US embassy cable - 09KARACHI138 (redacted version)

SINDH - THE GANGS OF KARACHI (redacted version)

Identifier: 09KARACHI138
Wikileaks: View 09KARACHI138 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Karachi
Created: 2009-04-22 11:52:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PTER ASEC PGOV PK
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show unredacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
VZCZCXRO6005
OO RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHKP #0138/01 1121152
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 221152Z APR 09
FM AMCONSUL KARACHI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1042
INFO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 0499
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0271
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0314
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1861
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 2720
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 4603
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 KARACHI 000138 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2019 
TAGS: PTER, ASEC, PGOV, PK 
SUBJECT: SINDH - THE GANGS OF KARACHI 
 
Classified By: CLASSIFIED BY CONSUL GENERAL STEPHEN FAKAN FOR REASONS 1 
.4 b and d. 
 
1. (S) Summary: The police in Karachi are only one of several  armed groups in the city, and they are probably not the most  numerous or best equipped.  Many neighborhoods are considered  by the police to be no-go zones in which even the  intelligence services have a difficult time operating.  Very  few of the groups are traditional criminal gangs.  Most are  associated with a political party, a social movement, or  terrorist activity, and their presence in the volatile ethnic  mix of the world,s fourth largest city creates enormous  political and governance challenges. 
  MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement) 
------------------------------ 
 
2. (S) The MQM is an ethnic political party of the Urdu  speaking community (known as "Mohajirs," which is Arabic for  immigrants) that migrated from India at the time of  partition; Mohajirs make up around fifty percent of the total  population in Karachi.  MQM is middle-class, avowedly  secular, and anti-extremist (the only party to publicly  protest the recent Swat Nizam-e-Adl regulations).  It has a  long history of clashes with the Pakistan People,s Party  (PPP), which controls the Sindh province in which Karachi is  located, and with the Awami National Party (ANP), which  represents MQM,s rival ethnic Pashtuns. 
 
3. (S) MQM's armed members, known as "Good Friends," are the  largest non-governmental armed element in the city.  The  police estimate MQM has ten thousand active armed members and  as many as twenty-five thousand armed fighters in reserve. 
This is compared to the city's thirty-three thousand police  officers.  The party operates through its 100 Sector  Commanders, who take their orders directly from the party  leader, Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in the United  Kingdom.  The Sector Commanders plan and monitor the  activities of the armed elements.  MQM's detractors claim  these armed men are involved in extortion, assassination of  political rivals, shootings at campaign rallies, and the  murder of people from other ethnic communities. 
 
4. (S) Low to middle-ranked police officials acknowledge the  extortion and the likely veracity of the other charges.  A  senior police officer said, in the past eight years alone,  MQM was issued over a million arms licenses, mostly for  handguns.  Post has observed MQM security personnel carrying  numerous shoulder-fired weapons, ranging from new European  AKMs to crude AK copies, probably produced in local shops. 
MQM controls the following neighborhoods in Karachi:  Gulberg, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Korangi, Landhi, Liaquatabad,  Malir, Nazimabad, New Karachi, North Nazimabad, Orangi Town,  Saddar and Shah Faisal. 
  MQM-H (Muhajir Quami Movement-Haqiqi) 
------------------------------------- 
 
5. (S) MQM-H is a small ethnic political party that broke  away from the MQM in the mid-1980s.  MQM-H has its  strongholds in the Landhi, Korangi and Lines Area  neighborhoods of the city.  The MQM regarded these areas as  no-go zones when it was in power during the Musharraf  presidency.  As a condition for joining the Sindh government  in 2003, it asked that MQM-H be eliminated.  The local police  and Rangers were used to crack down on MQM-H, and its leaders  were put behind bars.  The rank and file of MQM-H found  refuge in a local religious/political party, Sunni Tehrik  (see para 9).  The local police believe MQM-H still maintains  its armed groups in the areas of Landhi and Korangi, and that  the party will re-organize itself once its leadership is  released from jail. 
  ANP (Awami National Party - Peoples National Party) 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
6. (S) The ANP represents the ethnic Pashtuns in Karachi. 
The local Pashtuns do possess personal weapons, following the  tribal traditions of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP),  and there are indications they have begun to organize formal  armed groups.  With the onset of combat operations in the 
  KARACHI 00000138  002 OF 003 
 
  Federally Administered Tribal Areas in August 2008, a growing  number of Pashtuns fled south to swell the Pashtun ranks of  what already is the largest Pashtun city in the world.  This  has increased tensions between ANP and MQM. 
 
7. (S) If rhetoric of the police and the ANP leadership is to  be believed, these armed elements may be preparing to  challenge MQM control of Karachi.  In March, the Karachi  Police Special Branch submitted a report to the Inspector  General of Police in which it mentioned the presence of  "hard-line" Pashtuns in the Sohrab Goth neighborhood.  Sohrab  Goth is located in the Northeast of the city. 
 
