The enemy at home

Violent extremism has reached the houses of those who are expected to fight it

The enemy at home
After a terrorist attack on a navy dockyard in Karachi in September last year, there were reports that a perpetrator who was killed in the gunfight was a former navy sailor and the son of a police officer.

Owais Jakhrani’s father, Ali Sher Jakhrani, was a senior police officer who was in the limelight during the famed Karachi law and order case. Being the assistant IG for legal affairs, his recommendations to then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry were always honored.

Asked at one point if he knew an honest officer who could lead an investigation into the March 2013 bomb attack in the predominantly-Shia Abbas Town neighborhood of Karachi, Mr Jakhrani named Shahid Hayat. The chief justice listened to him, and set aside an existing investigation team formed by Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah.

Owais, who was dismissed from the navy for his ‘religious views and undisciplined conduct’ had remained in contact with his policeman father from Afghanistan, where he had gone for militant training. Forensic reports later suggested that Owais had used his father’s service weapons during the terrorist attack.

A year later, a probe into the killing of 46 passengers of a bus – most of them Ismaili Shias on their way to work – in Karachi’s Safoora Goth area reveals the involvement of the brother of a senior superintendent of Sindh police, a senior police officer told me.

He was in contact with his policeman father while training in Afghanistan

Other sources privy to the case said the police had arrested Sheeba Ahmed, an alleged financier of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent last month. He told them the names of the men who had orchestrated the attack, and trained and brainwashed young people to carry it out. Among those men was Zaheer Shaikh, whose younger brother is a senior police officer.

Zaheer is at large.  It is yet to be ascertained whether the police officer was aware of his brother’s activities.

Last year before Muharram, an intelligence alert issued by the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) stated that there were officials in Sindh police with sectarian leanings and affiliations. The report was prepared by in the light of information shared by a top intelligence agencies.

“The officials of LEAs with visible sectarian leanings and affiliations may not be deputed for Muharram duties,” said a NACTA letter dated 22nd October, 2014.

“The involvement of immediate family members of two senior officers of Sindh in major acts of terrorism is alarming, and indicates weak intelligence,” says Saqib Sagheer, a Karachi-based investigative reporter. “In both the cases, the suspects’ ties to a police officer only came to fore after they had carried out a terrorist attack.”

Security experts say militant groups linked to global terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda and ISIS have been making inroads in Karachi’s affluent and educated families by influencing young people.

“The issue went underreported for many reasons, including too much focus on madrassas,” says Ziaur Rehman, a noted security analyst. “What is most worrying is that militants have reached the homes of those supposed to fight with them.”

The writer is a freelance journalist


Twitter: @NKMalazai