Daesh or ISIS may have claimed responsibility for the attack on Sehwan’s Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine on Feb 16, killing 90 people but the police and law-enforcement agencies are looking a man called Hafeez Brohi.
Speaking to the media three days later, Sindh Police Chief AD Khawaja clearly named Hafeez Brohi group while saying that their role could not be ruled out. The evidence so far suggests that the wave of terrorism is linked to Balochistan and one of the prime reasons is this group.
Hafeez Brohi is the alias of a 35 year old suspect whose name has surfaced in connection with previous terrorist attacks in upper Sindh. He is said to have come from Mastung and his actual name is Abdul Hafeez Pandrani (the Pandranis being a subtribe of the Brohis). He is said to have been a resident of Abdul Khaliq Pandrani village in Shikarpur district.
Brohi’s name was put in the seventh edition of the Counter-Terrorism Department’s Red Book. It specifies that he is suspected of being affiliated with the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jaish-e-Muhammad.
The authorities believe that Brohi was a key contact of LeJ Chief Asif Chotu, who was killed in an alleged encounter with the Punjab’s counter-terrorism police on January 18 this year. Chotu and Brohi are suspected of being responsible for carrying out deadly attacks in Shikarpur and other parts of Sindh.
During the investigation into a Jan 30, 2015 bombing at Shikarpur’s Lakhi Dar Imambargah, the police arrested a man identified as Khalil Ahmed Brohi of Dera Murad Jamali. According to the interrogation report, Khalil Ahmed acquired a religious education of Nazra Quran from Madrassa Ahsania, Dera Murad Jamali, Balochistan. His was a temporary resident of Hafeez Brohi’s village. The report says that Ahmed told investigators that the Shikarpur suicide bomber, Ilyas, had stayed at Brohi’s house and Brohi had provided him (Khalil Ahmed) with a cart to go and scout out the surroundings of the imambargah.
Brohi is also believed to have played a pivotal role in the plot against Eid-ul-Azha prayers in Shikarpur that was thwarted last year. The arrested bomber, Usman, revealed before a joint interrogation team that Brohi used to visit a compound in Wadh, where Usman had stayed with another bomber (Abdul Rehman) for more than three months. According to the report, during Ramazan, Brohi came to the Wadh compound and collected the two suicide vests from men identified as Muaaz and Arif. A day prior to the attack, Brohi and another man Sajjad alias Dilawar took both of the would-be bombers from Wadh to Shikarpur on two motorcycles that took irregular routes. They reached a field which was close to Brohi’s village. Brohi went off and returned after 20 minutes after having collected both suicide vests. The four men slept at the same location and woke up at dawn. Brohi not only helped them put on the vests but also explained how they should detonate the mechanism. Later on Brohi and Dilawar dropped the bombers near the Eidgah and left.
Brohi’s own brother, Abdul Hakim Pandrani, carried out the first suicide attack in the history of rural Sindh on December 19, 2010. The bomber was identified and shot dead.
The Sindh government has formed a Joint Investigation Team headed by DIG Hyderabad Khadim Hussain Rind to investigate the Sehwan attack. During a law and order meeting at Chief Minister House on February 20, CM Syed Murad Ali Shah said that they had sent a list of 94 seminaries to the federal government, asking for vigilance. According to the counter-terrorism department these seminaries are directly or indirectly involved in terrorism. The list was prepared after investigating dozens of terrorists who were one way or another affiliated with those seminaries. The list contains the names of some renowned seminaries such as Madrassa Haqqania Akora Khattak, Jamia Binoria SITE and Gurumandir, Jamia Farooqia Shah Faisal Colony, Jamiat-ur-Rasheed and Dar-ul-Uloom Korangi.
However, Maulana Hanif Jalandhari, the general secretary of Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia, Pakistan, an umbrella organisation of madrassas, said that he had met the chief minister a few weeks back on the issue. “I said this is not any criteria,” he told TFT. “I asked him, if someone studies somewhere and if he commits a crime, then how will it be established that this particular seminary or institution is linked to it? You should have investigated whether the crime was an individual act or if the institution was also involved.” Jalandhari went on to defend madrassas by saying that they were helping educate people. “As the population is growing in the country, people’s needs are increasing,” he said, “Therefore the number of educational institutions is rising and this is a good sign as our literacy rate is going up. Schools are being build in these areas. Would you say that new seminaries are being established to promote extremism? This is not appropriate.”
According to the Sindh police’s Special Branch, Sindh has a total of 9,501 (registered and unregistered) madrassas. Karachi has 1,252. There are 3,087 unregistered ones. There are 614 seminaries in Hyderabad region, 211 in Mirpurkhas, 376 in Sukkur and 315 in Shaheed Benazirabad (former Nawabshah) region. A significant number of seminaries are located in the Larkana range where terrorism-afflicted Shikarpur and Jacobabad are located. There are 6,733 seminaries in Larkana region out of which 1,822 are unregistered. There are 2,311 seminaries which have either been shut down or do not exist on the ground. The record suggests that all 9,501 seminaries have been geo-tagged.
(This article is an online exclusive)
Syed Arfeen is a journalist based in Karachi. He tweets @arfeensyyed
Timeline of attacks in Sindh:
December 19, 2010: A suicide bomber tries to sneak into an Ashura procession in Shikarpur’s Naipearabad village. The bomber is intercepted by policemen who shoot him dead.
February 25, 2013: Dargah Pir Hajan Shah in Shikarpur is attacked with an IED. Three people are killed and six, including Sajjada Nasheen Pir Hajan Shah, are injured. Shah succumbs in a week.
May 1, 2013: The vehicle of PPP candidate for the National Assembly, Ibrahim Jatoi, is bombed. Jatoi survives.
November 12, 2014: Maulana Shafqat Mutahiri is murdered in Khanpur.
January 31, 2015: A suicide bomber blows himself up inside a Lakhi Dar Imambargah during Friday prayers in Shikarpur. This is the second biggest incident in rural Sindh; 61 people are killed.
October 23, 2015: A 9th Muharram procession is bombed, killing at least 28 people.
September 13, 2016: Two suicide bombers are spotted among Eid prayers at an Eidgah in Shikarpur. A policeman shoots one and the other is taken into custody.