KARACHI: Karachi was caught up in a vicious cycle of target killings on Wednesday which left at least 21 people dead and law enforcement agencies fearing that the numbers may rise.
A string of shootings by men on motorcycles rocked the city on a day when President Asif Zardari was in town and the city was on high alert. In different incidents, unidentified motorcyclists targeted members of the different ethnic communities unchecked. City shopkeepers pulled down shutters in most parts of the city as a result. The killings were apparently sparked off by an incident on Tuesday night when a ward office of the Awami National Party (ANP) in Dhoraji was set ablaze by unidentified men.
The first target shooting occurred when ANP activists were attacked near Lucky Star in Saddar as they were going back home after staging a protest at the Governor House over the killing of their colleagues by some unidentified people. Around 5 pm, almost all major markets of the city were shut down as news of target killings and riots spread. Buses and coaches stopped plying, leaving harried commuters to cover the distance on foot. The violence took almost the entire city under its sweep.
Incidents of firing were reported from Gulistan-i-Johar, North Karachi, Landhi, Banaras, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, SITE Town, North Nazimabad, Abul Hassan Asfahani Road, MA Jinnah Road and Korangi. Preedy Police confirmed that ANP activists were returning from their demonstration to protest against the gunning down of Nabi Dad in Shah Faisal Colony the previous night. ANP’s Qadir Khan put the blame on the Muttahida “because the incident happened near the MQM’s office”. Rioters also burnt more than half a dozen vehicles and a house in Landhi late at night, according to police.
Three mini-buses of route G-3 were set on fire by rioters in Sachal area. In response, the police and Rangers have beefed up their presence in the city. It was also announced that all education institutions in Karachi will stay closed on Thursday. Examinations at the University of Karachi were also postponed. Following Wednesday’s killings, members of the ANP refused to meet the governor for their scheduled meeting. Shahi Syed of the ANP told Daily Express that he informed Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah that government agencies had told them that ANP members were on hit lists. He asked the CM why they had not been arrested even though the agencies claimed that there was proof of who was behind this. Syed said that the ANP would not meet the governor until the target killings stopped and the killers were brought to justice.
The chief minister and governor met separately. Meanwhile, Sindh Minister for Culture Sassui Palijo condemned Wednesday’s target killings. “We feel sorry for the loss of several innocent lives,” she told The Express Tribune. “It is painful for us being in the government that we cannot stop such incidents from happening.”
Published in the Express Tribune, May 20th, 2010.