KARACHI: A fresh wave of violence gripped Pakistan's commercial hub of Karachi on Thursday, with reports saying at least 44 people had been killed over two days in gangwars and political disputes, some after being tortured.
Fighting erupted on Wednesday in and around the old districtof Lyari, long a focus of battles between rival gangs and astronghold of President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People'sParty (PPP).
Former PPP lawmaker Waja Karim Daad was among the dead.
"Most of the killings have resulted from clashes between criminal gangs operating in Lyari and surrounding areas," a senior police official said.
"It's not the kind of fighting that we saw last month, this is more of a gang war."
But police said turf wars between gangs dealing in drugs and extortion rackets were by no means a new development in Lyari.
"These gangs regularly clash and kill members and supporters of rival groups," the senior official said.
"Many times, innocent people are also targeted in this rivalry. However, many of those killed end up linked to one gang or the other. Some of these gangs do have political support and backing, but still you cannot term this as a political war as such."
He acknowledged that "a few" of those killed may have been targeted over their ethnic or political affiliation.
A city of more than 18 million, Karachi has a long history of violence, and ethnic, religious and sectarian disputes and political rows can often explode into battles engulfing entire neighbourhoods.
Street thugs and ethnic gangs have been used by political parties as foot soldiers in a turf war in a city which contributes about two-third of Pakistan's tax revenue and is home to ports, the stock exchange and central bank.
Pakistan's interior minister earlier this month vowed to restore peace in the city after a fresh bout of violence and warned of stern action against militants and criminals.
Hundreds of additional police and paramilitary troops were deployed in Karachi last month to quell the unrest.
About 300 people were killed last month - one of the deadliest months in almost two decades - in fighting linked to ethnic and religious tensions that plague Karachi.
According to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 800 people have been killed in the first seven months of this year in ethnic and politically linked violence alone.
'Government not failing at maintaining law and order'
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon has dispelled the impression that the law and order situation in Karachi is out of control.
Speaking to Express News, Memon said the Rangers and Police personnel have been tasked with controlling the situation and that they are carrying out raids in different areas.
The minister said that maintaining law and order is the government’s responsibility and it is not failing.
He said extremists want to destabilise the country’s economy by targeting Karachi.
MQM leaders have called an emergency press conference this evening over the recent surge in violence.
Meanwhile, the funeral prayers of former PPP MNA Waja Karim Daad, who also fell prey to escalating violence in the city on Wednesday, have been offered.
Zardari condemns murder of Waja Daad Baloch
President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday strongly condemned the killing of former member National Assembly, and a Pakistan People’s Party member Waja Ahmad Karim Daad Baloch, who was shot dead by unknown assailants in Karachi on Wednesday.
President Zardari in a condolence message expressed his deepest sympathies on the death of the former MNA. Zardari lauded the contribution of Waja Karim Daad as a PPP MNA and said that with his death the party had lost a seasoned politician and a sincere worker.
Waja Karim Daad was elected from the Lyari area. The President prayed the bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss with equanimity.
Earlier the MQM had also issued a statement in which MQM leader Altaf Hussain condemned the killing of Baloch.
Updated from Print edition (below)
Former MNA, 7 others fall prey to escalating violence
Veteran Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and former lawmaker Waja Ahmad Karim Daad was among seven others shot dead in the city on Wednesday.
The fresh spate of violence broke out in the wake of the recovery of five bodies of Lyari residents found in gunny bags from various localities in the city.
More than a dozen people were injured in the wake of the latest outbreak of bloodshed.
(Read: Seeking an end to Karachi’s killings)
Karim Daad, a former PPP MNA and a popular social worker of the area, was targeted by armed men on motorcycles outside a local restaurant in front of the Kharadar Jamaat Khana in the limits of the Jackson police station just before iftar. Karim Daad and one of his friends were killed on the spot.
The police officer investigating the murder, Sub-Inspector Iftikhar told The Express Tribune that both Karim Daad and his friend Sadaruddin regularly used to sit together in front of the main gate of the Kharadar Jamaat Khana, adding that Karim Daad was shot once in the forehead, Sadaruddin was shot in his upper torso.
Deputy Inspector-General (DIG) Shaukat Ali Shah told The Express Tribune that the killing of the former legislator was the result of a “gang war between two rival groups in Lyari”. There is old rivalry between Arshad Pappu (currently being run by Ghaffar Zikri) and Rehman Dakait (at present, run by Baba Ladla) groups.
“This is (the outcome of) a chain reaction. These incidents are happening in reaction to each other,” said the DIG.
Attacks, he said, were also mounted against the Salar Compound after the bodies of five Baloch men were found. “God knows what else is to follow,” he said.
DIG Shah confirmed the killing of at least six more people, and said nearly a dozen others were injured.
Fierce fighting between the two groups ensued in parts of Lyari, Old City, Saddar, Pak Colony and Old Golimar were affected after intense firing gripped the areas. Hand grenades were freely used by both the groups in the fierce fighting.
Meanwhile, the authorities were unable to take any action and failed to enter the affected areas. The bodies stuffed in gunny bags of the five Baloch-speaking residents of Lyari, which triggered the violence, were found from different areas of the city and all five victims were killed after being kidnapped. They were shot multiple times, mostly on their heads.
Three of the dead – who were later identified as Kamran Behram, 26, Shahnawaz Buksh, 25, and Saqib Ghani, 24 – were found within the limits of Ferozabad Police Station. All three victims were residents of Sangu Lane, Lyari.
Two more bodies, identified as Irfan Baloch and Nadir Baloch, were also found from Garden and Preedy, respectively. Following their funeral, residents of Lyari took to the streets and staged a demonstration against the killings. The protesters, headed by former president of defunct Peoples Amn Committee (PAC) Shahid Rehman, then marched towards the chief minister house and demanded stern action against the perpetrators.
(Read: How the police is failing the people of Karachi)
However, the protestors dispersed peacefully after Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon pledged to take immediate action over the killings.
While returning from the Chief Minister House, a score of unidentified persons attacked their rival gang in Old City areas including Salar Compound, Bhimpura and the Aqal Bonga area where they hurled nearly a dozen hand-grenades and also fired at least two rockets following intense firing.
Resultantly, a twelve-year-old girl Esha, daughter of Ramji, and two other unidentified persons were killed and nearly half a dozen were injured. At least three vehicles were also damaged after catching fire in the rocket attacks.
Meanwhile, three people – including a hosiery shopkeeper Yousuf Sattar – were killed and at least four others were wounded during the firing in the Kharadar area.
Sources told The Express Tribune that Salar Compound and its surrounding areas were a stronghold of PPP senior activist Akram Baloch and Lyari’s gangsters or the defunct PAC former members believed that Akram was supporting their rival Ghaffar Zikri group and attacking them.
Profile: Waja Ahmad Karim Daad
Former Member National Assembly (MNA) Waja Karim Daad Baloch was a senior member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
He started his political career by contesting the union council elections and was elected councillor in Lyari. Daad, who belonged to the Ismaili community, hailed from Gawadar and later shifted to Kalri, Lyari from where he moved to Kharadar.
During Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government, Daad was elected as the PPP president of the old city area comprising Lyari, Keamari, Kharadar, Shams Pir and Baba Bhit. During Benazir Bhutto’s government, he was elected as the president of District South.
He had contested the general elections in 1993 and 1997 and won the MNA seat with a thumping majority both times.
His father, Kareem Dad Baloch, was affiliated with the fishing business in Gawadar while his younger brother is continuing the family business.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2011.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly mentioned Waja Karim Daad contesting elections in 1993 and 1999. The correction has been made.