8. (S) The report said this neighborhood was becoming a no-go  area for the police.  The report went on to claim the  Pashtuns are involved in drug trafficking and gun running and  if police wanted to move in the area they had to do so in  civilian clothing.  A senior member of the Intelligence  Bureau in Karachi recently opined that the ANP would not move  against MQM until the next elections, but the police report  ANP gunmen are already fighting MQM gunmen over  protection-racket turf. 
  ST (Sunni Tehrik - Sunni Movement) 
---------------------------------- 
 
9. (S) ST is a small religious/political group with a  presence in small pockets of Karachi.  The group has only  managed to win a handful of council seats in local elections  but militarily it is disproportionably powerful because of  the influx of MQM-H gunmen after the government crack-down on  MQM-H (see above).  ST has organized the party and its gunmen  along the lines of MQM by dividing its areas of influence  into sectors and units, with sector and unit commanders.  ST  and MQM have allegedly been killing each other's leadership  since the April 2006 Nishtar Park bombing that killed most of  ST's leadership.  ST blames MQM for the attack.  There  appears to have been a reduction in these targeted killings  since 2008. 
  PPP (Pakistan People's Party) 
----------------------------- 
 
10. (S) PPP is a political party led by, and centered on the  Bhutto family.  The party enjoys significant support in  Karachi, especially among the Sindhi and Baloch populations. 
Traditionally, the party has not run an armed wing, but the  workers of the PPP do possess weapons, both licensed and  unlicensed.  With PPP in control of the provincial government  and having an influential member in place as the Home  Minister, a large number of weapons permits are currently  being issued to PPP workers.  A police official recently told  Post that he believes, given the volume of weapons permits  being issued to PPP members, the party will soon be as  well-armed as MQM. 
  Gangs in Lyari: Arshad Pappoo (AP) and Rahman Dakait (RD) 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
  11. (S) AP and RD are two traditional criminal gangs that  have been fighting each other since the turn of the century  in the Lyari district of Karachi.  Both gangs gave their  political support to PPP in the parliamentary elections.  The  gangs got their start with drug trafficking in Lyari and  later included the more serious crimes of kidnapping and  robbery in other parts of Karachi.  (Comment:  Kidnapping is  such a problem in the city that the Home Secretary once asked  Post for small tracking devices that could be planted under  the skin of upper-class citizens and a satellite to track the  devices if they were kidnapped.  End comment.) 
  12. (S) Each group has only about 200 hard-core armed  fighters but, according to police, various people in Lyari  have around 6,000 handguns, which are duly authorized through  valid weapons permits.  In addition, the gangs are in  possession of a large number of unlicensed AK-47 rifles,  Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers and hand grenades.  The  weapons are carried openly and used against each other as  well as any police or Rangers who enter the area during  security operations.  During police incursions, the gang  members maintain the tactical advantage by using the narrow 
  KARACHI 00000138  003 OF 003 
 
  streets and interconnected houses.  There are some parts of  Lyari that are inaccessible to law enforcement agencies. 
  Pashtun Terrorists 
------------------ 
  13. (S) A Senior IB officer recently opined to Post that "All  Pashtuns in Karachi are not Taliban, but all Taliban are  Pashtuns."  The size, scope and nature of "Talibanization"  and true Taliban terrorist activity in Karachi is difficult  to pin down, but Post has increasingly received anecdotes  about women, even in more upscale neighborhoods, being  accosted by bearded strangers and told to wear headscarves in  public. 
  14. (S) There has not been a terrorist attack against U.S.  interests in Karachi since 2006.  There are several theories  about Taliban activity in Karachi and why they have not  staged an attack in so long.  One school of thought has it  that MQM is too powerful and will not allow the Pashtuns to  operate in Karachi, and this, combined with the ease of  operating elsewhere in Pakistan, makes Karachi an undesirable  venue.  Another line of thinking claims Karachi is too  valuable as a hiding place and place to raise money. 
  15. (S) In April, the police in Karachi arrested Badshah Din  Mahsud, from their Most Wanted Terrorist list, known as the  Red Book.  It is alleged he was robbing banks in Karachi at  the behest of Baitullah Mehsud, from the NWFP, and the money  was being used to finance terrorist activity.  There is a  large body of threat reporting which would seem to indicate  the equipment and personnel for carrying out attacks are  currently in place in Karachi.  In April, Karachi CID told  Post they had arrested five men from NWFP who were building  VBIEDs and planed to use them in attacks against Pakistani  government buildings; including the CID office located behind  the US Consulate.  CID also claimed they had reliable  information that suicide vests had been brought to Karachi. 
  16. (S) Comment:  The importance of maintaining stability in  Karachi cannot be over-emphasized.  Traditionally, Karachi  was at the center of lawlessness, criminal activity, and  politically-inspired violence in Pakistan.  But with the  security situation in the rest of the country deteriorating,  the megalopolis has become something of an island of  stability.  Nevertheless, it still has a number of well-armed  political and religious factions and the potential to explode  into violent ethnic and religious conflict given the wrong  circumstances. 
  17. (S) The PPP,s decision to include MQM in coalition  governments in Sindh Province and in the federal government  has helped preclude a return to the PPP-MQM violence of the  1990,s.  But the potential for MQM-ANP conflict is growing  as Pashtuns challenge Mohajir political dominance and vie for  control of key economic interests, such as the lucrative  trucking industry.  Any sign that political violence is  returning to Karachi, especially if it is related to the  growing strength of conservative Pashtun "Taliban," will send  extremely negative shockwaves through the society and likely  accelerate the flight from Pakistan of the business and  intellectual elite of the society.  End comment. 
FAKAN 


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