KARACHI: Witnesses who recognised one of the attackers as a known wanted man have helped the police make their first serious arrest in the case of the assault on a bus that left eight people dead on Friday.
Aijaz Pirzado, who is believed to be about 30 years old, was arrested on Sunday morning from Daulatpur, a small town of Qazi Ahmed taluka. According to the police, he was already involved in about 10 criminal cases. “We have taken remand and an investigation is underway,” said SHO Eidan Siyal, who is in charge of the case. “The police have arrested him with solid evidence and will trace his other accomplices soon.”
There is immense pressure on the police to nab the handful of men who opened fire on a bus bound for Swabi on the National Highway as ethnic hatred is being suspected as a motive.
The brother of one of the victims, Mohammad Arif, told The Express Tribune after his soyem on Sunday at noon that they were also trying to find the killers. “I have been informed that the attackers checked his identity card and shot him dead,” Sohail claimed. According to him, Arif, who was a Pathan, was born in Mirpurkhas. “Such ethnic attacks have never happened with Pathans in rural Sindh,” his brother added. Mohammad Arif, who was the youngest of four brothers and three sisters, was on the bus as he was travelling to Swabi to bring back one of their sisters. He left behind a widow and a two year old daughter. He worked in a bank in Karachi. “We aren’t going to let the attackers go free,” his brother said. “We are trying to trace them as well.”
The attack is being seen as retaliation to calls for a separate province for Urdu-speaking people. The police have been tasked with investigating reports that the assailants separated the passengers and let some go based on their ethno-linguistic background. Given these suspicions nationalist party activists have been on the police’s radar.
SHO Siyal was not sure, however, if Pirzado was linked to any nationalist party. “It is a serious issue and police are trying to resolve it as soon as possible but we are not in a position to say why that particular bus was attacked,” he added.
The police are of the view that at least three attackers were from other districts. The SHO, who has been posted as the SHO of Qazi Ahmed more than four times, is well versed in the criminal networks within the area.
Meanwhile, activists of Sindhi nationalist parties, especially Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz and Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz, have limited their movement. Over a dozen men have been apprehended from Qazi Ahmed, Nawabshah and Sakrand but all of them have been kept at undisclosed locations. Rangers patrols in Qazi Ahmed and the National Highway have been increased.
JSQM’s Dr Niaz Kalani visited Nawabshah on Sunday and informed the media that over 100 of their party workers had been arrested across the province. He did not mention whether they were being held for the bus attack. He warned the government to release them before May 29 or face protests. “We believe in the politics of non-violence and condemn the Qazi Ahmed incident,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2012.