The Taliban has established a visible and prominent presence in Karachi, an economic hub with a population of more than 20 million, and residents are feeling the effects.
"I worked days and nights to establish my business in Karachi, and suddenly one day I had to pay 20 million Pakistani rupees" -- $204,081 -- "to Taliban extortionists," the owner of a marble furnishing and production factory told on condition of anonymity, fearing for his life. "If I did not cooperate with them, I would be executed, and no one would be able to do anything."
"People of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were spread in the whole of Karachi by leaps and bounds, and law enforcement agencies could not do anything to secure us," he added. "How and why did they come to this city?"
There are more than 2000 marble factories in the Mangopir section of Karachi, and it is the biggest marble industrial area of Pakistan. All factory owners have been paying extortion money to TTP in Karachi, marble factory owner mentioned.
Samar Abbas, a Karachi-based TV journalist, told : "As per my investigation, more than 80,000 TTP activists are working in Pakistan, and more than 1,000 TTP activists are in Karachi, including suicide bombers."
"There is no visible appearance of Taliban in our area, but they are here," said Fazal Khan, a resident of Landhi (Gulshan-e-Bonair. Suburb of Karachi), "TTP never bothered us or our daily life routine until we intend to harm them by informing police. Taliban could be dangerous if we try to spy on them and inform law enforcement agencies about them.We did our work, and they did theirs. We couldn't question them, and if we did, then we would get killed."
After 9/11,the United States of America and its allies bombed Afghanistan. Tehrik-e-Taliban Afghanistan (TTA) fled to safe places to regroup, then returned to Afghanistan and retaliate against USA and NATO forces. Later, with help from Al-Qaeda, TTP became one of the most wanted militias in the world.
While Gen. Pervaiz Musharaf was president, he ordered a large military operation in tribal areas of Pakistan, including North and South Waziristan, Miranshah, Sawat and adjoining areas. Because of military operations and aerial bombardment by drones in the tribal belt, TTP jihadists started to find strategic backyards in the rest of Pakistan. Karachi was an easy choice.
"The presence of TTP in the Karachi has been possible because of the Pakhtoon community that has resided in Karachi for decades," an official in the Crime Investigation Department (CID) told on condition of anonymity for his security reasons. "They came here, and now they have their families in this city. . . . They are spreading rapidly in the city. Mostly, Pashtun community are involved in the TTP activities directly or indirectly, Even If some Pashtuns are not involved but they know about the TTP people and their activities"
"Most important, the Pakhtoon community, including Taliban, have their colonies at the entry and exit points of the city, which is alarming for us and the government," the CID source said.
He added: "Right now there are two TTP groups working in Karachi, Wali-Ur-Rehman and Hakim Ullah Mehsood group. Besides that, the local criminal factor are also involve."
He said the TTP's hold on Karachi started in 2010 when Rangers (paramilitary force who is given police powers in province of Sindh) started a large operation in Mangopir and Kowari colony - Suburb of Karachi, with more than 2,000 Rangers taking part. In that operation, commander Siddiq who was important Jihadi of TTP in Karachi and 20 other TTP activists were arrested. In the same phase, but on other side, the Ameer (Chief) of TTP Karachi, Hamidullah, was arrested with four others and later killed. Along with that, commander Badar Khan, who also fought NATO and the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, got accidentally killed by the police in Mangopir.
"The above-mentioned chain of incidents shocked TTP terribly, and in reaction, on suspect of people spying against their (TTP) activities, they (TTP) started killing people in their dominated areas," Abbas said. "Such people were largely related to the government, police, NGO's, politics or from any walk of life. This action put fear in the hearts of locals, especially the business community, and that fear turned into business for Taliban by collecting donations to meet their purposes.".
He added: "Surprisingly, until now, in Karachi more people were killed because of political enmity among political parties and gang war,s and not by TTP attacks."
Hassan Abdulah, a Karachi-based journalist and expert on the militancy issue, said TTP is present not only in Karachi, but also in other cities. "Yes, a huge number of TTP activists is present in Karachi, but they use this city as strategic backyard or sleeper cell," he said. "Actually, they make blood brothers wherever they go. They believe that every Muslim is their blood brother because they all have same religion and purpose in life. In that way convince people to help from them according to their desire."
TTP "has a good grip on this city," Abdullan said. "We shouldn't forget attacks on the CID, the Mehran base attack (Pakistan's Air force base in Karachi), continuous attacks on the police and attacks on Rangers (paramilitary force)."
"It is important to mention here that, in 2007, when ex-President of Pakistan, Pervaiz Musharraf started the controversial operation against the Lal Masjid (In Islamabad) and as a result, it is said that, hundreds of female students of Jamia Hafza of Lal Masjid got killed. On that, Al-Qaeda's Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) declared war against the state of Pakistan, that war extended and executed by TTP against the state of Pakistan." Mr. Abdullah detailed.
Asked about the possibility of negotiations between the government Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Abdullah said: "The problem at the moment is that the Taliban do not trust the Pakistani state. They have repeatedly said that Pakistan has been playing a double game and cannot be trusted. Al-Qaeda is convinced that international pressures on Pakistan mean this state cannot revert to its pre-911 policies. Such talks may buy the militants some breathing and regrouping space but will not be sustainable."
Sharjeel Memon, Information Minister for Sindh province (Karachi is provincial capital of Sindh Province), was never available to talk about the Taliban issue and did not comment .
Jam Kaim, special adviser to chief minister Sindh, said, "Government and law enforcement agencies are monitoring all their activities. But it's hard to recognize the active new members of TTP, as they have no specific identity. Law enforcement agencies can't arrest and interrogate people having beard but still police and other departments are doing best to catch them".
"Karachi is a thickly populated city, and because of the lack of technology and with a tiny number of police officers, it's hard to monitor every person," Kaim added. "We need technology, manpower and training to deal with these people, but in the current situation, identifying them is almost impossible."
Ahsan Ullah Ahsan, a former TTP spokesman, told by phone from an undisclosed location: "People shouldn't afraid of us. We are not there to harm them, but to spread our message, which based on the true spirit of Islam. If anyone has any problem with TTP, they can contact me directly, and we will resolve any problem caused by any of our TTP members."
He blamed the news media in part for the public's fears. "The media have maligned our image, and they connect us with various attacks that were never conducted by TT.," he said. "Because of the media, people are afraid of us."
"We are against any extortion but we take funds as per Islamic Sharia," Ahsan added. "Those who are blaming TTP for taking extortion money are lying. We do not perform injustices against people."