Is MQM working in cahoots with Lyari Gang?

My cousin calls me. I don’t recognize his number on the cellphone so I ask him why has he changed his number. He says he is receiving extortion threats. He runs a School in Federal B Area (an MQM strong hold). He tells me that all other private schools in the area have received a similar threat. I ask him is it MQM? He said MQM are nicer people, they have minimum monthly donation of 20k per month and that is it. So I asked if it is notorious Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP)? He says, “No! it’s Lyari gang.”

Now my cousin lives in a neighborhood that is self contained in terms of his needs i.e. all his near and dear ones live in the same locality and kids study in same school so it’s not like that he is afraid that he or his family will be targeted when he travels out of that MQM stronghold because he rarely has any need to. And a threat is not useful unless TTP can enforce it at short notice.

Now if you have lived in MQM area, you know that MQM has local on the ground intelligence i.e., guy smoking cigarette at the street barricade all day long, Sabzi wala, corner shop wala, hardcore MQM supporters that is your neighbor etc. To send threat and then to enforce it in MQM area, Lyari people need local intelligence to not only to gather info but most importantly to enforce their threat. It is hard to fathom how they would have been able to gather this information without being noticed by local MQM intel.

Anyway my cousin and other private school owners in the area go to meet IG Sind Shahid Hayat but according to him Hayat wasn’t willing to listen and with non-Urdu speaking people around him as officers and advisors kept on saying that it’s the Urdu speaking people who are to be blamed. Where can one go to seek redress if the police keeps on blaming the victim? So my cousin is shifting rather opening a new school in Lahore and starting there from April session.

I live in Korangi_another MQM stronghold. Shopkeepers in our area get MQM “donation” slips every month depending on the size of the business from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000. Last month, the meat shop walah refused pony up Rs 5,000 when every one around him did. Following week he, and him alone among 100s of shops, receives an extortion demand from Lyari Gang and he pays up Rs100,000 to get them off his back.

This is all anecdotal. With all the caveats that go along with such statements, my conclusion is bloody MoFos MQM is either in cahoots with Lyari Gang or they pretend to be Lyari Gang when it suits them. Bastards pretend to be the last stand against Lyari gang and Taliban but are not above working with them or pretending to be them when it suits them.

Nothing surprising here because our chowkidaars (the army, police) have already been stealing from the till but it hurts slightly more when your ethnic brother saviors also engage in similar tactics.

 

Going off the grid

In the first few days of Ramzan (or Ramadan), my satellite TV subscription ended. I didn’t renew it believing TV to be an unnecessary distraction during the holy month. Before Ramzan, I watched political news shows about Pakistan as aired on GEO, DawnTV etc and also occasionally also tuned in to watch the hourly news. Since the set-top box was provided by the satellite TV company, when the subscription ended, it stopped showing free-to-air channels too. As such, I couldn’t even watch such channels as CNN, BBC etc.

It had a positive impact on me during Ramzan. Part of it may be the blessings of holy month but mainly it was because I had stopped watching depressing Pakistani political shows which only highlight the problems and or get the invited guests to argue with each other. However, I am not sure if such programs have been instrumental or even helpful in resolving the problems highlighted by them. Sometimes they bring in members of opposing factions in the parliament. Though the programs always end in a handshake and a resolve to sort out the issues, over time the public has come to learn that nothing really happens. Hence, what we get out of these programs is awareness of the myriad problems facing the society and the country yet not a solution in sight. Hence, only outcome for those watching the programs daily is cynicism and depression.

There has been no good news out of Pakistan for last many years except for the election that went smoothly and at least a lesser evil was brought into the government. When it comes to rest of world, last few months have not been good for the Ummah (muslim nation) either. The events/protests in Turkey, Egypt and Syria presenting a very bleak picture. If one is plugged into media and social media like I was till Ramzan, what I was getting 24/7 was depressing news with respect to issues that were close to my heart.

Though due to cancellation of satellite TV subscription, I was saved the ordeal of watching political talk shows, however, I was still pretty much plugged into my twitter feed and continued to get my news and depression fix from it.

Then I took a two week Eid break and traveled to Pakistan. I don’t change SIM of my iPhone and keep keep the phone on roaming just in case someone needs to reach me for work related matter. I carry a local cheap phone when I go out and keep my iPhone in the kitchen (centrally located in our house) so that if there is a call on it, someone can immediately tell me that it is ringing. This meant I couldn’t check my twitter timeline frequently.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Then massacres in Egypt started and my father asked me if I knew about them. I picked up my iPhone and didn’t let it go for next one week. Finally, my father complained that why am I always playing with my iPhone and I realized the addiction it had become. So I left it at the kitchen counter once again and didn’t pick it up (except for checking office emails) till the time my trip was over.

I picked up two books meanwhile and finished them during this period. Occasionally I came across a good quote or passage and had an urge to share it on facebook and twitter. But I resisted. I knew that once I logged into my facebook or twitter account, I will do much more than just sharing and may even end wasting few hours on it. With result that I was able to finish the books.

