KARACHI: Tempers flared in the aftermath of Zulfiqar Mirza's statements late Wednesday night, when he called MQM leader Altaf Hussain a '100 times bigger criminal' than MQM-Haqiqi leader Afaq Ahmed.
Karachi saw a sharp rise in violence, as 17 people were gunned down and over 40 vehicles torched in protest of Mirza's statement. Angry MQM protesters marched to Mirza's house in Karachi to protest against his statements.
By early evening, Altaf Hussain appealed for peace and asked his party workers to end the protests that were being staged in various parts of Sindh.
The protesters dispersed, and were prevented from entering the road to Miza's house by Rangers personnel.
End of live updates
Express Tribune correspondent Hafeez Tunio reports that a meeting to discuss the current situation is currently underway at the Governor House in Karachi.
Zulfiqar Mirza, PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat, acting Governor Nisar Khuro, Senior Minister Sindh Pir Mazharul Haq, Local Bodies Minister Agha Siraj Durrani, PML-Q leader Haleem Adil Shaikh and other senior leaders of the PPP are at the meeting.
The Express Tribune has obtained a copy of Zulfiqar Mirza's apology letter. Click here to read it.
Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah, after the meeting at CM house, had appealed to MQM chief Altaf Hussain and all Urdu-speaking people to remain calm. He said Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement was his personal opinion and not party policy.
He also appealed to Altaf Hussain to play his role for peace in Karachi.
Eyewitnesses near Zulfiqar Mirza's house say that protesters have started to disperse after Altaf Hussain's appeal for peace.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain appeals to the people of Karachi to remain calm. He urged his party workers to end the protests and rallies taking place all over the province.
Express 24/7 reports that protesters have burnt three cars in the Korangi area of Karachi.
Rioters have also torched 10 buses at a North Nazimabad bus stop. Gas cylinders at the bus stop have caught fire.
Express 24/7 reports that protesters are burning tyres at Liberty Chowk in Hyderabad.
Rioters have also torched 10 buses at Sakhi Hassan, Karachi.
More than 40 vehicles have been destroyed by angry protesters in Karachi and Hyderabad today.
As a sidenote, the Sindh High Court has ordered that Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM Haqiqi) leader Afaq Ahmed not be arrested in any future cases without its permission.
Express Tribune correspondent Hafeez Tunio reports that a meeting of the PPP Karachi Division is currently underway at the CM house to discuss the current situation and devise a strategy. Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah is chairing the meeting.
Express Tribune correspondent Hafeez Tunio reports that PPP rallies in support of Zulfiqar Mirza have been taken out from Wahdat Colony and Qasimabad in Hyderabad and from Kennedy Market to the Press Club in Larkana.
There are reports of participants burning Altaf Hussain effigies at the rallies in Qasimabad and Larkana.
Rallies have also been taken out from Qambar Shahdakot, Badin and Thatta. There are reports of preparations of rallies taking place in other cities of Sindh.
Express Tribune correspondent Saba Imtiaz reports that the road towards Zulfiqar Mirza's house has been cleared by the police. She clarfies that rumours that protesters are enroute to Mardan House are incorrect.
Here's the Twitter buzz:
needroos Forget the pen, words are mightier than the sword. thinkb4uspeak!
murtazasolangi SHC resumes hearing of Aafaq Ahmed case. Aafaq Ahmed can't be arrested in any new case
fizzarahman Feel sad for the ones who live on daily wages. What had they eaten today? What would they eat in the later part of the day?
fasi_zaka Maybe its time to handover Karachi to Mathira.
YusraSAskari Dear PPP and MQM, This battle of the egos has got to end. You aren’t doing Karachi any favours!
Express 24/7 correspondent Shaheryar Mirza reports that the angry mob in the Gizri area of Karachi is making its way towards the house of Zulfiqar Mirza.
Express 24/7 reports that a PPP rally is being taken out against the MQM from Qasimabad in Hyderabad. Aerial shots have been fired by protesters during the rally. He added that police have barricaded the entry points to the minister's house.
