KARACHI: After at least 34 people were shot dead across the city in two days just as the by-election got underway in Orangi Town, a seemingly helpless home minister said that no one could control “target killings” – even if the contract were given to America, it would fail to ensure peace.
Addressing a hurriedly called press conference along with advisor Sharmila Farooqi at Chief Minister House on Sunday, Zulfiqar Mirza said this time around, 25 activists were killed. This toll rose to 34 by day end and all political parties were equally responsible for creating a law-and-order situation in the city.
He linked the target killings to the murders of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Izharul Hassan and Mohammad Asif, saying that after these deaths the violence took a turn for the worse. Not every murder is a target killing, he cautioned, adding that some people were exaggerating the situation.
Mirza said that some time ago, an activist was killed near a park and it was called a target killing. Investigations revealed, however, that it was about a love affair gone wrong.
Similarly, three bodies found in a car were also called target killings but extortion notes were found in the pocket of one of the victims.
The police found out later that it was a land grabbing problem. “How can you reach the conclusion within minutes that these incidents were target killings?”
On a Muttahida accusation that its workers were killed by activists of the Peoples Aman Committee, Mirza said that the police and law-enforcement agencies were tying to apprehend the men nominated in the cases. “We have conducted more than four raids, but they are still at large.”
He stressed that it was wrong to say that the government was silent and not doing anything. “More than 60 people have been arrested from three zones. These people were involved in the killings. They are from different political parties and ethnic groups and a few of them are [well known] criminals,” Mirza said.
Fifty-three alleged target killers have been arrested so far and most of them were political activists. Investigations revealed that a majority of them had killed at least a dozen people each.
He appealed to leaders to rid the city of the killers who have defamed Karachi and caused it a financial loss. “I request them to bring the peace back and make it once the city of lights,” he said.
He said that he was neither an “angel” nor did he have a “magic wand” to overpower killers before they commit a crime.
On relations with Abdul Rehman Baloch alias Rehman Dakait who was in charge of the Peoples Aman Committee, Mirza said he had no contact with him. No surgical operation was being carried out against any one group, but the law was taking action criminals.
Awami National Party Sindh’s Shahi Syed said five party workers had been killed in 24 hours despite the fact that his party had boycotted the elections.
“October 17 is one of the blackest days in the history of Pakistan,” he said at a press conference at Mardan House on Sunday. “[Even] the legendary Hakeem Said was martyred [on this day].”
A bitter Shahi Syed said that even though they had appealed for a delay, they were ignored as “usual”. But when the government had postponed the elections on Sept 22, the ANP had not been asked.
The ANP had boycotted the by-poll because of a lack of security.
“We feel sorry that we are still being targeted and blamed despite the fact that we took the path of silence,” he said.
The ANP was dejected with certain “unbalanced reports” on some television channels, he said, adding that if this one-sided treatment continued they would boycott them.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2010.