will have to be abandoned by the end of this year.

Al-Qaeda's war
In al-Qaeda's broader analysis, mainly agreed on by ideologues Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mustafa Abu al-Yazid (the latter - better known as al-Masri - was killed in drone attack this year), it is essential that Pakistan's armed forces be engaged across as much of the country as possible. This, it is argued, will eventually lead to Pakistan's support of the "American war" drying up.

This approach led al-Qaeda to open up multiple war theaters in the tribal areas, such as Khyber Agency, Orakzai Agency, Kurram Agency and South Waziristan. The result was that the military had no capacity - or will - to launch operations against the global headquarters of al-Qaeda in North Waziristan. Al-Qaeda plans much the same for central Punjab, starting with the capital Lahore.

According to a Pakistani counter-terrorism official who spoke to Asia Times Online, the recent arrest of some high-profile militants revealed that al-Qaeda planned an attack vastly bigger than the one on the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008 in which for several days 10 Pakistani-linked gunmen went on a rampage, killing 173 people and wounding at least 308. Despite the arrests and the recovery of a huge cache of weapons and explosives in Lahore, it is still believed that the militants are geared up to carry out a devastating operation in the city.

However, in al-Qaeda's view, Karachi, with its multi-national corporations, major banks and stock exchanges, is the weakest link and chaos in this city would be most detrimental to Pakistan - as well as to the war in Afghanistan as a major casualty would be NATO's supply lines. A chaotic and paralyzed Karachi, a disturbed Punjab and a crisis-hit Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa would effectively block all supply routes.

Karachi a simmering volcano
In the early 19th century, Karachi was a small fishing town; by the mid-19th century the British had developed a port and various ethnic trading communities began to move in, mostly from Bombay (now Mumbai), Gujrat and Kach. These included Gujarati-speaking Hindus, Muslims and Parsis besides Christians from Goa.

Later, members of the rich Hindu Sindhi community came down from Hyderabad and Sheikharpur and established businesses. Despite the religious and ethnic diversity in the city, there was one common link among all communities - they were all traders whose prime interest was in the promotion of a peaceful and cosmopolitan environment.

After the partition of British India in 1947, when many people settled in either Pakistan or India according to religion, the rich Sindhi Hindus went to Bombay and Gujarati Muslim businessmen from Bombay and Gujrat settled in Karachi. Well-educated Muslim middle class people from Indian Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pardesh and other parts went to Karachi and provided a useful workforce in the fields of the military, the bureaucracy and teaching.

Trade remained the soul of the city and the Christian community (dominating all elite English-medium church schools), Parsis, Bohra Muslims, Kachi Memons (ethnically all Gujarati-speakers) were still the real owners of the city. A large labor force came from Punjab and North-West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa) and by the late 1950s Karachi had been transformed into an industrial city.

The first faultline emerged after the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Karachi became one of the biggest refugee camps for Afghans fleeing the war. This provided a big boost for religious organizations and in 1983 the first large-scale Shi'ite-Sunni riots broke out.

Soon after this the MQM was formed as the flagbearer for the rights of the Urdu community - that is, Muslims who had come from British India. This in turn led to the city's first ethnic violence between Pashtuns and Urdus. Clashes continued until 1990, when the MQM established political dominance and overshadowed all religious and political parties.

The MQM, hated by the military establishment because of its left leanings, was the victim of two military operations, but this simply further strengthened the organization.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the MQM, like all other left-wing forces in the country, leaned towards Washington. After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US the MQM was the only political party to publicly mourn the attack and it announced its all-out support for the American war in Afghanistan and for the "war on terror".

However, in an extremely anti-American atmosphere this cost the MQM heavily and the six-party religious alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, won five National Assembly seats from Karachi.

The MQM all the same continued to actively support the anti-Taliban, anti-al-Qaeda drive and helped the security forces track down suspects, to such an extent that by about 2005 Karachi was by and large declared clear of Islamic radicalism. Nonetheless, with more than 3,000 madrassas (seminaries) Karachi still had deep roots of Islamic militancy.

Following the demise of the dictatorial rule of president General Pervez Musharraf, Washington pushed hard for the introduction of a civilian, US-friendly administration in Islamabad. For elections in 2008, Washington made it clear its favored parties were the MQM and the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party (ANP).

Representation of the Pashtun population, which had previously been in the hands of religious parties, was given to the ANP, which managed to win two provincial assembly seats. This was the beginning of a renewed struggle between Pashtuns and Urdus in which al-Qaeda saw an opportunity for eventual control of the city. The South Waziristan-based Mehsud community was the majority component of the ANP and the whole Mehsud tribe was controlled by the late Baitullah Mehsud and now by Hakeemullah Mehsud - the head of the al-Qaeda-backed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban).

Al-Qaeda continued to play off the ANP and the MQM. ANP leaders first realized the problem early this year when targeted ethnic killings turned into sectarian killings between Shi'ites and Sunnis and Deobandis and Brelvis.

The ANP's leader in Karachi, Shahi Saed, urged his men to stop all hostilities against the MQM and warned that the situation was being manipulated by al-Qaeda and by the Taliban, who are ethnically Pashtuns. However, Pashtun youths ganged up against the Urdu community in defiance of all orders and MQM office bearers were killed and their offices ransacked.

The American consulate in Karachi played an active role in trying to calm the situation, to some effect, but the underlying tensions exploded with the killing of Haider on Monday.

As the battlelines now stand, all jihadi organizations and Pashtuns are in one camp. They are lined up against the MQM, the Sunni Tehrik (an anti-Taliban Sunni group), and all Shi'ite groups.

It is a highly explosive situation, and one that could again erupt into flames at any time, especially when al-Qaeda holds the lighter.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com
 
 
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