ISLAMABAD: The Senate session on Tuesday was dominated by the violence in Karachi in the wake of the assassination of Raza Haider, a Sindh legislator from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), but the interior minister urged the senators not to debate the situation until things calmed down in the city.
While Interior Minister Rehman Malik held the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) responsible for the murder, the Awami National Party (ANP) protested against the killing of Pakhtuns in the wake of the assassination and demanded that the army be deployed in Karachi.
Briefing the house on the situation in Karachi, the interior minister claimed that banned sectarian outfits, the LJ and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), had devised a plan to kill Haider. Elaborating on this point, Malik said that a terrorist named Shakil Barni, who belonged to the Qari Hussain group, had been arrested in Karachi in October 2009.
During the investigations, Malik maintained, Barni had revealed a plan to murder Haider. The plan included first killing Raza Haider and then sending two suicide bombers to his funeral procession. The interior minister said that the government had immediately informed Haider about the threat to his life and advised him to limit his movement. He also said that the government had found some clues into the murder – and they point towards Waziristan and South Punjab.
Malik also said that the current situation in Karachi is the outcome of a plan devised by the terrorists. “The terrorists had devised a scheme to create a fight between the ANP and MQM by murdering leaders of the MQM; and unfortunately the incidents in Karachi have happened according to the plan made by the terrorists,” he said. The larger aim of the plan, said Malik, was to destabalise Pakistan.
He said the government had arrested 20 people in connection with the violence that followed Haider’s murder. Regarding the subsequent violence, the interior minister said that it was a reaction to the murder of the MQM leader, and that violence always erupted in Karachi after the murder of a prominent figure. He added that had the government not controlled the situation through the rapid deployment of Rangers and police, the death toll would have been much higher.
The minister also appealed to the senators to not discuss the murder of Raza Haider and the resulting violence till the situation in Karachi cooled down.
Earlier, senators belonging to the ANP and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awam Party (PkMAP) severely criticised the government and charged it with ignoring the killing of Pakhtuns in Karachi following the murder of Haider.
Senator Haji Adeel of the ANP said that the Rangers and police had become ineffective in Karachi, and demanded that the city should be handed over to the army for a while. “We condemn the murder of Raza Haider, but why were 100 Pakhtuns killed after his murder and their shops and properties torched?” Senator Abdul Raheem Mandokhel of the PkMAP also condemned the killings of Pakhtuns in Karachi. “There is no trace of the killers of Raza Haider yet and nobody knows who killed him; but despite that, Pakhtuns are being killed in Karachi.” The situation, he said, was unacceptable.
The Senate session will resume Wednesday morning.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2010.
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