KARACHI, Nov 10: At least 20 people lost their lives in Karachi on Saturday — almost half of them being victims of the ongoing wave of sectarian killings — as a helpless citizenry wondered when a clueless administration would step in to confront the killers on the loose.
The bloodshed coincided with the presence of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and some of his key cabinet members in the city.
In the deadliest episode of the day, six students of a seminary were gunned down in an armed attack on a roadside tea shop in Gulshan-i-Iqbal. Police said students of Madressah Ahsan-ul-Uloom — all in their early 20s — were targeted by at least six men. Seven other students suffered injuries.
They struck in North Nazimabad twice within an hour, killing at least three people.
In a late-night incident, a political worker was gunned down in Khokhrapar, Malir. Police said armed men on a motorcycle targeted 35-year-old Saleem Qureshi near a bus stop.
“He was hit by two bullets and died on the spot,” said an official at the Khokhrapar police station. “The victim had a history of political activism and once he was associated with the MQM-H. His body was taken to Jinnah Hospital for medico-legal formalities.”
In Shadman Town, 40-year-old Tauseef Arain was shot dead while he was sitting inside his car near a shopping centre. A police official said the victim was hit by a bullet fired by miscreants trying to intimidate shopkeepers into pulling down their shutters.
In the wee hours of the day, four youngsters were found shot dead in Pak Colony area, neighbouring Lyari town. Police believed that the incident was part of a rivalry between two criminal gangs operating in Lyari.
A worker of the Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat was gunned down by armed men in North Nazimabad when he was riding home.
Life came to a standstill in several parts of districts west, central and east. Heavy contingents of police backed by the paramilitary Rangers were deployed in the affected areas, but no arrest was made.
“On the face of it, there is no other reason than tit-for-tat killing on sectarian grounds,” said DIG east Shahid Hayat, when asked about the suspected motive behind the fresh killings. “Unless other aspect is proved, we believe there is sectarianism behind the recent killings carried out in different parts of Karachi.”
The killing attracted serious criticism and anger from the Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, but a senior leader of the banned outfit did not sound convinced with the police argument seeing ‘third party’ exploiting the situation to affect the sectarian harmony ahead of Muharram.
“There are visible, organised and coordinated efforts behind the recent killings,” said Maulana Taj Hanaji of the Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat. “One day you see people from Shia sect are targeted and on the other day we see Sunnis are being attacked. The administration has failed in recognising the conspiracy behind the brutal trend and arresting the killers. An indiscriminate operation like Swat and Waziristan is the only option left to restore peace in Karachi.”
A traffic constable Mohamamd Saeed was killed in Shirin Jinnah Colony by unknown gunmen.
In Sharifabad, Mohammad Umar was shot dead and his five friends were injured when gunmen opened fire. Asad Raza, a son of IB director Qamar Raza, was among the injured. Qamar Raza was gunned down in July this year.
Quite late but the situation also set alarm bells ringing in the power corridors. President Asif Ali Zardari called Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah to express his concern over the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi.
“The president asked the chief minister to ensure safety of life and property of citizens. He has also directed for immediate measures to stop killings and restore peace in Karachi,” the state television reported late on Saturday.