By Tariq Habib –
LEAs struggle to get a grip as banned outfits and other terror groups in Karachi reign by selling indigenous weapons
Rafique Khan works in a factory in Sindh Industrial Trading Estate as a quality controller. When he ventures out for work in the morning, his wife, Haleema, sees him off at the gate of their residence with the Holy Quran over his head in a prayer for his safe return. Throughout the day, she is on tenterhooks. The story of this couple is not unique; almost everyone residing in the economic hub of the country endures the same strife — unabated targeted killings, street crimes, explosions, sectarian violence — all of which has eroded public confidence in the state apparatus. The miserable failure of the powers-thatbe in discharging their constitutional duty of protecting the life and property of citizens has reduced the country’s largest metropolis from the ‘city of lights’ to the capital of crime.
According to intelligence reports, outfits like the Sindh Liberation Army (SLA), Sindhu Desh, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Lashkar-e-Ahle Bayt (LAB), Sipah Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are being trained across the border to use light and heavy weapons as well as weapon manufacturing, including the use of explosive material. Some of these outfits have their handlers in India, Afghanistan and Iran. At home, some are allegedly linked to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. “The arrested terrorists of these organizations confessed during investigation conducted by the joint interrogation team that they were trained in Afghanistan, India and Iran as well as camps in Waziristan”, a high police official said on condition of anonymity.
“These terrorists are well versed in the use of weapons and explosive materials and can even manufacture these in a very short span,” he disclosed. The militant outfits ply their trade in different areas of Karachi without fear of security agencies. They use party flags, wall chalking and other signs to show where they have a strong presence. The activists of SLA and BLA are working in Gulistan-e-Johar, Gulshan Iqbal, Gulshan Hadeed, Korangi, Korangi Creek and the rural areas of the city while SMP, LAB, LeM are holding fort in Jaffar Tayar Society, Rizvia Society, Ancholi, Soldier Bazaar, Abbas Town and Hussain Hazara Goth. The activists of TTP, SSP and LeJ, meanwhile, operate out of Banaras, Sohrab Goth,
“Terrorists are helped by real estate agents, who reward them with hefty commissions and houses on rent. They use these houses as small factories to manufacture different explosive devices as well as dumping stores”
Quaidabad, Baldia and Manghoper. The terrorists are helped by real estate agents, who reward them with hefty commissions and houses on rent. They use these houses as small factories to manufacture different explosive devices as well as dumping stores. Thanks to their expertise in the use of explosive material, the terrorists manufacture Improvised Explosive devices (IEDs) locally. Hand grenades of different types and crackers are being manufactured in huge quantities.
The materials used in terrorist activities bring a windfall for their manufacturers; these are easily available in different areas on very cheap rates. Law enforcers traced a small factory of IEDs manufacturing in March last year when an explosion ripped off the roof of a house in the Gulzar Mosque in the Jumma Goth area of Ibrahim Hyderi, Korangi. During investigations, it was revealed that a group of SLA under the command of Zulfiqar Kolachi was manufacturing bombs in the house and also hatching plans to attack police stations and railway tracks. Another small factory was traced in Baldia Town when an explosion occurred in a double storeyed house in Sector 8 of Baldia Town. Nineteen hand grenades, two Kalashnikovs, two suicide jackets and Kalashnikov magazines were recovered from the house. Capital City Police Officer Karachi told the media that those killed could have been planning some terrorist act. He said the blast was caused by explosives kept in the house. Police believed that perhaps, the explosives were being shifted when the explosion occurred.
After these episodes, intelligence agencies submitted a report to the higher authorities, informing them about the possible strongholds of the activists of the banned outfits. According to this report, hand grenades, crackers and bombs are being manufactured in small factories while suicide jackets are assembled in the walls. The small factories are also being used to keep the explosive material. The required material in manufacturing of IEDs, like ball bearings and pellets, are not out of range of the terrorists. There are several houses in the aforementioned areas being used by the terrorists. They are dumping weapons and explosive material there as well as other parts used in manufacturing of IEDs.
“We eliminated several hideouts of the terrorists and are still locked in a war with them. The said areas are being monitored by our personnel and will be raided if they find a clue”, a police official said. A locally manufactured bomb packed in a plastic bag was used in the latest attack on a bus carrying employees of Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) at Mawach Goth, Baldia Town Karachi. BLA owned the attack. Bomb Disposal Squad has defused several locally made IEDs — most of them packed with ball bearings and pellets and hidden in boxes of different types. A police source disclosed that locally made hand grenades and crackers could have been purchased from different parts of the city including Sohrab Goth, Lyari, and Rizvia. “The militants are not only manufacturing IEDs but selling them to generate money”, he said. The source claimed that explosive materials like trinitrotoluene (TNT) and CH3 and CH4 chemicals, wires and other related materials are being dumped in the houses to manufacture bombs.
TNT is volatile and can explode during storage, transportation and preparation. “Activists of banned outfits and hardened criminals easily get small houses on rent in the aforementioned areas to establish a system to produce explosive devices,” Chaudhary Aslam Khan, SSP CID, conceded. The number of attacks with locally manufactured hand grenades in Karachi is also a major concern. Aslam revealed in the past six months, nearly two dozen hand grenade attacks have been reported across the city with the outlaws using indigenous devices in most incidents. Police have turned to real estate dealers and other sources to gather intelligence about new tenants in the suspected areas. The Sindh government has ordered that property owners and dealers submit information about the tenants, including their profession and the nature of their business to police.
“Disturbingly, these groups have deep penetration in the security agencies and are routinely informed about the movement of the law enforcement personnel,” the source said
The decision was made to deter militants from taking short-term rentals and using houses for bomb-making, he said. If the real estate agents do not submit rental reports, they will be held responsible for any illegal activity carried out on the property. Locally manufactured weapons, bombs and other explosive materials are being smuggled in different areas of the city, bringing the manufacturers handsome returns. To supply illegal weapons in the armsinfested city, smugglers are using codenames like “thermos” for Kalashnikovs, “tea cups” for pistols and “spades” for light machine guns during conversations to escape the watchful ears of law enforcement agencies (LEAs). Similarly, hand grenades are referred to as “potatoes”, crackers called “bags”, pistol rounds “peanuts” while bullets of Kalashnikov and other long range rifles are called “ladyfingers”. The codenames are used during conversations on mobile phones.
The smugglers are also fully aware of the locations of LEA checking points and routes of their patrolling; accordingly, they adopt different ways and tactics to smuggle weapons to different areas of Karachi. “Disturbingly, these groups have deep penetration in the security agencies and are routinely informed about the movement of the law enforcement personnel,” the source said. There is reportedly, another gang of more than 50 members working with the local manufacturers and helping transport weapons from one area to another. Each member is paid about Rs10,000-15,000 for each delivery. The deliveries are received from different entry points of the city, including Sohrab Goth, Quaidabad, Malir and Hub Chowki. “Six gangs, each with 10 to 15 members, are also actively involved in selling illegal weapons. The members have links with criminal groups as well as weapon dealers,” the source revealed.
My Weapons of Profit
Terrorists use these codenames to evade the ears of the Law Enforcement Agencies
- Thermos for Kalashnikovs
- Tea cups for pistols
- Spades for light machine guns
- Potatoes for hand grenades
- Bags for crackers
- Peanuts for pistol rounds
- Ladyfingers for Kalashnikov bullets and long range rifles
The writer is a journalist based in Karachi