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Karachi police make arrests in bank heists, political harassment
Interrogation of the 14 suspected Taliban members could lead to more arrests, officials say
By Javed Mahmood
KARACHI – Karachi police have arrested more than a dozen Taliban suspects allegedly involved in bank robberies and harassment of Awami National Party (ANP) members and supporters, a senior police official told Central Asia Online August 23.
“In recent operations in Sohrab Goth, we have arrested 14 Taliban,” Khurram Bari, chief of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Karachi police, said. Police are interrogating all the suspects and will make further details public later.
Police received information about the presence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members who have allegedly robbed several banks in Karachi since 2009, Bari said. A heavy police contingent besieged the Sohrab Goth area and arrested 14 militants after some resistance, he said.
Central Asia Online previously published a police report noting that the Taliban have looted more than Rs 1.6 billion (US$17 million) in bank robberies since 2009.
More arrests of Taliban members could follow as police acquire new leads during the interrogations of the 14 who are already in custody, Bari said.
ANP informs government of growing Taliban influence
For a while now, the TTP has been threatening members of the ANP, destabilising democratic process in Karachi.
“The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan gave us three options – join militants, quit the Awami National Party or leave the area,” Ismail Mehsud, president of the ANP’s Sohrab Goth unit, told Central Asia Online. “We told the TTP men that we wanted to remain peaceful and neutral, but they (militants) did not believe it and they tortured me.”
Three families who feared the wrath of the TTP have left Sohrab Goth, he said.
Because of TTP warnings, ANP members have closed eight offices in Sohrab Goth, Manghopir and Kanwari Colony, known as strongholds of the ANP and Pashtuns, Mehsud said. TTP men whitewashed wall-chalking in favour of the ANP, he added.
“We condemn the harassment of the ANP members, workers, supporters by the militants and demand of the government and police to carry out a fearless operation against the Taliban,” Senator Shahi Syed, president of the ANP Sindh chapter, told Central Asia Online.
The ANP will not succumb to the threats and pressure tactics of the militants and will face them as its members have bravely done in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said.
MQM condemns Taliban’s hold in Karachi
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has strongly condemned the penetration of militants in Karachi and raised its concern about their growing influence in the Pashtun-speaking areas in the city, Nasir Jamal, an MQM spokesman, told Central Asia Online August 23.
“We have repeatedly warned the ANP and the government about the presence of the Taliban in Karachi and their involvement in bank robberies and targeted killings,” he said.
In the past, the ANP failed to heed the MQM’s warnings about the Taliban and now it’s paying the price in terrorist harassment, he said.
The MQM would co-operate with the government, police and ANP to rid city of militants, he said, adding that security agencies would not be able to keep the peace and suppress targeted killings, bank robberies and harassment of party workers until militants are expelled from Karachi.