Karachi death toll touches 80 in five days

By Awais Saleem, IANS,

Islamabad : At least eight more people were killed Wednesday in fresh incidents of violence in Karachi, taking the death toll to over 80 in five days of target-killing in Pakistan’s largest and most crowded city.

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The violence broke out Saturday night, hours ahead of the Sunday by-poll for an assembly seat in Karachi, capital of Pakistan’s Sindh province.

Most of the killings are believed to be the result of political enmity between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP).

Nabeel Gabol, a leader of Pakistan Peoples Party from Karachi, said that “time has come to set aside political compromises and take hard decisions”. Gabol also advocated for handing over the control of Karachi to army, a demand already made by the ANP.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, however, said that “no such plan is in the offing”. “Gabol’s point of view is his personal opinion and does not represent the stance of the government,” he said.

President Asif Ali Zardari has summoned Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Home Minister of Sindh province Zulfiqar Mirza to Islamabad to “discuss the problem”, media reports said.

A meeting chaired by Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah in Karachi “has decided to impose section 144 in the city”.

“We are also contemplating imposition of curfew in troubled areas of Karachi but all stakeholders will be taken on board first before taking a final decision,” said a provincial government official.

The by-election of PS-94, boycotted by ANP on apprehensions of law and order, was won by MQM but it has not had any bearing on returning the peace to Karachi.

The educational institutions, markets and offices remained closed Wednesday and the public transport remained off streets following the massacre in a busy market Tuesday.

Gunmen had fired at the pedestrians Tuesday evening killing 12 people. According to an official figure, more than 800 people have been killed in several incidents of target-killing and political rivalry this year”.

The Urdu-speaking Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pashto-speaking Awami National Party (ANP) have been constantly at loggerheads for the past several years to take political control of Karachi, the country’s financial hub.

The PS-94 constituency was rendered vacant after the target-killing of MQM legislator Raza Haider Aug 3. MQM blamed the killing on ANP, which vehemently denied the allegation. More than 100 people were killed in violent clashes after the assassination.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at [email protected])