14 killed, over 50 hurt in Karachi after killing of MQM minister

By Awais Saleem, IANS,

Islamabad : Panic and fear gripped Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and financial hub, on Monday afternoon following the murder of a member of Sindh provincial assembly Raza Haider by unknown assailants in Nazimabad area where he had gone to attend a funeral.

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Raza, 51, was a member of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has a political stronghold in Karachi. He was elected to the provincial assembly for the first time in 2008 general elections.

According to Medico Legal Officer of Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Shiraz Ali, Raza received six bullets, including two in his head.

Riots broke out immediately after the murder in Karachi, Hyderabad and other cities of Sindh. As many as 14 people had died by midnight and more than 50 injured in various incidents of firing.

The mob torched dozens of vehicles on fire, including private cars and public transport. Several petrol pumps were set on fire and the roads presented a deserted look.

Markets closed down immediately after the incident and the masses started rushing to the safety of their homes which created the worst kind of traffic jams on almost all city roads.

Police and rangers have taken control of Karachi and other restive areas and the general public has been appealed to remain confined to their homes.

MQM chief Altaf Hussain, in a message from London secretariat, condemned the incident and termed it a great loss for the party.

MQM leaders Faisal Sabzwari and Wasim Aftab, talking to media, said that Raza was receiving threats for some time and alleged that Awami National Party (ANP) was involved in the killing.

The Sindh president of ANP, Shahi Syed, however dismissed the allegations and said that they were together with MQM in this hour of grief.

He termed this incident a conspiracy against the country. Both parties have traded allegations earlier as well and have been involved in a fierce political tangle that has regularly been turning violent over the years.

Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza has directed Inspector General Police Sindh to investigate the killing who has formed a committee headed by DIG West, Sultan Khwaja.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has claimed to track down the culprits within 24 hours. Target killing has claimed more than 1,500 lives in the provincial metropolis in the last two years.

There was widespread condemnation of the killing of Raza Haider from all political parties and mainstream leaders. Karachi transport alliance has announced to keep the public transport off roads Tuesday, while all educational institutions will remain closed.

The examinations to be held have also been cancelled. Situation is expected to remain tense over the next few days as the authorities make a desperate effort to urge calm and control the tempers. MQM has also announced three days of peaceful mourning.