Taliban turn to organized crime in Karachi
Taliban fighters have long used this city of 17 million as a place to regroup, smuggle weapons and even work seasonal jobs. But recently they have discovered another way to make fast money: organized crime.There is much more in a very revealing story about the nature of the enemy and how he finances his operations. It is to some extent about religion, because that gives the criminals a veneer of respectability, but it is pretty clear they are people without a moral compass. Anyone who can kill non combatants so easily is not a person or morals. Religion is also an excuse for the crimes they commit.
The police here say the Taliban, working with criminal groups, are using Mafia-style networks to kidnap, rob banks and extort, generating millions of dollars for the militant insurgency in northwestern Pakistan.
“There is overwhelming evidence that it’s an organized policy,” said Dost Ali Baloch, assistant inspector general of the Karachi police.
Jihadi-linked crime has surfaced in other Pakistani cities, like Lahore. But Karachi, the central nervous system of Pakistan’s economy, and home to its richest businessmen, is the hub. It has been free of the bombings that have tormented Pakistan’s other major cities this year, and some officials believe that is the result of a calculated strategy.
“This is where they come to hide, where they raise their finances,” said a counterterrorism official in Karachi. “They don’t want to disturb that.”
The danger is not of a Taliban takeover — Karachi is run by a powerful secular party that despises the Taliban — but of an urban sanctuary for financing and equipping the insurgency from this southern port.
These criminal syndicates helped drive kidnappings in Pakistan last year to their highest numbers in a decade, according to the police, and they have also generated a spike in bank robberies. Eighty percent of bank heists are now believed to be related to the insurgency and other militant groups, authorities say.“The Taliban are a group of thieves,” said a currency exchange owner here who was robbed of nearly $2 million last year and who did not want to be identified for fear of further trouble. “If it was God, they’d steal from him, too.”
“The world thinks this is about religion, but that’s a mistake,” said Sharfuddin Memon, director in Karachi of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee, a crime watch group run by members of the business community. “It’s about money and power. Faith has nothing to do with it.”
O think Karachi is also where Mullah Omar hides out.