KARACHI: The Sindh government authorised the Rangers on Friday to exercise the powers of police officers to ‘use necessary force to prevent terrorist acts’ as steps promised and taken hitherto failed to stop killings in Karachi and 30 people lost their lives on the fourth day of violence, raising the death toll to 93.
The Qasba Colony and adjoining areas remained the worst affected, although the violence spread to the southern and eastern parts of the city and grenade and rocket attacks were also reported.
Scattered arson attacks left at least eight shops burnt in Aligarh Colony and a commercial centre in Kharadar met the same fate.
The violence that has so far remained beyond the control of police and Rangers forced residents of Qasba Colony and adjoining areas to flee to safe places.
A Sindh Rangers spokesman said personnel of the paramilitary force had helped evacuate hundreds of people trapped in strife-torn areas.
“We are moving the families to safe places and the exercise continues. Rangers troops helped mainly people in Qasba Colony and adjoining areas,” he said.
A grenade attack in the congested commercial area of Bheempura claimed three lives and rocket attacks on houses in Baldia Town spread panic in the densely-populated neighbourhood.
City police chief Saud Mirza said: “Two miscreants were killed in an encounter in Pak Colony area, while in other parts of the city we managed to arrest some 85 people and seized arms, including AK-47 rifles.
“To bring life back to normal in the city, we in a joint strategy with Sindh Rangers are planning special arrangements for Saturday that include security on major roads and regular business of transport and markets.”
A decision of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement to call off its protest march from the Karachi Press Club to the Chief Minister’s House apparently helped lower the political temperature, but was not enough to stop the killings.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said 250 of the 1,000 Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel being drafted in for deployment in the city on an urgent basis had already been deployed.
He said after holding intense deliberations with Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and the provincial law enforcement agencies targeted action would be taken in the violence-hit areas and more FC personnel were being brought in.
But there was no evidence on the ground of the promised deployment of FC personnel by late evening.
Mr Malik promised “targeted action” against terrorists and miscreants without any discrimination and said a two-pronged strategy had been worked out to entrust police and Rangers with new responsibilities.
He said 89 suspects had been arrested in different areas. “Twelve of them are Urdu-speaking, 19 Pushto-speaking and three Baloch.”
The minister said two security posts in Kati Pahari area had been cleared of miscreants and efforts were being made to defuse the situation.
He said the emphasis of the plan was on credible intelligence gathering to track down terrorists. He said timely intelligence had helped thwart “subversive activities” in Shah Faisal Colony.
Mr Malik claimed that foreign elements were involved in the killings. He said elements of Taliban were present in Karachi and credible information about them had emerged from Kati Pahari and other areas.
He ruled out a military operation to weed out such elements and said paramilitary forces would be called from other areas if the need arose.
The minister appealed to MQM chief Altaf Hussain and the Awami National Party’s leader Asfandyar Wali to ask their followers to remain calm and help restore normality.
He thanked Mr Hussain for withdrawing his protest call and helping improve the atmosphere.
He said all political parties, including the MQM, ANP and the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, were patriotic and joint action would be taken against anti-state elements.
Mr Malik said details about hideouts of miscreants in Karachi had been collected through the latest technology, including satellite. “Modern means are also being used to monitor the situation in the disturbed areas.”
He said Rangers had been deployed in the affected areas, including Kati Pahari.
According to a notification issued by the Sindh Home Department, the additional power were given to Rangers under Rule 5-A of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.
Under the rule: “Any police officer, or member of the armed forces, or civil armed forces, who is present or deployed in any area may, after giving sufficient warning, use the necessary force to prevent the commission of terrorist acts or scheduled offences, and in so doing shall, in the case of an officer of the armed forces or civil armed forces, exercise all the powers of a police officer under the code.
“…an officer of the police, armed forces and civil armed forces may after giving prior warning use such force as may be deemed necessary or appropriate, bearing in mind all the facts and circumstances of the situation, against any person who is committing or in all probability is likely to commit a terrorist act or scheduled offence (it shall be lawful for any such officer, or any senior officer, when fired upon) to fire, order the firing upon any person or persons against whom he is authorised to use force in terms hereof; arrest, without warrant, any person who has committed an act of terrorism or a scheduled offence or against whom a reasonable suspicion exists that he has committed, or is about to commit, any such act or offence; and enter and search, without warrant, any premises to make any arrest or to take possession of any property, firearm, weapon or article used, or likely to be used, in the commission of any terrorist act or scheduled offence.”
Although guns fell silent after sunset, armed attacks took place later in the night, claiming seven more lives. Abdul Jabbar and Nasir Afridi were gunned down in Ghausia Colony, near Old Sabzi Mandi. A 55-year-old Jamaat-i-Islami activist, Ayub Ali, was shot dead in Lines Area.
Bullet-riddled bodies of two young men were found in Mowach Goth. Mohammad Ashraf was killed and another man injured in an attack on a bus of a welfare organisation near Eassa Nagri. The body of a young man was found in a gunny bag in Napier area.