Now I am back. I have bought a new satellite subscription. However, this time its only for football and other sports (though no cricket). I check in to my twitter timeline twice or thrice daily but not for minutes or hours, Just for a few tens of seconds to read at most ten tweets that are on top.

I stopped caring about Ummah and Pakistan issues. As if my caring mattered. Even my tweets and links I share on facebook have slowed down to a trickle. My klout score which peaked at 60 just before Ramzan is coming down at a fast clip.

I was sitting with a few friends Friday night and having a reputation as plugged-in source-of-information they wanted my opinion on Karachi operation, NATO containers, Mohajir Republican Army, Syria attack, Kerry statement etc. I had an idea about these but since I just read the headlines or few tweets never bothering to go into details, I didn’t have much to add. Rather I asked them to fill me in.

Honestly, the temptation is strong. When you are the source of all information and  theories etc people seek you out for your opinions and information. They listen to you and probably may be swayed towards a particular political viewpoint because the way you presented the information. However, by not remaining that source anymore, you are losing that power, and losing it fast.

Yet the power beckons you, like the ring beckons everyone who comes across it in Lord of The Rings. The question therefore remains do I have the strengthl to resist the temptation of power in light of the costs (from being center of attention to nobody). So far I am resisting.

The complicity of security agencies in terrorism in Pakistan

This subject is very close to my heart. After Osama Bin Laden’s hideout was successfully raided in Abbotabad, questions were raised whether Pakistan (meaning Pakistan Army and its agencies) is “complicit or incompetent” that it was not able to find Osama Bin Laden who was hiding right under their nose.

Deutsch: Soldat der Special Forces beim Abseil...

The media was swayed towards incompetence, however, I personally believe Pakistan Army has been complicit, if not at top brass level than at least under the various wings and departments it espouses of its intelligence agencies. This will continue to hold as long as Pakistan (read Pakistan Army) maintains the fiction of Good Taliban, Bad Taliban.

Below are few excerpts from news articles. I don’t know about others but they confirm to me that security apparatus of Pakistan is hand in gloves with these terrorists.

Usman Kurd, the man who caused fall of Raisani govt

The sectarian attacks in Quetta had virtually been stopped following the arrest of Kurd and Badini. But quite unfortunately, both the LeJ men managed to escape under mysterious circumstances on January 18, 2008 after breaking the jail located in the high-security zone of Quetta Cantonment where no one can go without a pass.

The sectarian attacks in Quetta had virtually been stopped following the arrest of Kurd and Badini

This is not some small civilian jail. This is a high security prison in the garrison town of Quetta located in its high security military cantonment area. I believe no one was tried or court martialed for this escape.

From the same news item

Kurd and Badini were not the only LeJ leaders to have escaped from custody. Two other undertrial LeJ hit men, including a key suspect in a 2005 high-profile murder of Agha Ziauddin Rizvi, hoodwinked jail officials and made good their escape on December 13, 2012, even though they were kept in separate barracks of Cheeta sub-jail in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Intriguingly, Shakirullah Jan and Arifuddin had escaped after intoxicating the security personnel on duty despite the fact that 50 staffers of the Frontier Corps (FC) and police were guarding the prison.

Hazara continue to die in Quetta. Those who can manage it, try to run out of Pakistan as refugees or asylum seekers which itself is a precarious route. According to one such Hazara trying to make his way to Australia “I’d rather die in the boat than in a bomb blast,”

Yet the state continues to leave Hazara to fend for themselves.

Quetta has witnessed a recent surge in incidents of violence, with sectarian militants repeatedly targeting the Hazara Shia community in several bombings and gun-attacks.

On Monday, two youths belonging to the minority community were gunned down in an apparent targeted killing on Shahrah-i-Iqbal.

On July 15, four men belonging to the community were killed when gunmen sprayed bullets on their vehicle on Masjid road area.

On June 30, a deadly suicide bombing at an Imambargah killed 30 members of the minority community. The banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi had claimed responsibility for the blast, one of a series of bombings this year by the extremist sectarian outfit targeting the Hazaras.

The city also saw the country’s two bloodiest attacks so far this year.

A giant bomb planted in a water tanker being towed by a tractor killed 90 Shia Hazaras in February, while another suicide bombing at a snooker club in January killed 92 others.

The above stats are excerpted from the following news item:

Hazara Town residents shoot down suspected suicide bomber

QUETTA: An alleged suicide bomber was killed by residents of Hazara Town in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan on Saturday.

Capital City Police Officer Quetta, Mir Zubair Mehmood told Dawn.com that a suspected suicide bomber traveling on foot was killed by residents of Hazara Town shortly before Iftar.

He said residents tried to stop the suspected bomber from approaching a mosque they were guarding but he refused to do so. “Residents then fired and killed him on the spot,” he said.

