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Muttahida-ANP outcry over workers’ arrest

Updated August 30, 2013

KARACHI, Aug 29: Police on Thursday arrested more than 100 suspects and absconders in what the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP) described as “a crackdown on their workers unleashed at the whim of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party”.

The police said that the arrested suspects included foreigners but did not explain what caused them to carry out an overnight series of raids in different parts of the city.

The police action, however, came hours after Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali in a press conference on Wednesday advised the Sindh chief minister to take immediate action against “criminals and gangsters” following the surprise demand by the MQM for army deployment in Karachi.

The police action also coincided with the ongoing Supreme Court hearing of its suo motu notice of the Karachi law and order issue.

A statement issued by the police here on Thursday evening said that the south, east and west zones police carried out a total of 89 raids during the past 24 hours and arrested 129 suspected criminals. “Among them, 29 are foreigners, who have been charged under the Foreigners Act,” it said, adding that the others were wanted in cases of crimes including murder, dacoity and extortion. The statement said that some of those arrested in the raids were absconders nominated in various criminal cases.

According to the statement, the arrests also led to the seizure of arms and ammunition. It, however, did not say if any of the suspects was associated with a political party or group.

A spokesman for the Sindh Police did not rule out the possibility of some or many suspects being associated with political parties.

“Nothing can be said with authority at this point in time,” he told Dawn. “The suspects are being interrogated by different investigation teams of the police,” he said, adding that information about their political association could be shared with the media only when the teams submitted their reports to the police high-ups.

The police version appeared to have failed to convince the MQM and ANP — two rival political parties in Karachi which remained the PPP’s coalition partners in its previous term — as they reacted strongly to the raids and ‘crackdown on their workers’.

“In some cases, the police finding a worker not present at home took his family members into custody,” the agitating parties claimed.

In their respective statements, both parties warned the PPP government to review its policy.

MQM members of the National Assembly in a statement issued late on Thursday evening claimed that the raids to arrest their party colleagues were still continuing. “The workers in custody were being subjected to brutal torture,” the statement said. “The police breached privacy of our workers’ homes and manhandled their female family members during the raids,” it said. “Where the police found a worker not at home, they took away his father or a brother.”

Warning the PPP to immediately stop the crackdown, the MQM lawmakers advised the ruling party to learn from history as using state powers for political gains could never help it.

The MQM also made an impassioned appeal to the federal government, led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), to intervene and get the crackdown on its workers stopped.

“We appeal to the federal government to take notice of these illegal acts, get the unlawful raids on the houses of our party colleagues stopped and ensure release of all those arrested in the raids,” said the Muttahida MNAs.

The ANP claimed that more than 100 of its workers were arrested in the overnight raids. It cautioned the PPP government to beware of the elements out to create a rift between ANP and PPP.

“Such actions are also bound to erode credibility of the police,” said Sindh ANP chief Senator Shahi Syed in a statement issued from Bacha Khan Markaz, the party’s headquarter in Karachi.

“Instead of arresting criminals in an operation targeted against criminals, over 100 innocent local ANP leaders and activists, including the party’s Malir district president, Advocate Saeed Khan, were picked up on Wednesday night. The workers are being implicated in fabricated cases,” the statement said. “We advise the PPP government to refrain from taking the steps taken in the past by dictatorial regimes,” it added.