Commas were sharpened at the Presidency and provincial chiefs talked behind closed doors at the Governor House while traumatised residents remained confined to their homes on Saturday, wondering if the worst was over.
As high-level meetings simultaneously progressed here and in Islamabad, the current tide of violence appeared to peter out, with at least ten people killed in Karachi on Saturday. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies claimed to have arrested high-value target killers.
Four successive days of violence have claimed over 75 lives and left scores wounded.
In an effort to stem the tide of violence, the federal government is considering significant administrative changes at the highest level in Sindh government to restore normalcy, sources said.
While Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and provincial Home Minister Manzoor Wassan met with Governor Ishratul Ebad at his house in Karachi, a parallel meeting progressed in the Presidency on Saturday night, discussing the law and order situation in Karachi.
The negotiations at the Governor House, among other issues, focused on switching portfolios of ministers and transferring key provincial bureaucrats.
Meanwhile, President’s spokesperson Farhatullah Babar rejected the talk of changes in Sindh government at the highest levels.
The meeting reviewed the progress of talks with different political parties in Sindh with a view to restore normalcy in Karachi, said a press release.
President Zardari directed Dr Zulfiqar Mirza to complete the party’s re-organisation in Sindh and deputed Khursheed Shah to lead negotiations with other political parties.
The meeting at the presidency, chaired by President Zardari, was attended by key ministers from the Sindh Cabinet.
Violence stems, army deployment
Violence appeared to peter out on Saturday with at least ten people killed, including an air force and a water and sewerage board official.
The city, however, remained on edge and various areas remained tense.
While the police and Rangers have been granted a free rein to take action against the miscreants, authorities were unable to conduct an operation against Lyari’s gangs and tried to restore peace by negotiating with them instead.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that militants wanted to destabilise Karachi by engaging the army in the city so they could regroup along Pakistan’s western border.
“Still, the government will consider deploying the army in Karachi if industrialists convince the high-command committee, which will soon meet the business community of Karachi to discuss the security situation,” he said while talking to industrialists on Saturday.
(Read: Industrialists call on army to save Karachi)
‘High-value’ suspects in custody
In an overnight operation, the police detained four suspects from Jinnah Hospital, following a brazen attack on a reserve police force bus that claimed five policemen and injured dozens.
The injured suspects are allegedly affiliated with groups fighting in Chakra Goth, sources said.
The suspects are believed to be the high-profile criminals, said an official.
Despite the deployment of police, Chakra Goth and its surrounding areas, where a group of around 25 armed men attacked a bus carrying at least 40 personnel of the Sindh Reserve Police late Friday night, remained tense on Saturday.
A case against the bus attack was registered late Saturday night at the Zaman Town police station.
‘Conspiracy or negligence’
Calling policemen from rural Sindh and sending them without their uniforms in affected areas on a passenger bus has raised several questions, said a senior police official.
There are several elite force commandos present in the city, he said. Why were they not utilised by the authorities? he asked.
Terming the incident as ‘either a conspiracy or a major negligence,’ the official called for a probe into the incident.
There was good coordination between the local police and the groups involved in the clashes in the area, he said, conjecturing that consequently, a third party is responsible for the bus attack.
Meanwhile, hospital authorities said that of the injured, two policemen were in critical condition while the rest are stable and would soon be discharged.
Funeral prayers of three policemen, identified as Mehrab Ali, Wazeer Ali and Ali Abbas from Qambar Shahdadkot and Naushero Feroz, killed in the Friday attack, were offered at Garden Police Headquarter.
Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan announced a compensation of Rs2 million for the deceased policemen, Rs0.2 million for the injured and Rs 0.1 million for those sustaining minor injuries.
He said that around a 100 people involved in target killings, riots and arson have been arrested so far.
Bodies of the deceased policemen were sent to their hometowns for burial. With additional input from agencies.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.