Mehmood said a suicide jacket and a hand grenade were recovered from his possession. “A major terrorist attack was averted,” he claimed.

Another police official, DIG Operations Fayyaz Sumbal, said the bomber, who had strapped explosives around his body, could not explode himself because of timely action by the volunteers.

A large number police and paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) personnel reached the spot and started investigation into the incident.

Despite the fact that Hazara have been killed in large numbers this year, no intel is being gathered on attacks on them neither any security has been provided to them. As you can read, there was no military or police check post. It was volunteers themselves manning these places.

Makes you wonder what the large number of police and FC that reached the spot after the incident normally do if not provide security to residents.

Recently, there was attack on ISI headquarter in Sukkur. Regardless of the question that what is ISI office doing in Sukkur when its mandate is to guard against external threats, below is an analysis of how their internal conflicting objectives are leading to this situation:

Caught in no-man’s land

Many defenders of the ISI have attacked its critics and say that the agency is solely responsible for protecting the country from those that seek to harm it be they ‘foreign powers’ or Al Qaeda or most notably the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

They credit the agency with almost all terrorist ‘kills or captures’ and point out the example of one Karachi police unit that has had major ‘successes’ against the TTP but in effect only owns up to ISI arrests of militants and does the legal/court work so the agency remains behind the scenes.

The idea here isn’t to comment on, condemn or condone the agency’s political role but to assess if the country’s premier security agency, which has also lost physical assets and personnel, in the war against terrorism is now geared up for the challenge.

When you ask knowledgeable professionals their response is mixed. This simply reflects the confusion at the policymaking level. Sources familiar with the workings of the agency suggest that its counterterrorism wing is clued in and knowledgeable.

However, the pulls and pushes of the agency department entrusted with ‘running’ the Afghan operation often tend to work at cross-purposes with the wing. The sad bit is that the elected political leadership has so far either been incapable of taking charge or hasn’t been allowed to.

And the military leadership finds itself in a sort of ‘no-man’s land’ between the defence doctrines of Ziaul Haq’s (suicidal) international jihad and Musharraf’s (hypocritical and equally ineffective) enlightened moderation calling for duplicitous support to the West.

“Till these contradictions are resolved. Rest assured all of us are condemned to live with uncertainty, murder and mayhem casting an ominous shadow over our future,” says one former military officer.

Now we come to Karachi which has largest intelligence apparatus both in numbers of agencies as well as numbers of officers assigned. Yet killings and lawlessness in Karachi continues unabated.

June was Karachi’s deadliest month with 313 killings: HRCP

There was no respite from killings in the city during the first six months of the year 2013, as 1,728 casualties were reported in different incidents, according to a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report released on Monday.

Based on data from the past six months, the HRCP report declares June as the deadliest month of the year so far with 313 people killed. The highest number of political killings, which is 50, also took place in this month.

There has been an alarming increase in the crime rate as compared to the six-monthly figures of 2012, when over 1,200 people died. In 2011, the count was even lesser with 1,110 such tragedies.

Makes you wonder what is the whole security apparatus in Karachi doing. Below is based on a chat with my friend. You may or may not like to believe it but I know him to be pretty reliable and honest.

Just had the privilege of meeting ISI, MI, Chaudary Aslam, Brigade 303 and 306 officials in the recent past and was shocked at how easily these guys state kay itnay maray gay (how many people were killed), itnay maar diya jaaye gay (this many will be killed). No value of human lives in their views at the moment. These and other agencies using People’s Amn Committee (PAC), Awami National Party (ANP) and MQM goons (through black mailing). You have no idea kay yeh salay kitno ko paal rahay hay (that bastards have how many goons on their command) just to get the goals achieved of the higher ups and foreign elements as well.

Its mostly about real estate but there are other objectives as well. They use scare tactics, which includes murders, which was the only way to get people leave the old city area. it is working for them at our expense. Ashura planted blast plus burning down the buildings (here and here) in aftermath wasn’t enough to drive the traders away. They rebuilt the buildings.

Shershah traders were not emptying their places and not moving to Northern Bypass (Traders demand justice for Shershah victims) so were people from Juna Market, Kaghazi bazaar and Ranchore line. Already Textile Plaza, Kharadar market traders have left and settled in DHA Phase 2 commercial area, and Sharae Faisal. Properties prices in these areas have crashed and now being bought at throwaway prices by PAC who will eventually sell to builders or government of bypasses or road. If only the traders had agreed to move to Northern Bypass during Mustafa Kamal’s time (which is easier said than done), we wouldnt have seen whats going on nowadays. Lyari Expressway remains incomplete in MQM areas of Lyari ie where Kutchi Memons live and are being killed nowadays.

