Mayhem rules Karachi yet again.
The already-manic situation in the city escalated on Thursday, with no end in sight.
The body count hit new heights, with at least 33 killed on the day – 70 in 3 days; political temperatures skyrocketed with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement calling a day of mourning for Friday (today); and a desperate Sindh government gave shoot-at-sight orders to law enforcers.
The decision to grant sweeping powers to law-enforcers was made at a late-night meeting at the Chef Minister House.
The meeting was presided over by Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and was attended by IGP Sindh Wajid Durrani, CCPO Karachi Saud Mirza, DG Rangers and Additional Chief Secretary, Home Department, Wasim Ahmed.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik also rushed to the city, and was expected to hold a series of meetings at the Chief Minister House.
The heart of darkness
Orangi and adjoining areas continued to be the focus of violence. More than a dozen people were killed after armed men targeted public transport vehicles near Orangi.
At least 10 people were killed in a single incident late Thursday in which armed men sprayed a public bus with bullets.
SP Orangi Khurram Waris says eyewitnesses told the police that a group of armed men, who had taken positions near a wall of the near Abdullah College, had opened indiscriminate fire on the bus.
On Wednesday, another public vehicle was targeted in which at least five people were killed.
CCPO Saud Mirza called the attacks on public buses a ‘dangerous trend.’
“There have been incidents in the past when public buses have been targeted, but never before such a high number of people have been killed in single incidents. This is very alarming.”
Residents of the town, especially Qasba Colony, complained that there was hardly any presence of law-enforcement personnel in the area.
Adviser to the Chief Minister Waqar Mehdi urged the people to come forward and identify the murderers. “We will protect anyone who volunteers information,” he said.
He said it was untrue that the chief minister was doing nothing to handle the situation. He said all the political parties had decided before that if another wave of violence occurs in the city, the Karachi peace committee, comprising all representatives would spring into action. “However, since the MQM has separated itself from the government, they are not being a part of this peace committee,” he said, adding that contacts were being made with the MQM in the interest of restoring peace.
According to Special Health Secretary Dr Suresh Kumar, at least 28 people died and 74 suffered injuries between 9am and 10:30pm on Thursday.
MQM’s day of mourning
The MQM announced it would observe Friday as a ‘day of mourning’ against unabated violence in the city and said its provincial assembly members would march from Karachi Press Club to the Chief Minister House on Friday.
The announcement came at the conclusion of a joint session of the MQM coordination committees held simultaneously in Karachi and London.
Member coordination committee Raza Haroon said his party has not yet given a call for strike but reserves the right to call for one if the government fails to curb the ongoing ‘bloodbath’ in the city.
Participants at the meeting also decided to raise the Karachi situation in the National Assembly, the Senate and the provincial assembly.
The MQM is contacting other opposition parties in this regard and preparations are being made to requisition sessions of the respective houses, said members of the coordination committees.
Participants at the meeting criticised the police and Rangers for acting as “silent spectators at the behest of the government, instead of moving in the affected areas to control the situation.” They said the law-enforcement agencies are avoiding taking action against “terrorists who have been operating with impunity without any fear of law.”
Meanwhile, provincial legislators belonging to the MQM criticised the imposition of a ban on pillion riding. They said that the ban would only affect the common man.
The Committee asked citizens to hoist black flags and wear black armbands in order to register their protest over the bloodbath in the city.
Rehman Malik arrives
Upon his arrival at Karachi Airport midnight Thursday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that targeted action against miscreants will be taken.
Malik said that he could no longer see any difference between miscreants in Karachi and the Taliban, against which the Pakistan army was fighting in Kurram. He said that 1,000 FC personnel were being deployed in the city to crack down against elements disrupting peace.
Malik dispelled fears that any one party would be targeted in the actions, saying that the government will work with all parties to deny destabilising elements any space in the city.
He urged the public to remain calm and to help the government in combating the miscreants.
The interior minister said that the government “knew” who was behind the recent episode of violence in the city and had foreign support. He said that some members of these groups had already been arrested and they had provided vital information. Law enforcement agencies were currently searching for their accomplices and raiding hideouts.
He promised that once those responsible have been caught, they will be presented to the media.
Operation would be ‘collective failure’
Federal Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio has ruled out the option of a military operation to stabilise the situation in Karachi and said if the army is called it will be a “collective failure” of the political system.
At a press conference on Thursday, Chandio said all political parties in the city, especially the PPP, MQM and ANP need to work together to establish peace. “The PPP or Sindh government cannot control the situation by themselves. All stakeholders will have to act together to control the violence.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2011.