On January 16, 2018, three fidayeen (suicide attackers) carried out an attack targeting the convoy of Rao Anwar, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Malir Town, in the Malir Cantonment area of Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. One of the attackers blew himself up near the convoy while two other attackers were killed in retaliatory fire by Policemen. SSP Anwar remained unhurt in the attack, but at least four Policemen travelling in the convoy sustained bullet wounds. SSP Anwar had survived an attack earlier on May 1, 2015, during which assailants had hurled grenades and opened fire on his convoy while he was returning home from the residence of slain Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Fateh Muhammad Sangi.
On January 13, 2018, four Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists were killed by the Police in an encounter near Shah Latif Town in Karachi.
On January 2, 2018, Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), including Sindh Rangers' Anti-Terrorist Wing and the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), killed three TTP terrorists in the Kaimkhani Colony area of Baldia Town in Karachi. An unspecified number of terrorists managed to escape the encounter while two Rangers and one CTD trooper received bullet injuries. Two suicide jackets, two improvised explosive devices (IED), a 9mm pistol, and two Sub-Machine Guns (SMGs) were recovered from the terrorist hideout.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Sindh has recorded 12 fatalities – 10 terrorists, one civilian, and one Security Force (SF) trooper – in the current year so far (data till January 28, 2018). During the corresponding period of 2017, Sindh had registered 10 fatalities (eight civilians and two SF personnel).
Through 2017, Sindh recorded 243 fatalities, including 114 civilians, 23 SF personnel, and 106 terrorists, in comparison to 217 such fatalities in 2016, including 76 civilians, 24 SF personnel, and 171 terrorists. Thus, the declining trend of overall-terrorism related fatalities established since 2014 continued through 2017.
Worryingly, however, fatalities among civilians, one of the most prominent indicators of security in a region, increased by 50 per cent in 2017, over the 2016 toll. Significantly, fatalities in this category had been declining since 2014.
On February 16, 2017, a suicide bomber blew himself up at Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharif town of Jamshoro District in Sindh, killing at least 88 people and injuring another 343. The blast took place inside the premises of the shrine as a dhamaal (Sufi ritual of devotional dance) was taking place, with a large number of women and children said to be among the casualties. The Islamic State (IS, also Daesh) claimed responsibility for the attack through Amaq, the group-affiliated news agency.
Though fatalities among SFs remained almost the same (a nominal decline from 24 in 2016 to 23 in 2017), fatalities among terrorists saw a steep decline: from 171 in 2016 to 106 in 2017, a reduction of 38 per cent. SFs thus obtained a kill ratio of 1:4.6 in 2017, much below the 2016 ratio of 1:7.12.
Other parameters of violence showed some respite from terror. The number of sectarian attacks declined from 19 in 2016 to just three in 2017, though the resultant fatalities increased from 25 in 2016 to 93 in 2017 (primarily due to February 16, 2017, incident in which 88 people were killed).
There was also a considerable decrease in the number of explosion-related incidents in 2017. In comparison to 19 blasts resulting in three fatalities and 64 injured in 2016, year 2017 recorded eight blasts resulting in five fatalities and 50 injured.
Sindh accounted for 20 major incidents (each involving three or more fatalities) of violence, resulting in a total of 199 deaths in 2017, as against 34 such incidents, accounting for 134 fatalities in 2016.
As in earlier years, Karachi remains the most volatile among all districts of Sindh, though the number of terrorism related incidents decreased. While 310 such incidents were reported in Karachi in 2016, resulting in 254 fatalities and more than 102 injured, the number decreased to 76 in 2017 with 129 fatalities and more than 35 injured.
Targeted killing of Policemen continued in Karachi through 2017. 19 Policemen were killed in such attacks in 2017, in addition to 29 killed in 2016. According to official statistics published on February 9, 2017, almost 1,538 Policemen had been killed in the Karachi Range between 1995 and 2016. The maximum number of killings, 261, was registered in 1995. Thereafter, the killings crossed three digits in 2012, 2013 and 2014, across a span of 22 years, making these the three worst years for the Karachi Police in recent times, with 123 dead in 2012; 165 in 2013 and 136 in 2014.
Although terrorist groups such as TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have long targeted SF personnel all over Pakistan, the emergence of Ansarul Sharia Pakistan (ASP) in Karachi, specifically targeting security personnel, has created a new headache for the enforcement agencies. Since the name of this outfit first emerged on April 5, 2017, when it claimed responsibility for the targeted killing of Army Colonel (Retd.) Tahir Zia Nagi at the Baloch Colony, Karachi, ASP has claimed involvement in four attacks on SFs. According to the SATP database, ASP has been found involved in at least five terror attacks, resulting in nine deaths (seven SF personnel and two civilians) and three injured (two civilians and one SF trooper) since its formation in 2015. SFs have neutralized 18 ASP terrorists since 2015..
Moreover, Daesh continued to make its presence felt in 2017, claiming the February 16, 2017, suicide attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine, the year’s deadliest terrorist operation. Notably, it was the worst attack of the year recorded in the Province.
