Taliban tighten grip on commercial hub

February 16, 2014 - 6:43:05 am
KARACHI: The Pakistani Taliban have tightened their grip over the country’s commercial hub, officials and residents said, despite a five-month government crackdown, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In a detailed report by two journalists, the newspaper said: “Research by The Wall Street Journal, based on conversations with security officials and urban planners, shows TTP still control or dominate about 470 square miles of Karachi, or nearly a third of its area, where at least 2.5 million people live.”

TTP dominates 33 of Karachi’s 178 administrative units - known as union councils - security officials said. These tend to be the larger, peripheral, districts, with ever expanding shanty settlements that eat into the surrounding desert.

The militants are also now getting more educated recruits, including non-Pashtuns, and spreading to neighbouring areas outside Karachi, including Hub to the west and Jamshoro to the northeast.

The TTP’s sway in Karachi extends right up to Saddar the city centre and into areas such as Sultanabad, a ramshackle community next to the new US Consulate compound.

These are districts with a majority population of Pashtuns, the same ethnic group as TTP’s leadership. These areas that encircle the city include Baldia and the Sindh Industrial Trading Estate to the west and Gadap in the north. Residents in these areas said TTP’s hold had gotten stronger over the past year.

“There’s been no action against the main body of the TTP, just against some smaller factions,” said Khawaja Izharul Hassan, a provincial MQM lawmaker.

Islamist militants also have influence over some non-Pashtun districts of the city. The TTP has an ability to stage attacks across Karachi.