Having long been a victim of terror, Shikarpur needs Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad as well

At the moment Shikarpur, not unlike the tribal areas, has a become dangerous place to live

On Friday, March 17, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) arrested Abdul Aziz Shaikh, one of the trainers of suicide bombers, and Aslam Gul, a would-be suicide bomber, from Karachi, where they were planning terror activities to be carried out in the city. The arrested suspects belong to Hafeez Brohi group which earlier was associated with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and now with ISIS. The group reportedly has been involved in a series of terrorist incidents in Sindh since 2010 including the massacre at Sehwan. Shikarpur is said to be the hub of the group, where logistical support and facilitation have been provided to terrorists to carry out attacks in Sindh.

It is most pertinent to mention here how terrorists made Shikarpur their safe sanctuary. In its halcyon days, Shikarpur was the seat of civilization, culture, trade, commerce, and was considered the Paris of Sindh because of its beauty, prosperity, development and peace. But, unfortunately, for the last three decades many deadly tribal clashes have taken place among various tribes in the city which lasted for many years, killing a huge number of people. During these clashes, the regions under the influence of both the warring tribes remained no-go areas not only for the people of each tribe but also for police and outsiders. Normal activities in those areas remained suspended due to uncertainty and fear. Amidst so many other harms, education remains one of them, having been badly affected in these areas. Because of the precarious law and order situation existing in these war-torn areas, teachers were not able to go there. Therefore, about 90 percent schools remained closed. 

Meanwhile, the religious clerics, scholars and molvis, who are much venerated by almost all of the illiterate and semi-literate people in rural areas, kept their religious activities continued in the areas. They established madrassas and enrolled a huge number of children where only religious education was being imparted. The religious fanatics and terrorists taking advantage of the state of the affairs made the regions their sanctuaries, where they could make their movements independently and could carry their nefarious activities on such as the brainwashing of novel and immature brains, and recruitment of new fighters.

At the moment Shikarpur, not unlike FATA, has a become dangerous place to live. The city has been made target of terrorism many a time. Terrorists setting on fire a huge number of NATO tankers in two separate incidents made their first appearance in the city in 2010.

Subsequently, the Former MNA and leader of a Shia sect, Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim Jatoi was targeted by suicide attacks twice. On Ashura, or the 10th of Muharram, 2010, a suicide bomber tried to force his way inside his house where around 1,500 people had gathered for majlis. Jatoi’s private security guards shot the intruder dead and fortunately there weren’t any casualties. Again he was attacked by a suicide bomber during the 2013 election campaign but thankfully he remained safe.

In February, 2013, Dargah Ghulam Shah Ghazi, situated at the village of Mari, was targeted by a suicide bomber, in which Gaddi Nasheen the Sufi Saint Syed Hajan Shah and two of his children were killed and three women seriously injured.

On January 30, 2015, the devastating blast had occurred in the central Imambargah during Friday prayers, in which 60 people were killed and another 60 were injured. It was the second deadliest attack in the history of interior Sindh after the one that took place in Khairpur on June 6, 1963, targeting an Ashura procession, killing 118 Shia mourners.

Just twenty months after the deadly suicide blast, on Eid Day September 12, 2016, a suicide bomber blew himself up, injuring 13 people including five policemen at the gate of Eid prayer ground in Khanpur, one of the towns of Shikarpur.

Hafeez group has allegedly been involved in almost all suicide bombings taking place at Shikarpur and in interior Sindh. Investigations revealed that Hafeez was the mastermind of the bloodiest Sehwan bomb blast and had prepared the suicide jacket used in the attack, killing around 90 people and injuring 342 on February 16.

After the Shikarpur Imambargah blast, a number of terrorists affiliated with the group have been arrested time and again from within the district and not a single one of them was from outside. Hence, the existence of a gargantuan network of local terrorists associated with Hafeez group and other militants of various terrorist groups, fully trained by terrorist organizations, cannot be denied. The threat of terrorism still exists in the district. As in interior Sindh, Shikarpur is the most affected by terrorist attacks, therefore for the revival of its past glory and overall development the city calls for the launch of operation Radul Fasaad to exterminate the blood-thirsty terrorists, preventing any potential terrorist threat.

Shaikh Abdul Rasheed is a social activist and researcher. Follow him on Twitter