Pakistan Violence: Arrests of Islamists in Karachi May Not Actually Signal Crackdown

Article excerpt

After deadly Pakistan violence in Karachi, police have arrested dozens of suspected Islamist hardliners. Some analysts believe they are little more than window-dressing aimed at pacifying an increasingly angry population.

Police in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi have arrested dozens of alleged Islamist hardliners suspected in the assassination of a local political leader, according to reports.

The killing of Raza Haider, a provincial parliamentarian and member of the secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party, outside his mosque on Monday sparked deadly rioting that has paralyzed Pakistan's financial hub. On Wednesday, the death toll rose to 63 as the city of 18 million people remained on almost total lockdown. In addition to the dead, dozens more have been injured.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik was quick to pin the blame yesterday on banned sectarian militant outfits Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), which both have a history of anti-Shia violence in the city. But some analysts believe the current wave of arrests is little more than window-dressing aimed at pacifying an increasingly angry population.

Police aren't talking

Noting that Karachi police themselves have remained tight-lipped about the nature of the arrests, Badar Alam, editor of Karachi- based news weekly the Herald, says: "They don't have any solid evidence. They don't have the right kind of clues. They are now nabbing anyone who comes in their sights, and will probably release the majority of them sooner or later."

Karachi police chief Waseem Ahmed refused to comment to the Monitor in a phone conversation when asked for more details on the nature of the arrests.

Pakistan has a record of first arresting and then releasing suspected militants. This could be, in part, a result of the government's mixed dealings with militant groups. In February, for example, the law minister of Pakistan's Punjab province, Rana Sanaullah, reportedly campaigned with a SSP leader in what was seen as a way to gain support for his PML-N party in the provincial by- election.

Still, Pakistan's intelligence agencies classify SSP as a terrorist organization. The SSP historically has close ties with LJ, according to Imtiaz Gul of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. "Many believe that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was created as a cover for the more violent activities of the SSP and began its life as the SSP's militant arm," Mr. …


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