Daesh continues to thrive in Sindh and has been successful in spreading its network in educational institutions across the Province. There have been several reports of students getting affiliated with Daesh. Recently, Noreen Leghari (19), a second-year Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) student of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) in Jamshoro District of Sindh, was implicated for her ties with the Daesh. Leghari was arrested on April 14, 2017, during a raid on an IS hideout in the Punjab Housing Society in the Factory Area of Lahore, in which one terrorist, Ali Tariq (32), was killed while four soldiers, including two officers, were wounded in the exchange of gunfire. The Daesh terrorists were planning an attack on the Christian religious festival of Easter on April 16. Leghari claimed on May 8, 2017, that she was being held captive by Ali Tariq to be used as suicide bomber.
Noreen Leghari is the daughter of Dr. Abdul Jabbar Leghari, Professor at the Dr. M.A. Kazi Institute of Chemistry in Jamshoro. Noreen Leghari had reportedly run away from Hyderabad (Sindh) to Lahore on February 10, 2017, hoping to join Daesh in Syria. She came to Lahore to meet Ali Tariq, a resident of Baidian Road, Lahore, whom she had contacted through social media. On reaching Lahore they got married and started living in rented a house in the Punjab Society.
There have been instances of student’s involvement in IS activities in the past also. Saad Aziz, affiliated to IS, who was involved in the Safoora Goth bus massacre in Karachi, was a student of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi. Aziz was arrested on May 20, 2015, from the SITE area of Karachi and was tried by a military court; he is now on death row for his involvement in the bus massacre on May 13, 2015, in which 47 Ismaili Shias were killed and another 13 were injured. He was also convicted on the charge of murder of the prominent Pakistani women’s rights activist Sabeen Mahmud on April 24, 2015. Two others who were arrested along with Aziz on May 20, 2015, were Mohammad Azfar Ishrat aka Maajid and Haafiz Nasir aka Yasir. Ishrat is an engineer who had passed out from the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology and had acquired expertise in bomb-making. He had been involved in terrorist activities since 2011. Haafiz Nasir, who completed Master of Arts (MA) in Islamic Studies from University of Karachi, had been involved in terrorist activities since 2013.
On July 25, 2017, CTD Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Raja Omar Khattab said, “We have found clear evidence that these terror groups are now targeting university campuses where they are trying to recruit students from well-off families to join their extremist mission”.
Alarmed over the growing involvement of university students’ in terrorist activities in Karachi, the Sindh Police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) summoned the Vice-Chancellors of 11 universities in Karachi on July 9, 2017, in a bid to counter extremism and terrorism. Later, on July 12, 2017, CTD organised a seminar titled ‘Growing radicalisation in educational institutions’ at the Central Police Office in Karachi, which was attended by Vice Chancellors and other officials of around 40 varsities, both private and public. Speaking at the seminar, CTD chief Additional Inspector General (IG) Dr. Sanaullah Abbasi noted,
Radicalisation [is] growing at academic institutes with the CTD assessing that the next generation of terrorists [is] more likely to have university education rather than a madrassa background. The recent cases of Noreen Leghari and Saad Aziz gave credence to this theory.
A security report by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) released on January 7, 2018, stated that Daesh’s footprint was continuously on the rise in Pakistan, and the group was especially active in northern Sindh and Balochistan.
Keeping this rising terror threat in view, the Sindh Government is trying to revamp the Karachi Police to deal more effectively with the security situation. On June 5, 2017, the Sindh Government announced a 10 per cent increase in the budget for security with a plan to recruit an additional 10,000 Policemen in financial year 2017-18 to "improve police-to-citizens ratio, especially in Karachi". Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said the budgetary allocation for security in the financial year 2017-18 was proposed at PKR 92.91 billion, as against PKR 84.26 billion during financial year 2016-2017.
While, the Government is trying to give the Police department a boost, the involvement of Police officials in illegal and criminal activities continues to undermine efforts. A report submitted by the Inspector-General of Sindh, Allah Dino Khawaja, to the Supreme Court of Pakistan on December 12, 2017, contained details of 12,000 Police officers involved in illegal and criminal activities. The report stated that as many as 184 officials of Sindh Police of Grade 16 and lower had been punished. The report also recommended taking action against 66 senior officers of Sindh Police. It also recommended action against 31 officers from Grade 17 and 35 officers in Grade 18-21. On January 20, 2018, the Sindh Police suspended Malir Town SSP, Rao Anwar for his alleged involvement in the ‘extrajudicial’ killing of Naseemullah aka Naqeebullah Mehsud. Mehsud was among four suspected terrorists killed in an ‘exchange of fire’ with a Police team headed by SSP Anwar on January 13 in Shah Latif Town. Additional Inspector General CTD, Dr. Sanaullah Abbasi, announced on January 23 that Naqeebullah was innocent, and was killed in a fake encounter.
Moreover, reports indicate that under-trial terrorists kept in prisons continue with their activities from within the prisons with the help of the authorities. After the June 13, 2017, prison-break incident in which two high-profile terrorists of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LeJ) – Shaikh Muhammad Mumtaz aka Firaun aka Sher Khan aka Shahzad aka Bhai and Muhammad Ahmed Khan aka Munna – managed to escape, the CTD submitted an inquiry report which pointed out that banned outfits were virtually running the affairs of the Central Prison Karachi, imposing their will on prison staff who follow their instructions due to fear or incompetence. As a part of security measures, Sindh Government on September 19, 2017, shifted some 90 "high-profile" inmates from the Central Prison Karachi to prisons in other Districts of the Province and Rawalpindi (Punjab).
While terrorism related incidents in the Province have declined over the past years, the menace of terrorism will persist as long as a corrupt Policing system and the Government’s double standards in dealing with terrorism continue.