A friend of mine, his younger brother in a dare from his friends, was involved in some crime. He was picked from home at 3 am by Chaudry Aslam’s guys, beaten all night hung upside down. His brother and I didn’t know he was involved. We got him released using our influence through CID but when we went to release him, he had confessed in front of Chaudry Aslam of all his crimes. One of Chaudry Aslam’s man said that he will now be always used by agencies and he would comply to avoid arrest and being beaten up by the cops so the best is to move him away from Karachi. My friend could afford so he did but many can’t and are being used by the agencies when needed to create chaos etc its business in Pakistan.

Obviously the security officials were drunk and might have exaggerated but I believe there is an element of truth in it. A rich resource on dynamics of Karachi’s Urban violence can be found at the bottom of page here.

When US raided Abbotabad, one can say that they used stealth helicopters and we didn’t have our radars pointed towards western front as we never expected an attack from that side

Pakistan’s Air Force Learned About the Bin Laden Raid on TV

The Pakistani air force learned about the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden from a television news report about a helicopter crash in Abbottabad. Belatedly, they scrambled fighter jets. But by then, the Americans were long gone.
In other words: Pakistan had virtually no chance of detecting U.S. choppers as they flew into the Pakistani equivalent of West Point. And if they raid was done all over again, they still wouldn’t catch the aircraft. That’s according to a leaked report from Pakistan’s independent Abbottabad Commission that was charged by the Pakistani government to investigate the raid. The commission says the Pakistani military never saw the raid coming because of the American choppers’ stealthy, noise-reducing equipment, the skill of their crews at flying below radar, and the fact that Pakistan’s air defenses are focused on its border with India, not Afghanistan

Anyway, military kept releasing such information to press that our airspace was being monitored implying if we had sent fighter jets, they would have been brought down by US’s much advanced air force.

US AWACS planes monitored PAF jets

Throughout the operation, US AWACS aircrafts remained airborne over Afghan airspace to ward-off of any reaction and monitor Pakistan Air Force jets.

Fine. Lets buy it. It was a failure of our military intelligence as well as superior capability of US that held us back from taking any action. What about last nights attack by Taliban

TTP claims attack on central jail in D I Khan

Pakistani Taliban militants in police uniform attacked the Central Jail in Dera Ismail Khan late on Monday and managed to free around 247 inmates, as more than 25 explosions were heard and at least 11 people were killed and nine others wounded.

Our response was exemplary

230 prisoners escape in TTP’s DI Khan jail attack

K-P prisons chief Khalid Abbas said the gunfight raged for three hours, with militants wearing police uniforms entering the facility after bombing its outer wall and throwing hand grenades at prison guards. After the battle abated, security forces searched the prison which was plunged into darkness with an electricity outage, and counted inmates by flashlight to determine how many had escaped, he said. Spokesperson for the K-P government Shaukat Yousafzai confirmed the army had been called in to quell the militant attack.

So they fought for three hours and then around 300 (100 attackers and 200 prisoners) of them escaped. They would not be escaping on foot or hiding in trees. They would be making their escape in cars. This time there was no AWACS in air. Why couldn’t we scrambled army gun ship helicopters or even fighter jets over the area.

They would have made a run for it in cars and assuming 20 militants per car, it makes for a convoy of 15 cars at least which is easy to spot in the night and we could have dropped a few small bombs or fired from helicopter guns. Whereas information from Pakistani state was found wanting, TTP was giving hour by hour update of their success on twitter

I find it hard to believe that our security and intelligence apparatus wasn’t complicit in this. And if it weren’t, then we have pretty incompetent security and intelligence agencies.

Why is Altaf Hussain not tried in UK?

MQM flag

When Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai made threatening speeches covered here, quite a lot of people wanted to know if he could be tried under UK law. Someone sent me the following laws under which he could be tried in UK for his hate and murder inciting speeches.

Section 18(1) Public Order Act, 1986 – using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to stir up racial hatred.

Section 23 Public Order Act, 1986 – threatening, abusive or insulting recordings of sound, with intent to stir up racial hatred.

Section 59 The Terrorism Act, 2000 – Inciting Terrorism Overseas.

Section 1 The Terrorism Act, 2006 – Encouragement of Terrorism.

Section 4 Offences Against the Person Act, 1860 – whosoever shall solicit, encourage, persuade, or endeavour to persuade, or shall propose to any person, to murder any other person, whether he be a subject of Her Majesty or not, and whether he be within the Queen’s dominions or not, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable imprisonment for life.

So I asked my friend who is a solicitor in UK whether its just a viral email or are there really such laws in UK under which QeT Altaf Bhai can be tried. He had this to say

Section 18, 19, 21 and 22 can apply, although it is (weakly) arguable that his comments did not have a raci

Karachi by day, on the road

element to them and were directed to political opponents. Section 23 actually relates to possessing racially inflammatory material and is probably not relevant here (unless he possesses records of his speech). The problem is that Altaf did qualify his statements immediately after he made them and said that he was not threatening anyone and so it is necessary to look at the overall speech in context, rather than just selecting a few choice threatening statements. I haven’t heard it because I have a life.

