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09KARACHI130 2009-04-14 04:15:00 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Karachi
Cable title:  

SINDH - ETHNIC TENSIONS BREWING

Tags:   PGOV PK PTER 
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1. (C) Over the past two weeks, according to media reports
and police contacts, there have been four petrol bomb attacks
on Pashtun-owned businesses in Sindh. Police sources accused
members of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), historically a
Mohajir-based political party, of planning the attacks and
fear an escalation of ethnic violence as a result. Sindh
Awami National Party (ANP) President Shahi Syed told Post
that, in his role as head of the "Pashtun Jirga," he plans to
hold an incendiary May 12 rally in Karachi to denounce the
MQM. Sindh's Governor Ishrat-ul-Ebad held an April 1 meeting
with governing coalition partners ANP, MQM and Pakistan
People's Party (PPP) leaders to discuss friction between
them. There is still much time to head off any ethnic strife
that could lead to violence in the city. End summary.

Petrol Bomb Attacks


--------------------------



2. (C) On March 31, 2009, according to media reports
confirmed by RSO sources, four armed men on motorbikes threw
petrol bombs at Pashtun-owned businesses in the city of
Mirpur Khas, (an MQM dominated city about four hours north of
Karachi in interior Sindh). The shops immediately caught
fire and the destruction spread to other shops in the area.
Shortly thereafter, large numbers of Pashtuns, armed with
clubs, set fire to tires and blocked streets. Police and
Rangers were deployed to quell the unrest. By April 1,
officials had restored order in the city.

3. (C) This is the fourth incident of a petrol bomb attack
against Pashtun-owned businesses in Sindh over the last two
weeks. Two attacks were carried out in Karachi (one in
Quaidabad and one in Qasba Colony) and one in Hyderabad,
where some shops were gutted and, subsequently, Pashtun
protesters torched the car of a MQM Union Council member,
according to media reports and police sources.

Police Blame MQM


--------------------------



4. (C) Officially, police claim they have found no evidence
of MQM involvement in the attacks. Privately, police sources
told Post they believe MQM, historically a Mohajir-based
political party, is responsible and they are preparing for
conflict between the MQM and Pashtun community in general and
Pashtun-dominated Awami National Party (ANP) in particular.
(Comment: Police did not offer any evidence to substantiate
this accusation. End comment.)

MQM Asks GOP to Search for Taliban


--------------------------



5. (C) MQM has asked the federal government to search
Karachi's neighborhoods for Taliban elements, which would
involve a number of Pashtun dominated areas in Karachi. MQM
Provincial Assembly member Faisal Subzwari told Post that he
believed the majority of Taliban in the city are hiding in
Pashtun-dominated areas. ANP, he claimed, had not supported
the call to search for Taliban, which he further claimed were
threatening the city. Subzwari accused the ANP of playing
the "politics of ethnicity" to avoid alienating its voter
base.

MQM Denies It Plans to Instigate Strife


--------------------------



6. (C) Subzawari said he was sure MQM could curb any
violence that might result from ethnic tensions and assured
Post that his party would not start any problems. He held
out hope that the coalition partners ANP, PPP, and MQM could
work together to combat any extremist threat to the
Pakistan's mega-city. (See septel April 11 conversation

KARACHI 00000130 002 OF 002


between Karachi's MQM Mayor Mustafa Kamal and the Ambassador.)

ANP Issues Threat


--------------------------



7. (C) Sindh ANP President Shahi Syed told Post on April 1
that the "Pashtun Loya Jirga" (which he also leads) plans to
have a May 12 gathering at Nishtar Park, about 5 kilometers
from ConGen Karachi, to condemn MQM actions that he claimed
led to the May 12, 2007 violence surrounding the visit to
Karachi of then-deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar
Chaudhry. According to him, the rally will be held to "show
MQM who the city belongs to." (Comment: No party has ever
been formally charged with inciting the riots. End comment.)

Comment


--------------------------



8. (C) Post believes that tension between the MQM and the
Pashtun community has escalated. Both parties are equally at
fault. MQM leaders have consistently raised the specter of
Talibanization as a consequence of the rapid growth of
Karachi's Pashtun community (refs A, B). Pashtun community
leaders have called for a May 12 rally that has the potential
to enrage MQM supporters. In November 2008, the city was
shaken by ethnic violence between the city's MQM-allied
Mohajir community and Pashtuns (estimated at 3 - 4 million of
the city's 18 million inhabitants) in several impoverished
neighborhoods (ref C).

9. (C) However, there is some evidence the leaders of both
communities are aware of the problem and are making efforts
to resolve the tension. After an April 1 meeting, moderated
by Sindh Governor Ishrat-ul-Ebad, MQM, ANP and Pakistan
People's Party (PPP) leaders announced plans to hold a peace
rally on an unspecified date. The planned May 12 rally is
still some time away, and the MQM and ANP could work out
their differences by then, given such advance notice.
FAKAN