Karachi writhed in pain on Monday as scores of sobbing families buried their loved ones following Sunday’s carnage at Abbas Town which left around 48 dead and more than 200 injured.
The pain of the mourners grew after at least two men were killed and around two dozen others, including law enforcers, were wounded during armed clashes that took place just as the funeral processions were returning from Wadi-e-Hussain graveyard. At least nine vehicles were also set on fire by unidentified persons on the Super Highway.
Investigations into Sunday’s attack also remained inconclusive as authorities struggled to find clues to bring the culprits to book.
Nevertheless, over 60 suspects have been apprehended including alleged members of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
Authorities have imposed a ban on pillion riding for an indefinite period across the city following the deteriorating law and order situation in the city. The provincial home department has offered a Rs5 million reward for anyone helping law enforcement agencies nab the culprits involved in the Abbas Town tragedy.
Monday’s silence and violence
For several hours, the city was in the grip of an eerie silence following the strike and mourning calls by Shia organisations as well as political and religious outfits.
Commercial activities and public transport remained suspended across the city while educational institutions were shut.
The situation turned violent when participants of the funeral procession reached Al-Asif Square, Sohrab Goth and unidentified persons resorted indiscriminate firing. Things worsened when law enforcers tried to disperse the participants after the firing, getting caught up in the clashes themselves.
Eyewitnesses told The Express Tribune that scores of enraged mourners hemmed a Rangers mobile stationed near the Ancholi area in a bid to press the paramilitary troops to provide security to those returning back from funerals held at the Super Highway.
Rangers’ personnel resorted to aerial firing to disperse the enraged crowd, which triggered a gunfight between the paramilitary troops and the protesters. The gunfire continued for more than two hours.
In the process, a 35-year-old man identified as Qamar Raza, and Intikhab Hussain, were killed and around two dozen people, including five Rangers personnel, were wounded.
Witnesses, however, claimed that the victims were being shot at by the Rangers. “We went to the Rangers to ask for help and they started firing at us instead,” lamented Zafar Naqvi, a protester.
The Rangers spokesperson denied reports that the paramilitary force pre-emptively opened fire at the crowd. “The deployed Rangers’ personnel were targeted from among the protesters,” said the spokesperson.
Crime Investigation Department’s (CID) Anti-Extremist Cell (AEC) has claimed to have arrested four alleged members of the outlawed LeJ’s Asif Chohto group members and an alleged member of the TTP’s Maulana Waliur Rehman group.
Their arrests were disclosed during a press conference held at Garden Police Headquarter where Sindh Inspector General of Police (IG) Fayyaz Ahmed Leghari informed media that more than 60 suspects have so far been detained in connection with Sunday’s blast.
The arrested LeJ men – Saifur Rehman aka Shehzad, Abdul Ghani aka Zubair aka Akbar aka Tension, Mohammad Ali aka Hakeem and Zahid Gul aka Hamza – were rounded up after an exchange of fire in Mawach Goth, Maripur while TTP’s suspect, Noor Mohammad, was arrested from the Baldia Town locality.
AEC chief SSP Chaudhry Aslam Khan said that the arrested LeJ members had been involved in more than 25 cases of target killings and Saifur Rehman is an expert in bomb making. He added that the accused Abdul Ghani was also involved in the bomb blasts near Haider-e-Qarar and Mustafa Imambargahs in Orangi Town and Abbas Town, respectively during the first ten days of Muharram.
Although the IGP and bomb disposal squad said that around 150 kg of explosives were used in the blast, some investigators say that the quantity has to be much more given the impact of the explosion. “I think the more than 400 kg of explosives were used in the blast,” said AEC chief Khan.
CID SSP Fayyaz Khan said that he suspected that LeJ’s Asif Chohto and Usman Kurd group were involved in the attack.
Another senior investigator, SSP Raja Umar Khattab said that the police investigators have already lost crucial evidence due to the rescue work and delayed arrival at the blast site.
Sindh Police Surgeon Dr Aslam Pechuho said that the death toll has risen to 48.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2013.