KARACHI: Eleven people were gunned down in various parts of Karachi on Friday, raising the death toll of the recent spate of violence in the last 24 hours to 42.
Most of the killings have been reported in the southern Lyari neighbourhood, a PPP stronghold infested by powerful criminal gangs.
Karachi’s worst-affected areas are impoverished and heavily populated neighbourhoods where most of the criminal gangs are believed to be hiding.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said 800 people have been killed in Karachi so far this year, compared with 748 in 2010.
The bodies bore signs of torture and were stuffed in jute gunny bags.
The old Karachi area and adjoining neighbourhoods of Lyari, Manghopir, Shershah, Saeedabad, Maripur and Muhajir Goth remain disturbed.
However, traders vowed to resume business and expressed frustration at the security situation in the city.
President Asif Ali Zardari summoned a high-level meeting at the Presidency today, to discuss the volatile situation in Karachi.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and several members of the Sindh Cabinet will participate in the meeting. Sources say target killing and extortion will be on top of the agenda.
The president will also review security measures planned for Karachi and law and order in Sindh.
The Sindh chief minister will present a briefing on steps taken by the Sindh government against acts of violence in the province.
Updated from print edition (below)
31 dead as fragile peace shatters
The fragility of calm in Karachi has been exposed yet again.
What started off as a back-and-forth between two gangs, albeit with shades of political jostling, built into another day of intense violence, amidst what seemed to be progress towards peace.
By the end of Thursday, at least 31 more people were killed in a blowout of warring that ran against the play of a relative lull in the violence-stricken metropolis – which now finds itself hurtling towards another security-cum-political crisis.
There was chaos at the police surgeon’s office on M A Jinnah Road in Karachi as staff scrambled to absorb a consistently increasing body count.
Police surgeon Hamid Pardhyar said that he has been at work since Wednesday evening because of the escalating killings.
The latest spurt of violence started on Wednesday night, which saw seven people killed, including the gunning down of a former MNA of the Pakistan Peoples Party and a popular social worker Waja Karim Daad in Karachi’s troubled Lyari area.
“Seventeen people had been killed till Wednesday night and since then, 22 more bodies were found in different parts of the city,” said Additional Inspector-General of Sindh Police (IGP) Saud Mirza.
But Mirza sought to dispel the impression that the police had been ineffective in controlling the violence.
“Raids are being conducted in Lyari, which is not a small thing, and arrests are expected. A target killer was also apprehended earlier in the day,” Mirza claimed.
However, shoddy work on part of inspectors has just made it worse for those at the police surgeon’s office where the body count is being maintained. Reports on the victims are being brought in without completing formalities, they said.
Pardhyar also confirmed the toll. From 7 pm on Wednesday till 9 am on Thursday, he said, 30 people had died, of which 29 were taken to the Civil Hospital and one to Jinnah Hospital.
Many bodies that have turned up are dismembered. According to an inspector at Pardhyar’s office, bullets were pumped through the faces of two victims whose bodies he picked up from the Wazir Mansion area. One of them even had holes drilled in. The youngsters were residents of New Karachi and had gone to visit an uncle in Lyari where they were kidnapped on Wednesday evening along with their Suzuki car.
Bodies turning up in gunny bags also contain notes. Three bodies discovered within the remits of the Baghdadi Police Station had messages on a piece of paper that said: “do you want peace or war?” and “is this enough or do you want more?”
According to the surgeon, a young boy Dheraj and an octogenarian Tejpal are also on the list of the dead.
Liaqat, a fire officer, was kidnapped from a fire brigade station in Lyari. Chief Fire Officer Ehtishamuddin Siddiqui said Liaqat’s body was discovered early Thursday morning in a bag. Another fireman, Mohammad Irfan, was kidnapped with Liaqat, but managed to survive despite suffering critical injuries.
“The station houses around 45 people and they’re terrified,” Siddiqui said, adding that they’ve requested authorities for protection. Additional IGP Mirza said the police will try their utmost to protect the firemen but that it was probable that Liaqat and Irfan were targeted for their ethnicities.
DIG South Shaukat Shah said around 13 employees of Dino Company were travelling in a van when they were taken hostage at the ICI Bridge near Mauripur Road on Thursday afternoon. Armed attackers picked one man and let the other 12 free.
Behind the killings
Off the record, police officials admit that the violence is a spill-over and a so-called chain reaction between two warring gangs in Lyari, namely the Arshad Pappu/Ghaffar Zikri versus the Peoples Amn Committee/Baba Ladla group. They also admit they are helpless in controlling the situation as gangsters are allegedly supported by the ruling political party. On Thursday, Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan said the killings were a result of kidnapping and killing of five Baloch youth.
But the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Karachi Division general-secretary Saeed Ghani says the party, as a matter of policy, doesn’t support or patronise any criminal group in Lyari or elsewhere in the city. Ghani said he doesn’t believe the messages turning up in gunny bags are directed at the PPP.
However, SSP South Naeem Shaikh refused to speak about the role of Lyari’s infamous gangsters but admitted that the solution lies in Lyari even while many bodies continue to be discovered in other parts of the city.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2011.