Pakistan pursues railway track bombers

Banned organization SDLA linked to the attacks

By Zia Ur Rehman

2012-02-29

KARACHI – After a series of 14 blasts on railway tracks across Sindh Province February 25, Pakistani authorities are pursuing the Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (SDLA), a banned separatist group, Central Asia Online has learned.

Miscreants planted low-intensity explosives along railway tracks in Sindh, including in Karachi, Hybderabad, Shaheeb Benazirabad, Mirpur Mathilo, Pud Eaidan, Khairpur and Ghotki, said Zafarullah Kalhore, a senior official of Pakistan Railways (PR). The ensuing track damage caused massive disruptions in train service.

No passenger or cargo trains were near the blast sites at the time, otherwise major casualties could have occurred, he said.

The blasts caused 17 express trains to halt for around six hours at different railway stations, leaving thousands of passengers stuck while the damages were repaired, he said. Similar attacks have taken place along railway tracks in Sindh before, but this was the first time that 14 blasts were carried out almost simultaneously, he said.

SDLA involved

Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan told the media February 25 that investigations were ongoing and that the culprits, once arrested, would be punished.

Police officials and security experts believe that the SDLA is involved in the recent attacks.

“The police found pamphlets from the place of incidents according to which SDLA, an underground terrorist outfit, accepted the responsibility of blasts,” Muzaffer Shiekh, senior police official at Railway Police, told Central Asia Online. The SDLA carried out a series of attacks on PR tracks in February 2011.

In the pamphlets, SDLA Chief Commander Darya Khan Marri calls on Sindhi's on to take up arms and join the movement to make Sindh an independent state, Shiekh said.

Yaqoob Jatt, another senior police official at Hyderabad, claimed that Lala Aslam Pathan, a central leader of SDLA, is involved in the recent attacks. On his directives, suspected miscreants – identified as Shah Nawaz Bhutto, Ramzan Jamali, Bashir Malah, Faqir Najeeb Qureshi and others – carried out the blasts. Jatt said.

“Police have started a crackdown against the group and are carrying out the raids to arrest the culprits,” Jatt told Central Asia Online.

SDLA linked to JSMM

The SDLA is an underground Sindhi terrorist organisation comprised of different splinter factions that broke away from various Sindhi nationalist groups. Its main commanders are Marri and Ghulam Hussain Chandio, said Raees Ahmed, a senior journalist and visiting professor at Sindh University who monitors SDLA activities.

He said the SDLA is, in fact, an offshoot of Jeay Sindh Mutahida Mahaz (JSMM), a Sindhi nationalist political party headed by Shafi Burfat.

The Crime Investigation Department (CID) of Sindh police has formally inducted Burfat, in its Red Book list of terrorists, the Daily Times reported February 27, citing Ghulam Shabbir Sheikh, assistant inspector general of police. Police are collecting information about Burfat, the Times said.

The SDLA has bombed railway tracks in the past. It has always left pamphlets at the scene denouncing alleged atrocities against the Sindhi people and vowing to continue its struggle for Sindh "freedom," Ahmed told Central Asia Online.

He said the SDLA emerged as a serious threat when an alleged terrorist died March 2, 2011, while planting a bomb at a railway track in Jumma Goth, Karachi.

Law enforcement agencies recovered SDLA literature after a March 7, 2011, blast at a house in the Ibrahim Hyderi limits. SDLA-linked militant Zulfiqar Kulachi was killed, and Ismail Abubakar and Sardaruddin Dino were injured, in that explosion.

Fayyaz Laghari, then head of Sindh Police, told media March 8, 2011, that terrorists were making bombs to blow up the railway tracks and they were using that house as SDLA’s Karachi headquarters.

“After the death of Kulachi and a crackdown by law enforcement agencies in the light of information received during interrogations with Abubakar and Dino, the network of SDLA was shattered, but after lapsing of almost 11 months, the series of rail track blasts show that the group has become again active in the province,” Ahmed said. Recent incidents indicate that the SDLA is following the same approach of Baloch separatist groups, in targeting railway tracks, gas lines and other government installations. “

The bomb explosions at rail tracks in Sindh could be due to ‘a sense of deprivation’ among the Sindhi people and this sense of deprivation had been created after the assassination of PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto,” said Wassan, adding that the government, however, has been actively trying to eliminate this sense of deprivation by creating jobs.

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