As many as 31 people lost their lives in Karachi as tensions escalated between pro and anti Taliban elements in the city. The Awami National Party, which represents a large proportion of Karachi’s Pakhtoon population said that its activists were being targeted by militants sympathetic to the
Taliban. “We are under attack from extremists elements,” the ANP Karachi chief, Shahi Syed, said.
So far while ANP office bearers are being killed, analysts say that the real target of the Taliban is the Karachi-based MQM party. “Right now the Taliban is clearing the stage for its offensive with the MQM,” said journalist Shahid Husain.
The Taliban has already issued a statement that it would “liberate” Karachi from the MQM party after MQM chief Altaf Husain commented that they (the Taliban) were taking Pakistan “back to the caves.”
The MQM had planned a nationwide referendum last week in which it wanted to ask people whether they were for a Pakistan envisaged by Jinnah or by the Taliban. However, after government pressure, the MQM decided to postpone its referendum. The MQM criticised the Taliban for its attack on Malala Yousafzai and is possibly the only party that has come out in its criticism of the militants.
But the referendum was seen more as a popularity stunt by some.“It was a political gimmick but one that would escalate tensions in Karachi,” said political commentator Najam Sethi.
What is not a gimmick is the rise in targeted killings in the city. Since September over 100 people have died in targeted shootings. Police chief Fayaz Leghari says that many of the killings may not be linked to the Taliban. But the ANP and independent analysts disagree.
Many who fled the fighting in the tribal areas and migrated to Karachi are also being targeted by the Taliban. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court asked the police to explain the presence of over 700 suspected Taliban militants in the city.
On Sunday, PM Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered stepped up policing to counter the spate of violence but analysts say that a more focused government operation would be needed.