By Zia Ur Rehman
KARACHI — At least 16 more have been killed in Karachi in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll from politically motivated violence to 56 in the past three days, police said.
Most of the dead were political activists from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) and Muhajir Qaumi Movement-Aafaq faction (MQM-A). One was a policeman.”]
Karachi police have arrested three suspected target killers and recovered illegal weapons and drugs from their possession, Geo News reported March 21.
Capital City Police Officer Saud Mirza told reporters that the accused were identified as Rao Mohammad Arasto alias Grenade son of Hyder, Mohammad Nadeem Khan alias Rikshaw son of Abdul Aziz Khan, and Baber Ali son of Sabir Ali.
Mirza said that the accused were involved in target killings, robberies, kidnapping for ransom, attacks on the police, drug peddling and many bombings. He also said that they have confessed to raping a woman at gunpoint, Geo News reported.
The violence, initially restricted to old city areas like Saddar and Burns Road, spread across the city March 20. In several cases, angry crowds protested on the streets after the shootings, halting business activity nearby.
Worried about the violence, political parties and civil society organisations urged the government to launch a de-weaponisation campaign and to wipe out the networks committing the target killings.
Last year, 801 people were slain in Karachi, the most since 1995, when 1,742 people were murdered in Karachi, a Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) report said. So far this year, more than 200 targeted killings have occurred in Karachi.
Assassins killed a high-profile target — Hanif Advocate, district secretary general of the ANP — in Metroville March 21 as he headed to a mosque for morning prayers. Hanif, from Swat, was also co-ordinator for Sindh Labour Minister Amir Nawab, said Zaman Chagarzai, ANP’s district spokesperson.
The Karachi Bar Association (KBA) has condemned Hanif’s killing and announced a complete strike in Karachi March 22 to protest the murders of Hanif and other victims of the violence, Shamroz Khan, a leader of KBA, said.
Hanif’s slaying capped a weekend of violence. Armed men on two motorbikes opened fire on shops in Gulshen-e-Iqbal, killing two shopkeepers (Hameedullah and Azizullah) and wounding four other people March 20. All were PMAP members from Balochistan’s Pishin District, a police official said.
A hand grenade attack on two MQM offices on Soldier Bazaar and Burns Road failed March 20, local police Chief Irfan Kobra told Central Asia Online. One office was closed, and police defused the other grenade, he said.
On March 20, assassins killed three MQM activists: Ghulam Hussain, 40, in Khamosh Colony; Kamram Khatri in Moosa Lane, Lyari; and Shehzad Hussein, 29, in Mobina Town.
Also dead is Khushnood Butt, a senior activist of MQM-A, who was killed in the Chakiwara area of Lyari March 20, Chakiwara police official Khadim Ali said.
Targeted killers also killed a policeman — Arshad Ali, alias Kundi — outside his home in Gulzar-e-Hijri March 20. He was on a team investigating the January 13 killing of Geo News TV channel reporter Wali Khan Babar, police sources said.
The latest violence erupted after a March 19 attack on the office of Habib Jan Baloch, PPP’s provincial leader and former People Aman Committee in Kumhar Wara area of Saddar Town. “Five people including Baloch’s brother and a 5-year-old child were injured in a hand grenade attack on the office,” a Saddar Town Police official said.
The government has stationed extra police and other security personnel in sensitive areas, Sharafuddin Memon, a Home Department consultant who blames “jihadi groups” for the latest wave of violence, said. “The banned militant organisations are involved in targeted killings in a bid to dislodge the government because we are taking action against them,” Memon said.
Law enforcement has failed to maintain law and order, Dr. Farooq Sattar, MQM’s central leader, said. Speaking in Karachi, he demanded the imprisonment of those disrupting the peace.
“The attackers want to sabotage the PPP’s efforts to make Karachi, especially Lyari, peaceful and this was the third attack on the office,” Baloch told Central Asia Online. The only solution is an all-out campaign against criminals and terrorists, he said.
Hanif and the two Pashtun shopkeepers from Balochistan were killed in an effort to trigger ethnic riots, ANP provincial spokesman Qadir Khan said. He urged the MQM to support the ANP’s suggestion to let the army take control of the city in an effort to wipe out terrorism.
MQM provincial ministers Raza Haroon and Dr. Sagheer Ahmed met with PPP Provincial Minister Agha Siraj Durrani at the Chief Minister House in Karachi to create a joint proposal for tracking targeted killings and violence in the city, media reported.