The problem is that Altaf Hussain has been groomed by western governments due to the ridiculous amount of leverage he has over Karachi. Through him the British can shut off our only real port and that is an incredible advantage for one nation to have over another nation. They would be mad to give it up.

So unless Altaf Hussain really fucks something up against British interest, it is safe to assume that he will remain unharmed in UK.

UPDATE

The recent article published in Guardian also makes the same claim that British give Altaf Hussain protection because he is of help to them:

Altaf Hussain, the notorious MQM leader who swapped Pakistan for London

British interest in the MQM is largely driven by the perception that the party offers a defence against jihadis. But there is more to it than that. The MQM is British turf: Karachi is one of the few places left on earth in which the Americans let Britain take the lead. The US consulate in Karachi no longer runs active intelligence gathering operations in the city. The British still do. When it comes to claiming a place at the top table of international security politics – London’s relationship with the MQM is a remaining toehold.

And there’s something else. The FCO’s most important currency is influence. Successive Pakistani governments, when they are not demanding Hussain’s extradition, have included his parliamentary bloc in various coalition governments. From the FCO’s point of view, it’s a great source of access. Right on their doorstep, in London, they have a man with ministers in the Pakistani government.

For its part the UK government insists there is nothing unusual about its contacts with MQM and that its meetings with MQM officials are: “a normal part of diplomatic activity around the world”. I spoke to a British official recently about the MQM and asked why the UK government, so keen to declare its commitment to human rights, seemed so willing to deal with the party despite officials privately saying that it uses violence to achieve its goals. She said: “There is one thing I can assure you of – it’s not a conspiracy.” Which in a sense is true. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s just policy.

Karachi : Economic growth in Wild Wild West of Pakistan [Further reading links on dynamics of violence in Karachi]

centre

I have always believed that stock market is not the barometer of an economy or general well being of population. A few big players or institutional players can manipulate it and the effects may not trickle down to general population. In US case, a rising stock market has the impact of increasing confidence of the people thus resulting in more investments which leads to more employment etc and thus a virtuous cycle may start. However, the same is not the case in Pakistan where Karachi stock exchange has been generating significant returns for last two years but the misery of people and their general well being is not improving.

This is what Bloomberg said in November 2012:

Pakistan Stocks Best as Violence Ignored: Riskless Return

Pakistan is handing equity investors the world’s best risk-adjusted returns as terrorist attacks, power blackouts and a war with Taliban insurgents fail to curb gains in consumer spending that sent profits to a record high.

The KSE 100 Index, the benchmark for Pakistan’s $43 billion equity market, rose 7.3 percent in the past three years when adjusted for price swings, the top gain among 72 markets worldwide, according to the BLOOMBERG RISKLESS RETURN RANKING. Pakistan had lower stock volatility than 82 percent of the nations including the U.S. (SPX) Over five years, Pakistan’s risk- adjusted returns ranked eighth.

We all know how the economy spiralled downwards in last 5 years of PPP government but if we are to go by Karachi Stock Exchange 100 index, we were the 8th best performing market (mind you, on risk adjusted basis) in the world.

This from yesterday’s DAWN. (DAWN has a tendency of changing its website addresses frequently so if the link becomes dead, please let me know in comments and I will try to update it]

Equities yield staggering 52pc return

(June 29, 2013) For the investors in equities, it is time to celebrate. He who may have invested Rs10 million in the Pakistan stocks on July 1 of last year, would have additional Rs5.2 million in the kitty.

It marks a mouth-watering return of 52 per cent in a year unmatched by any other asset class. During the year, the benchmark KSE-100 index added staggering 7,204 points to settle at the dizzy height of 21,006 points on Friday, the last trading day of the year.

Stock market is not the only growth story. The extortion racket is also growing at an breakneck pace. From Reuters

Pakistan’s commercial hub faces growing extortion menace

Businesses in Karachi are facing a surge in extortion demands from criminal gangs, forcing many owners to delay new investment or to relocate their families to escape the sense of insecurity gripping the urban heart of Pakistan’s economy.

The worsening law and order situation in Karachi, which generates 25 percent of Pakistan’s economic activity, presents one of the many challenges new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must overcome to fulfill promises to set Pakistan on a path to faster growth.

An expanding middle class is fuelling consumer spending but extortion is hurting confidence among thousands of family-run firms that form the backbone of the economy.

With the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan due to start in July, a traditional time for extortionists to come calling, Karachi traders and shopkeepers are braced for what police say will be a record year of demands.

“The extortion racket has blown out of all proportion with the previous year,” said Ahmed Chinoy, chief of the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), a Karachi body set up to help police by providing crime statistics and technical support.

The growing demands reflect the shifting dynamics of a city of 18 million people where new challengers, including Pakistan’s Taliban movement, are locked in an increasingly violent, neighborhood-by-neighborhood battle for control.

