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KARACHI, July 5: Peace continued to elude old city areas despite a crackdown on criminals and ‘peace talks’ between Kutchhi and Baloch community representatives as six more people lost their lives in Lyari on Friday.

Violence erupted soon after the early morning killing of two Kutchhi youngsters leading to protest and traffic suspension on the arterial Mauripur Road for nearly eight hours.

While Kutchhi Rabita Committee general secretary Akhter Kutchhi said that Shakeel Kutchhi was shot dead allegedly by the Rangers in Kalri, the Rangers spokesperson denied the charges and the police said Shakeel was killed during an exchange of fire between gangsters.

The protesting KRC supporters later marched on the Chief Minister House where they staged a sit-in during which another round of peace talks was held between a KRC delegation led by Siddique Kutchhi and the authorities.

Following what were described as successful talks, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon assured the KRC delegation that police and Rangers pickets would be set up in the strife-hit areas of Lyari on Friday night so that miscreants responsible for fomenting unrest in Agra Taj Colony, Bihar Colony and other areas of Lyari could be dealt with and taken to task.

KRC leader Haji Adam told the media outside the CM House that the Sindh government must “purge Lyari of the miscreants otherwise we will again stage a sit-in outside the CM House on Saturday.”

The previous round of peace talks between the Kutchhi and the Baloch community representatives arranged by the law-enforcement agencies that continued into the early hours of Thursday with both sides agreeing to call a truce were thwarted by rumours followed by intermittent firing and violent protest.

The renewed wave of violence continued in the early hours of Friday when the two Kutchhi youngsters were found shot dead. The incident sparked daylong protest by the Kutchhis on Mauripur Road.

In separate incidents, three more tortured and bullet-riddled bodies of young men were found in Juma Baloch Road in Kalri, old Haji Camp in Napier and Mira Naka in Pak Colony respectively, trouble spots of the old city.

“We received three bodies in the morning and six injured, including two female victims, at the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and Civil Hospital Karachi,” said police surgeon Dr Jalil Qadir.

“Shoaib Ishaq, 35, and Shakeel Shakoor, 20, with multiple bullet wounds were brought dead to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital,” said additional police surgeon Dr Abdul Haq Bhutto. He added that three others Sadia Sohail, 30, Yasmeen Shabbir, 40, and Sheri Mohammad Ali, 21, with bullet wounds were admitted for treatment.

“Another victim, Iqbal Shah, 25, was brought dead in the evening from Kalri,” added the additional police surgeon.

Dr Bhutto said four wounded persons, Ismail Zakaria, 45, Ali Mohammad, 25, Mohammad Ilyas and Abdul Sattar with bullet wounds were also brought for treatment in the evening from the same locality.

An official at the Chakiwara police station said that Shoaib, 35, was hit by three to four bullets when he came out of his home in Street 2 of Mandhra Mohalla. “He died in an exchange of fire between gangsters and Kutchhis,” the official said.

“Shoaib was office-bearer of Kutchhi Rabita Committee (KRC),” said KRC general secretary Akhter Kutchhi.

He alleged that another Kutchhi, Shakeel, was shot dead by the Rangers. When the Rangers entered Kalri, Shakeel ‘out of simplicity’ pointed at a hideout of gangsters on Suleman Azad Road but the security forces opened fire on him instead.

The Rangers spokesperson denied these charges. “Shakeel died during the fighting between the gangsters,” said Lyari SP Najam Tarin.

The KRC leader said that Iqbal Shah, also a KRC activist, was killed in firing by the police during their protest on Mauripur Road. However, the Lyari SP claimed that the police had used water canons to disperse the mob.

“Three persons were killed in today’s violence in Lyari,” said DIG South Dr Ameer Sheikh.

The DIG said the Rangers and police entered the troubled neighbourhoods and one of the three deceased might have been killed during an exchange of fire.

The violence had erupted following another round of ‘peace talks’ between the KRC and police and district officials, he said.

“We are 100 per cent sure that a ‘third force’ was involved in sabotaging the peace talks,” said the DIG south.

Referring to the late-night talks, the police officer said it was agreed that a ‘final round’ of talks would take place on Friday morning and subsequently, both the Kutchhi and Baloch representatives would visit each others’ homes for ‘patch up’.

But between 2am and 3am, some miscreants resorted to heavy firing in Kalri and Chakiwara areas, the DIG added.

There could be some elements among the Kutchhis who did not want peace talks to succeed, noted the police officer.

He said the police had demolished the bunkers and policemen had been deployed on the rooftops of building to prevent an exchange of fire between the two groups. But all of a sudden between 50 and 70 women appeared on streets on Thursday night, asking the policemen to ‘vacate’ their homes, he said.

The miscreants among the Kutchhis then opened fire and the Baloch elements used brute force in retaliation against Kutchhis by entering their homes, he added.

“The fighting between the gangs started late Thursday night, which continued till morning in which one Shoaib was killed,” said Lyari SP Najam Tarin.

Carrying his coffin, the KRC activists appeared on Mauripur Road and staged a protest that turned violent.

“The protesters blocked traffic for eight hours while miscreants shielding themselves with women conducted firing on the police from the rooftops,” the SP said.

He added the authorities held talks with the protesters for ‘four hours’ but when they refused to end the protest the police used water cannons to disperse them. “Except water cannons, we did not use anything to disperse the mob,” said the police officer.

People from the Kutchhi community also staged sit-ins outside the Chief Minister House, on the Native Jetty Bridge, the National Highway in Malir-15 in protest against the continued killings and violence, said KRC general secretary Akhter Kutchhi.

KRC leader Haji Adam said the miscreants were firing rockets and bullets on the houses of Kutchhis, killing several people including women and children. “The situation of Lyari is worse than that of Waziristan,” he said.

He accused the Rangers and police of supporting the miscreants and turning a blind eye towards their activities that had terrorized the area.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement coordination committee expressed concern over the killing of people belonging to the Kutchhi and other peaceful communities in Lyari. It demanded that the government protect the lives and properties of residents of Lyari and its adjacent localities by taking stern action against terrorists involved in violence.

Sindh Information Minister Sherjeel Memon, meanwhile, assured the KRC that police and Rangers pickets would be set up in strife-hit areas on Friday night so that miscreants responsible for creating trouble in Agra Taj Colony, Bihar Colony and other areas of Lyari could be taken to task.

He handed out this assurance while speaking to the KRC delegation at the Chief Minister’s House.

The delegation, led by Siddique Kutchhi, met Pakistan Peoples Party leaders Senator Saeed Ghani, Rashid Hussain Rabbani and Waqar Mehdi besides the information minister. DIG South Dr Ameer Sheikh was also present.

The KRC representatives informed them about the prevailing tension, firing incidents and killing of innocent people in Agra Taj Colony, Bihar Colony and other areas of Lyari.

The minister said that restoring peace to Lyari and other parts of the city and elimination of miscreants was the top priority of the government.

He assured the delegation that all possible measures would be taken to ensure peace in the locality. He said police and Rangers pickets would be set up on Friday night to check and arrest the miscreants.