'We can face a possible backlash'

'We can face a possible backlash'
With a significant Taliban presence, Karachi may become the target of revenge attacks for the operation in North Waziristan. Karachi Police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo says he is prepared.

What sort of security threats is Karachi facing following the military operation in North Waziristan?

We have intelligence reports that Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al Qaeda sleeper cells operating in Karachi could react strongly in the city in response to the military operation in North Waziristan. They could target offices of military and police, vital installations including airports, oil terminals and ports, and training facilities of law enforcement agencies. They could kill or kidnap prominent figures – including political leaders especially belonging to the Pakistan People’s Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement, government officials, and foreigners especially diplomats and staff of INGOs and foreign companies. They could also target Polio vaccinators taking part in the ongoing polio eradication campaign in the city.

The sensitivity of the situation demands extra security measures. Police and other paramilitary forces have done their homework. We can face a possible backlash from the militant groups.

How will you do that?

We have adopted a two pronged strategy – first, taking measures to prevent any possible attacks and second, if any untoward incident happens, try to contain, control and eliminate it. Security of sensitive installations has been doubled and the targeted operation against the TTP and other allied militant groups has been launched in various parts of the city. A number of TTP militants have been arrested or killed. We have also increased checking at all the entry points of Karachi, to prevent a possible influx of militants in the city.

How strong are the Taliban groups in Karachi?

There are three faction of the TTP operating in the city – Mehsud, Swat and Mohmand. Initially, they used Karachi for hiding, and for medical treatment. After 2010, they started raising funds here to support insurgency in the tribal areas, through bank robberies, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. Now they have also started killing political opponents, especially Awami National Party leaders.

The TTP has influence in some Pashtun-majority neighborhoods such as Manghopir, Pirabad, Quaidabad, Sohrab Goth, and Ittehad Town. But the arrests and deaths of key militants in the ongoing targeted operation have shattered their network.

But there is a rise in attacks on police personnel.

Yes. These are revenge attacks because we have destroyed their network. At least 68 policemen have been killed in various parts of the city since January, most of them in west district.

Can Karachi Police fight well-trained militants?

Policing in Karachi is different from that in other cities. The population of the city is almost 22 million now, including two million illegal immigrants. We are facing a variety of issues – including ethno-political violence, sectarian killings, criminal syndicates, drug-traffickers, land grabbers and especially organized and well-trained Taliban groups associated with the global Jihadi network of Al Qaeda.

But despite the challenges of training, finance, manpower and use of technology, Karachi Police are doing their best.