Killers on the loose again

Salman Siddiqui May 28, 2010

KARACHI: Political reconciliation has paved the way for the release of over 300 people in Karachi, who were suspected of being involved in the recent spate of target killings in the city, The Express Tribune has learnt from reliable sources.

Those set free included hardened criminals, some with political affiliations. However, all of them have been released and the killers responsible for the recent bloodbath in the city are on the loose again.

Target shootings in Karachi have claimed the lives of dozens of political workers over the past few months, including those of the Awami National Party (ANP), Mohajir Qaumi Movement (Haqiqi), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan People’s Party.

In May alone, over 30 people were gunned down in the city as police failed to control the daylight mayhem and instead blamed political parties for not stopping the blood-letting.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Waseem Ahmed confirmed that over 300 people had been apprehended by his force. “As our investigations into the cases progressed, we began releasing the suspects after thorough interrogation,” said Ahmed, adding that till last Wednesday only a couple of dozen suspects remained in their custody.

The CCPO told The Express Tribune on Wednesday that the names of these two dozen suspects would be released to the media soon. However, on Thursday evening, the CCPO said: “We no longer have anyone in our custody related to the targeted killings and everyone held in that connection has been released.”

He refused to comment whether the suspects’ release was a result of some political reconciliation. “There is no political pressure,” he asserted, adding that investigations would continue.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah had said in the Sindh Assembly last Monday that targeted killings had been controlled because of the government’s ‘reconciliatory policy’.

“We didn’t expect anything from the CCPO in the first place,” ANP Karachi chapter’s secretary-general Ameen Khattak said, adding that this step will only strengthen the ranks of the ‘killers and terrorists’ who have ‘hijacked’ Karachi. He claimed that his party was not part of any such deal.

Khattak said that an ANP delegation had met Interior Minister Rehman Malik a week back in which the party was promised that the culprits involved in the killings would be brought to book within 15 days. “We will first wait for that deadline to lapse before chalking out our next strategy,” Khattak added.

The ANP leader claimed that the ministry of interior’s national crisis management cell had submitted a report in which it was clearly mentioned which party was behind the killings. Collin Kamran Dost, special secretary home department Sindh, however, said the report had pinpointed none.

“We urge the chief justice of Pakistan to take a suo motu action in these killings and the May 12 bloodbath,” Khattak said, warning that without the rule of law, Karachi will soon become another Beirut.

While the ANP is keen to highlight the May 12 incident, the MQM cites the example of chaos in Karachi post-Benazir assassination on December 27 and how no culprits were apprehended for that carnage.

“Our workers have been killed in target killings too, but sadly nobody takes notice of it and instead our party is blamed for everything,” MQM’s Member of National Assembly Waseem Akhtar said, adding that at least 15 of his party workers have been killed in the violence.

When asked about MQM’s own list which the party claims contains the names of individuals who were involved in the killings, Waseem said: “The list was given to Rehman Malik and the relevant departments, but nothing happened.”

Waseem said his party has always argued that the people behind the targeted killings do not belong to any political party, rather they are criminals who have taken the ‘shelter’ of parties. “We want every individual who is behind the killings to be charged and put behind bars, no matter which party he belongs to.”

Meanwhile, the Haqiqi (Amir)’s spokesperson Feroz Haider said that 81 workers of his party were killed in target killings last year. “But even today there’s no word of any criminal being put behind bars in connection with those cases.”

Published in the Express Tribune, May 28th, 2010.