Angry protesters are taking out a rally from Gizri bridge towards Zulfiqar Mirza's house in the Defence Housing Authority area. Express 24/7 correspondent Shaheryar Mirza says it is not clear if the protesters are all from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
The Mohajir Coordination Council (MCC) said Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Zulfiqar Mirza and Sindh Awami National Party (ANP) President Agha Shahi Syed must leave Karachi within 48 hours or the government should brace for serious protests.
ANP and PML-N have condemned Zulfiqar Mirza's statements, terming them "irresponsible".
14 killed, 25 injured
The newly appointed Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wasan said that 14 people had been killed and 25 injured in Karachi on Thursday.
More than 30 vehicles were also torched in the city.
After the statements and allegations by PPP leader Zulfiqar Mirza regarding MQM chief Altaf Hussain, violence and unrest have spread to different parts of Karachi and Hyderabad.
Talking to the media, Wasan said that he respects Altaf Hussain and added that the city has suffered due to one person's statements.
He appealed to the citizens to remain peaceful. He also added that 131 suspects have been arrested in connection to the violence in the metropolis.
"I need time to normalise the situation in Karachi," Wasan added.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has ordered DG Rangers and IG Sindh to control Karachi's deteriorating situation.
Heavy contingents of police and Rangers have fanned out in the city and held flag march.
The situation also forced an early closure at the Karachi Stock Exchange, because of poor attendance, Mohammad Sohail, chief executive officer of the Topline Securities brokerage, told AFP.
"We closed the stock market after half a day due to the deteriorated law and order situation in the city. We did not open the market for the afternoon session because there was very small attendance," he said.
Fear grips Karachi
Express Tribune correspondent Saba Imtiaz reported that Shah Faisal Colony was completely cordoned off by a horde of young boys, several of whom were wielding sticks.
Tyres were being burnt at the entrance to the area.
Smoke could be seen from a visible distance. The men did not let Express Tribune's staff enter and fired warning shots to not venture further.
There is very little traffic and all motorcycles and cars are being turned back from Shah Faisal.
No police could be seen but police officers in the adjoining area said firing was ongoing since midnight and they had no orders except guard their positions.
MQM calls protest
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced taht it will stage protests across the country today (Thursday), against Pakistan People's Party senior leader Dr Zulfiqar Mirza's statements against MQM and its chief Altaf Hussain.
All shops and markets in Karachi, Hyderabad and other adjacent areas have been closed.
IG Sindh Wajid Durani has directed the police and law enforcement agencies to ensure law and order in the city.
Karachi's transport union and traders union in Hyderabad have announced a strike, stating that government has not ensured provision of security to them.
Karachi Jamia University and Federal Urdu University have cancelled all examinations. The new date for exams will be announced later.
MQM announced that they will gather outside the Hyderabad Press Club today, to protest against the PPP minister's remarks.
Tension grips city after Mirza's statements
The city shut down early Thursday morning, shortly after new channels aired former Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza’s statements against MQM.
According to sources, the death toll has risen to five, including two near Sher Shah, one each in Baldia and Malir and earlier a woman in Hussainabad, while over a dozen people have been reported injured.
The Landhi police station was reportedly attacked by a hand grenade. No loss of life was reported.
Meanwhile incidents of arson and firing continued across the city with a mini bus, two lorries and 12 cars were torched in different parts of the city.
According to reports, in Hyderabad a person was shot down and five were injured.
Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has taken notice of the violence in Karachi and Hyderabad and ordered DG Ranger’s and IG Sindh to control the deteriorating situation in both cities, after which Rangers and police were directed to take stern action against miscreants.
Meanwhile nearly one dozen suspects including five in Liaquatbad were detained.
Emergency has been declared in city hospitals.
Earlier armed men on motorcycles and in cars opened indiscriminate firing across the city forcing the city to shut down.
One woman had reportedly been killed in a firing incident near Hasan Square while nearly half a dozen others were injured in different parts of the city.
The most affected areas included Malir, Shah Faisal, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Liaquatabad, New Karachi, Gulshan, Hasan Square, Federal 'B' Area, Sohrab Goth, Saddar, Kharadar, Lines Area, Ranchore Line and others.
Petrol and CNG pumps, shops and all commercial activities had come to a standstill.
Residents staged protests in different parts of the city, chanting slogans against Mirza and burning his effigy. Law enforcement agencies had yet to take any action despite being on high alert.