Tension gripped the Gulberg and North Karachi neighbourhoods after 11 people were killed in sectarian attacks in the early hours of Saturday.
Police suspect the wave of violence was in retaliation for attacks on the Shia community, in particular Friday’s attack on a bus of the Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) in Karachi.
All of the killings occurred in District Central, where 10 people lost their lives in overnight killings that took place in a span of two hours, while another man was killed at noon.
The first attack occurred in Gulberg locality, where motorcyclists fired on Qari Asif and Qari Shakirullah while they were sitting in their office. Both held posts in the Taqwatul Eman Masjid-o-Madrassa.
At around 1:20am, the second target were three friends: Maulana Muhammad Yahya, 32, Faizan Ilyas, 27 and Mujahid Aleem, 26. They were sitting together when unidentified culprits gunned them down near Masjid-o-Madrassa Yasinul Quran. Yahya was a teacher at Yasinul Quran seminary while Faizan was a Masjid committee member.
Twenty minutes later, a similar incident occurred near Masjid-o-Madrassa Quba, just two kilometres from Masjid-o-Madrassa Yasinul Quran. Assailants sprayed people sitting at Café Green with bullets, killing five people and injuring another. One of the men killed, Hafiz Sharjeel Ali, was associated with the Tableeghi Jamaat. All five killed were friends who lived in the same area.
Witnesses and acquaintances claimed the five men were targeted because they were Deobandi, as they often used to visit Masjid-o-Madrassa Quba. They added that the culprits were travelling on at least two motorcycles and had a car as a backup. A shopkeeper who witnessed the incident said that the Rangers headquarters were across the road and that if action had been taken immediately, the culprits could have been arrested.
The fourth such incident occurred at a two-kilometre distance from where the funeral prayers for the Gulberg victims were being offered – another Deobandi, Qari Ahsan, 30, was gunned down when he was returning home from Friday prayers.
As a result of the killings, commercial activities came to a halt in the area and all markets were closed. Tensions escalated during the various funeral prayers taking place in the area, with attendees staging a protest, blocking roads and chanting slogans against a rival sectarian group and the government.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2012.