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Paramilitary soldiers standing alert near a bus after unknown assailants opened fire on a bus in Orangi Town.—Online

KARACHI: The leadership of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party on Friday once again became engaged in a war of words over the ongoing wave of targeted killings in Karachi, with both sides holding each other responsible for the violence that claimed the lives of about two dozen people, including a television reporter.

While both parties strongly condemned the cold-blooded murder of journalist Wali Khan Babar and others, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain accused the MQM of its involvement in the targeted killings on ethnic grounds citing that the incidents were taking place in MQM's strongholds.

Also at a press conference on Friday, Sindh ANP chief Shahi Syed pointed the finger of suspicion at the MQM and said “the extortion mafia” was behind the recent spate of killings.

The allegations prompted the MQM to hold an emergency press conference and accuse the ANP of “playing a part in a nefarious plan to engineer ethnic riots in the city”.

Earlier, the Sindh chapter chief of the ANP speaking at the press conference demanded an army operation to purge the city of all kinds of weapons whether licensed or not.

He said that eight ANP workers had been killed during the last 10 days and it was the responsibility of the law-enforcement agencies to expose the killers who were wrecking the city's peace. He added that peace could not be restored to the metropolis till “the elimination of the extortion mafia”.

The ANP leader also urged political parties to play their role in maintaining law and order in Karachi.

He described the slain reporter as a brave son of Pakhtuns and urged the investigation agencies to expose the elements behind his targeted killing.

He later announced three days of mourning over the tragic incident.

In the evening, deputy parliamentary leader of the MQM in the Sindh Assembly Faisal Sabzwari held a press conference at the party headquarters and demanded an impartial investigation into the murder of the slain journalist.

He condemned the allegations levelled against the MQM by the ANP and said that Wali Babar was murdered in reaction to his coverage of a search operation conducted by the police and administration in Pehalwan Goth against criminal groups “one of whom enjoys blessings of the ANP leadership”.

He said that soon after the killing of Wali Babar and an attack on Sindh ANP secretary general Bashir Jan on Thursday night, armed terrorists went on a shooting rampage killing more than 21 Urdu-speaking people in Orangi Town, Banaras, Kati Pahari, Rabia City and other parts of the city.

Mr Sabzwari said that the murder of Wali Babar in Liaquatabad and the subsequent killings of Urdu-speaking people was part of a well-planned conspiracy to foment ethnic strife in the city and the ANP was playing a role in it.

Terming Mian Iftikhar's statement against the MQM unfortunate, he asked the ANP leadership to refrain from inflaming the situation by issuing irresponsible statements.

The MQM leader appealed to the president, the prime minister and relevant authorities to take immediate notice of the killings of people in Orangi, Banaras, Kati Pahari and other areas and order an impartial probe into all such incidents.