Pakistani experts say that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are increasingly active in the southern port city of Karachi, creating unrest and stirring up violence in the financial hub.
Since last year, hundreds of people have been killed in Karachi, Pakistan's financial capital and most populous city.
The Pakistani media reported at least nine deaths in Karachi on Monday in "targeted killings." According to Pakistan's independent Human Rights Commission (HRCP), more than 300 hundred people were killed in "ethnic, sectarian and politically-linked violence" in the first three months of 2012.
"Most people ignore the fact that Karachi is part of Pakistan, and what is happening in Pakistan also affects Karachi," Karachi-based human rights activist Abdul Hai told DW, adding that Islamists were thriving in the port city.
"A survey conducted in 1998 showed 7,000 religious madrassas and around 1.8 million seminaries in Karachi. Their numbers have multiplied over the years, and so has their influence," he added.
"Karachi is the financial hub of Pakistan. Islamic extremists, which were created by General Zai-ul-Haq in the 1980s to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, generate most of their local funds from Karachi. They are strongest in Karachi, and those who believe otherwise are naive," he added.
A number of high-profile al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been arrested in Karachi.
Peerzada Salman, a journalist and writer, said that President Asif Ali Zardari’s “incompetent” government had totally failed to restore peace in Karachi.
"Karachi is relatively peaceful when the military is directly ruling the country," said journalist and writer Peerzada Salman. "It is difficult to deny that certain 'invisible hands' are trying to discredit the government," he added, alluding to Pakistan's security agencies.
He said it was also a worrying sign for the cit'’s most liberal and important party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), that religious extremism was on the rise, since until now it had been able to "undermine" such tendencies.
Hai, for his part, said it would be easy for the military and its security agencies to "blackmail" the civilian government if there was no peace in Karachi, but he pointed out it was Islamabad’s responsibility to protect the lives and property of the citizens.
"Pakistan is facing serious economic problems. Who will come out onto the streets and protest against rising food prices, inflation and unemployment if there is no peace in the city?" he asked.
Extremists, he said, were cashing in on these factors and their power was thus increasing.
"It is an alarming situation for a city which used to be very liberal and progressive," lamented Salman.
Author: Shamil Shams
Editor: Anne Thomas