Professionals, not just shopkeepers, are also targets.

When Javed Hanif, a doctor, answered his cellphone in June the caller reeled off a list of Hanif’s personal details: his work in a government hospital, the registration number of his car, and preparations for his son’s wedding. The man demanded 500,000 Pakistani rupees.

In spite of the climate of fear, business sentiment is not universally bleak. Retail is booming in Karachi, symbolized by the opening of a flashy modern shopping centre called Dolmen Mall Clifton in 2011 which showcases international brands such as Debenhams and Fatburger.

There is a class of people, I wouldn’t say they are immune, least bothered by increasing lawlessness. They are rich, reside in gated or posh communities, live for conspicuous consumption and to cater to their needs such flashy international brands are coming to Pakistan.

Despite all of the above, population growth rate of Pakistan has not staved off. If things do not improve, the large youth population will be a ticking time bomb. However, for now, they represent a huge, increasing in size and lucrative consumer goods segment. With population moving to urban centres, though it represents a growing segment of consumer goods now, it is taking the creaking infrastructure of cities like Karachi to breaking point.

Consumer goods: P&G sets eyes on expanding Pakistan operations

Changing demographics support growth

“One of the factors driving our growth is the enhanced ability of semi-rural consumers to participate in the economy,” Sabzwari said. “If you compare the urbanisation rate in Pakistan with other developing countries, you will see that we are getting urbanised faster than others,” he pointed out.

A growing middle class and the overall demographics of the population are critical factors driving consumerism. “We have millions of consumers entering independent disposable income space in their lives every year,” Sabzwari pointed out. Pakistan is one of the top countries adding 20-year-olds to the world, and these are the people establishing new families and helping market sizes grow. “Market size here grows in terms of volumes, without taking the pricing into account,” he explained.

All of the above news items point out to fast growth happening in Karachi. But we still haven’t touched upon the fastest growing sector: Target killing. The growth in this murderous business has been phenomenal. If one is in Bori (jute or gunny bags in which dead bodies are occasionally found) business, the prices would have skyrocketed leading to lucrative profit margin.

100pc rise in number of killings over past five months

June 29: Nearly 100 per cent increase has been witnessed in the number of killings across the city during the first five months of the year as compared to last year’s corresponding period, it emerged on Saturday.

While 750 people had been killed between January and May last year, as many as 1,450 people were killed in the city over the past five months, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Now only if we could establish a murder or target killing stock exchange in Karachi like in Somalia for Piracy, the benefits of this growing business can be distributed to common population. From Wall Street Journal

Today’s Pirates Have Their Own Stock Exchange

The world’s first pirate stock exchange was established in 2009 in Harardheere, some 250 miles northeast of Mogadishu, Somalia. Open 24 hours a day, the exchange allows investors to profit from ransoms collected on the high seas, which can approach $10 million for successful attacks against Western commercial vessels.

While there are no credible statistics available, reports from various news sources suggest that over 70 entities are listed on the Harardheere exchange. When a pirate operation is successful, it pays investors a share of the profits. According to a former pirate who spoke to Reuters, “The shares are open to all and everybody can take part, whether personally at sea or on land by providing cash, weapons or useful materials. . . . We’ve made piracy a community activity.”

Think about it, this could be the first target killing or murder stock exchange of the world.

Below is link dump of studies of violence in Karachi. Must read if you want to understand the dynamics of violence in Karachi.

Musings on Pakistani social media – Twitter edition

Caveats: I want to highlight four facts before you read this unstructured rant.

1. My political views are what are termed as “political islamist” or just “islamist”. So my observations and inferences that I have derived from them may be colored by those views.

2. The period I am covering here is from pre-May 2013 election till now.

3. I follow around 250 people on twitter and in addition say they Retweet (RT) 50 other people regularly so in effect my observations are based on tweets of total of 300 people

and most importantly, as brought to attention by one commentator,

4. I am generalizing here i.e., brushing with broad strokes. Its just a high level view of my observations.

Pre-election period

PTI by appealing to educated and plugged-into-social-media youth had really taken off and had become a formidable foe by engaging the disengaged youth. Other parties also took to twitter and facebook but one has to admit that PTI had the strongest presence on social media before the election. How they abused this position and how it ultimately fooled them into believing that being a majority on social media means being a majority in the parliament is covered by others extensively so I will not dwell on that.

All parties in Pakistan have an element of cult in them. Most people follow these parties not for the values or manifestos they have presented but because of their leaders. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has always been a cult of Bhutto on a national level, but under Zardari it has become a Sind regional party.

Supporters of PML-N mainly follow it for the Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif but its more of a personality following rather than a cult. The only party that is not a cult is probably Jamat-e-Islami but its too small a party. We also have Awami National Party (ANP) leadership of which remains in the ahl-e-bait of its founder Baacha Khan. But in relative terms, these parties are open to or at least tolerant of criticism of their actions as well their leaders.

