KARACHI: Karachi police chief Shahid Hayat Tuesday said a “conspiracy is being hatched to fan Sunni-Shia clashes in the city” as gunmen shot dead five Sunni Muslims a day after six minority Shias were killed in the financial hub of Pakistan, officials said.
“We have identified the shooters and will arrest the killers within a couple of days,” Hayat told a delegation of local businessmen.
Police said the five, killed on Tuesday, belonged to the conservative Deobandi movement and were either members of sympathisers of banned extremist outfits.
“Apparently they were targeted because of their sect,” senior police officer Muneer Shaikh told AFP.
The shootings took place in different areas of Karachi, Shaikh said, but declined to comment on whether they were revenge killings following the murders of the Shias on Monday.
Officials said the victims were two clerics, a prayer caller and two activists of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), a Sunni sectarian group.
At least five Shia Muslims, including two doctors, were shot dead on Monday, while another Shia Muslim who was injured in an attack on a tailor shop also died Tuesday morning, hospital officials said.
The killings came ahead of the Muslim holy month of Muharram which starts on Wednesday in which Shias mourn the seventh century martyrdom of Hussain, the grandson of prophet Muhammad (pbuh), along with his family members.
Shias make up around a fifth of Pakistan's population.
Police are already carrying out operations against criminal groups to curb sectarian and political killings in the port city.
Security would be further tightened in the month of Muharram, they said.
Karachi, a city of 18 million people which contributes 42 per cent of Pakistan's GDP, is rife with murder and kidnappings and has been plagued for years by ethnic, sectarian and political violence.
Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sindh Shahid Nadeem Baloch has taken notice of the recent killings. A police statement said that he has sought detailed report from the Additional IGP Karachi on case to case basis.
Speaking during a press conference at the DIG Office in Hyderabad, Baloch said that the police are putting in place stringent security arrangements in the whole province to meet the challenges of providing security during the days of mourning in Muharram.
He said that he had taken detailed briefing from the DIGs of Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Sukkur and Larkana divisions as well as the SSPs of all the districts in this regard.
Responding to a question, the IGP Sindh said the police were alert to possible reaction to the recent killing of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone attack in northwestern North Waziristan agency, close to Afghan border.