On the other extreme, we have Muttahida Quomi Movement (MQM) a party of urban Sind headed by self-exiled leader Altaf Hussain. The cult eader status bestowed to him is extra-ordinary. They are highly intolerant of criticism and no newspaper which has offices or circulation in Karachi will dare to criticize them.

However, they failed to understand the impact of social media mainly twitter. MQM didn’t appreciate the fact that twitter allows people to express their frustrations and criticisms anonymously something which the general public couldn’t do on print and electronic media without fear of reprisal from MQM. So in of absence any criticism in public sphere, MQM fooled themselves into believing that people of Karachi will vote for them out of fear or will remain at home. However, quite a large number of people in Karachi were fed up with MQM and wanted to vote PTI (as no other party reached out to them or even talked to them) but when the voters reached polling stations, in some cases they weren’t allowed to vote, their vote had already been cast, or in some places MQM workers were filling ballot boxes with fake votes and at some places they strong armed the polling station staff to not reach the polling station on the allocated time_a fact which came to light in voting of national assembly seat from Karachi NA-250. MQM presumed that like earlier times people will take this silently. Surprisingly, people refused to be cowed down and in certain cases took to streets (which would never have happened earlier).

For MQM this was a first i.e., ordinary people protesting against them openly. They were at a loss as to how to counter this onslaught and it led to a few faux pas speeches by their leader Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai. (I have covered these  here “MQM’s reign of terror post elections 2013″ and “Why and How MQM Rabita Committee was beaten”). On the social media front, MQM was totally ill prepared for the criticism and abuses that started against them. People who would normally be discrete in their criticism of MQM even privately as they live and work in areas surrounded by MQM supporters took to criticizing MQM openly on Facebook where you are not anonymous. On twitter, frustrated Karachiites tagged MQM representative and became abusive towards them, towards MQM but most importantly towards Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai. MQM was not at all prepared for this barrage of criticism. This post “Social Media Strategy of MQM” makes it pretty clear how MQM deals with criticism generally and how trying the same tactics on social media actually backfired. Later they created a lot of fake accounts to tweet favorable news and occasionally create and tweet a lot of hashtags to get MQM related topics to trend such as #united4Altaf #onlyAltaf yesterday but its safe to say that MQM is still not able find its bearings on twitter. (For some twitter humor -> “Altaf Hussain and Titanic”)

The party that made the most use of social media pre-election was PTI led by former cricketer and philanthropist Imran Khan. The cult leader status that the supporters bestowed to Imran Khan was comparable to cult status of Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai amongst MQM supporters. PTI supporters would not tolerate any criticism of PTI much less Imran Khan and would stoop down to hurtling abuses to anyone daring to criticize or even trying to give suggestions to change their policies/manifestos etc. They earned the name “PTI trolls” as they would come down together on any journalist or analyst on twitter. They also created fake accounts of journalists/analysts and tweeted positive propaganda with respect to PTI and with respect to opponents, they spread malicious propaganda. This is what a fake account of, Jang/TheNews journalist and anchor of GEO TV program Jirga, Saleem Safi tweeted most probably operated by a PTI troll on election day. Tweets have since been deleted but I took a screenshot of them.

This and similar other tweets from other fake accounts upset Saleem Safi so much that he wrote a whole column in Urdu about it

I am having fun with it

Post Election Period

Once the elections were held, it was hard for PTI supporters to fathom that despite having such a huge presence on social media, how come the outcome was not what they desired. They went into denial mode claiming mass scale rigging. Absence of Imran Khan from the scene due to his fall from the lifter two days before the election also meant that there was no leadership to guide them. PTI was a major force in urban centres but failed to make any headway in suburbs and rural areas. As such, when the results showed that masses didn’t vote overwhelmingly for PTI, PTI supporters stooped to calling general public Jaahil (ignorant). You have to understand that these voters of PTI were mainly first time voters and educated elite of Pakistan who had never bothered to vote earlier and credit goes to Imran Khan for engaging them. They were teachers, professionals, businessmen, corporate CEOs and consultants educated from best Pakistani and western universities but they couldn’t take the loss at ballot box and still could not come to grips with the fact that a vote of someone living in rural area or not as highly educated as them or as successful as them is equivalent to their vote. There is a wonderful website which collected unquotable gems from these Harvard, Wharton, IBA, LUMS etc educated youth on social media. Do visit it Public shaming #Pakvotes as it will give you some insight into their mindset. A wonderful essay in this regard that I cannot recommend enough is The Disadvantages of Elite Education by William Deresiewicz, which is a must read.

Now that PTI has its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, focus of PTI trolls has shifted to actions of their own government and there is significant reduction in their social media trolling. Probably they too have realized that this trolling is actually destroying the little goodwill that they have left, if any.

Lets move to the other intelligentsia we have on social media. These are the so called English speaking journalists and analysts on twitter and can be described as left-of-centre in their leanings and probably hate PTI for its rightist leanings. They also despise the general public of Pakistan as when it comes to issues such as terrorism etc, general public leans right. They are best described in the following tweet

Pakistan especially KPK is facing a lot of terrorism. One such day was yesterday wherein a Terrorists strike in Quetta, Peshawar, NWA

As many as 49 persons, including security personnel, lost their lives and over 100 others sustained injuries in separate incidents of terrorism in Quetta, Peshawar and North Waziristan on Sunday.

Now if one followed the intelligentsia tweets yesterday, it was all outrage. There was empathy for victims but that was also a tool to express outrage. Outrage against terrorists? No. Outrage against PTI (as they rule in KPK) as well as common man as he is not fully behind the army in this War on Terror or because the common man opposes the Drone strategy

The above are a sample most read journalists/writers in English press of Pakistan and all they have to offer is to blame the common man or blame Punjab. The above is just a sample. Yesterday, my timeline was filled with such useless outrage from morning till night. It is not as if we are not fighting this war. We have been fighting this war for last 10 years. Here is a good piece of research Numbers of Terror on the myths propagated by these journalists in terms of number of people killed and as if our army is not fighting this war.

Twitter has widened the schisms in our society. These journalists consider the rest of the population as illiterate or unenlightened, it has actually polarized the society with the result that if these journalists/analysts/”though leaders” decide to bandy behind a particular issue, the rest of population believes there is a hidden agenda. Like PTI trolls and supporters, by just promoting their own causes and belittling the causes that the rest of the population wants to stand behind, they polarize the society. What they think is satire is actually read as affront by common man.  They don’t try to listen to other viewpoint or convince him of their arguments rather shove their views down common man’s throat. As such, common man refuses to listen to them and runs in opposite direction. As such, we all have our pet projects and causes which are mutually exclusive rather opposites. They are pro-drone, common man is anti-drone. The people who the common man have voted in want to use negotiation with Taliban as part of overall strategy because fighting them for last 10 years hasn’t resulted in any gains as far as common man knows so these people make fun of common man, his thinking, leave no opportunity to snark at it and consequently want nothing to do with negotiations. This polarization manifested itself clearly in case of Malala attack. The innocent minor girl faced a barbaric attack by Taliban. However, the vehemence with which the aforementioned journalists/analysts/thinks took up her cause and displayed their outrage actually distanced the common man from her. Whereas she needed the whole nation to stand behind her, the constant point scoring by our “intelligentsia” made sure that common man believe that she is part of some larger conspiracy or hidden agenda.

The intelligentsia continues to blame Zia ul Haq for creating this confused nation but they have only themselves to blame. Zia has been dead for more than 25 years. A whole generation has been born and grown up during this time. What have they to show for this 25 years to correct Zia’s wrongs? A few columns blaming Zia. 25 years down the line they will still be blaming Zia and all they will have to show for their efforts will be their satirical and hate filled columns, blogs and tweets. Lot of good they are doing.

Below is one of my sunni bias manifesting itself

Getting 100 people killed in a fortnight is a genocide of Karachiites. But we take it in a passing. 12 people were killed in Karachi day before yesterday. But a lot of people only feel outraged when its someone from minority because it allows them to push their agenda whatever that is.

This is till 1155am today: Karachi: Six killed in violent incidents, police encounter today. Only half a day has passed. Assuming pattern continues, around 12 will be killed today, which is a number equivalent to people killed in a bomb blast. But bomb blasts happen once a week or twice. However, this many people keep on dying on streets of Karachi everyday yet there is no outrage in any quarter.

A brilliant, thoughtful and well-structured read on selective outrage that we as a society show is Death of a Nation. Its a must read.

Altaf Hussain and Titanic

Cover of "Titanic (Three-Disc Special Col...

Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai has been known to have absurd outbursts all the time that become butt of jokes amongst his opponents (collected here). However, these statements later force his lieutenants to come up with equally, if not more, absurd arguments trying to justify them.

Most recent example is Quaid-e-Tatheer’s statement that “Titanic of Muslim Ummah is sinking.” It left people scratching their heads to understand the explicit or implicit meaning underlying the statement. In comes Mustafa Azizabadi, Member of Central Coordination Committee (Rabita Committee) of MQM and Incharge of MQM International Secretariat London, and tries to give meaning to it in his tweet:

I don’t know what Quaid-e-Tatheer Altaf Hussain Bhai had in mind when it comes to Titanic but personally only thing I am reminded of is that famous (or infamous) scene where Leonardo Di Caprio does a portrait of Kate Winslet.

Close-up shot of Cameron's nude Rose sketch wi...

On a serious note, I think Mustafa Azizabadi is either the speech writer of Altaf Hussain or may be he has invested in Titanic franchise in Pakistan.

UPDATE

Later MQM Member Rabita Committee and Incharge Central Information Committee MQM Wasay Jalil also tried to come to rescue of Altaf Hussain