KARACHI: Rockets, petrol bombs and automatic weapons were used by heavily armed suspects, fighting police alongside political activists, as violence in Lyari continued for a second consecutive day on Monday.
The fresh violence left at least seven people, including a local leader of the Pakistan People’s Party and a 10-year-old boy, dead and many others wounded.
The ongoing violence had erupted soon after the Sunday raid on a ‘hideout’ by a CID team led by SP Chaudhry Aslam Khan for the arrest of some suspects. The raiding team claimed that it came under armed attack during the raid in Chawkiwara and in the ensuing encounter one of the suspects, Saqib Khan, sustained fatal bullet wounds. The claim was quickly contested by a Sindh PPP council member, Habib Jan, who described it as ‘a staged encounter’. The victim was stated to be a close associate of Uzair Baloch, head of the defunct People’s Amn Committee, which has considerable support in Lyari.
Law-enforcement agency personnel and the protesters remained engaged in intermittent clashes in a vast area around Chawkiwara till late into Sunday. Although, there was lull on Monday morning, almost entire Lyari remained in the grip of tension and fear. No shops, markets and business concerns in the affected areas opened while the police kept a close watch on rioters.
At around 10am, however, the strife-torn areas again reverberated with gunfire when heavily armed men took up positions at several places and challenged the police. The uniformed personnel with police in civvies and commandoes responded forcefully again turning the area into a war zone.
The clashes continued intermittently into the night during which the police were attacked with a rocket and petrol bombs, mostly at Aath Chowk.
The police said that they first lobbed teargas shells to disperse the angry protesters and stone-throwers but live ammunition had to be used when heavily armed suspects joined the protesters in their battle. Many of the protesters had come fully prepared as they possessed wet towels to neutralise the effects of teargas and pick up the shells to throw them back to the police, they added.
The police further said that those who lobbed home-made petrol bombs had kept their faces covered using a piece of cloth. All roads in the affected areas were strewn with stones, bricks and barricades to hinder police movement into the narrow lanes of Lyari.
Regarding the fresh casualties, the police said that one of them turned out to be PPP Lyari vice president Hasan Soomro, who was standing at the Aath Chowk when someone shot him.
The victim was taken to the Civil Hospital Karachi, where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival. He had suffered a gunshot wound to his head, the hospital sources said.
His death sent a wave of shock across the PPP Karachi chapter.
President Asif Ali Zardari, who is currently in the city, also expressed his shock and sorrow over the death of Hasan Soomro and ordered an inquiry into the killing.
Meanwhile, additional inspector-general of police Akhtar Husain Ghorchani said that only two policemen were among the 20 persons wounded in the daylong violence in Lyari.
Police surgeon Dr Hamid Parhiyar said that five bodies were brought to the CHK on Monday and one of the persons injured in the Lyari violence brought to the hospital died during treatment.
Edhi sources, however, put the death toll in the Monday violence in Lyari at seven, saying that a 10-year-old boy, Irfan, also sustained fatal injuries in the violence near Aath Chowk.
It appeared that most of the dead and wounded were caught in crossfire while a trussed-up body was found dumped in the Nayabad area of Lyari in the morning.
The areas worst-affected by the violence included Lea Market, Aath Chowk, Sheedi Village Road, Chawkiwara, Kharadar, Moosa Lane, Siddique Wahab Road, Timber Market, Yadgar Chowk, Cheel Chowk and Kalakot.
The CID police, headed by SP Chaudhry Aslam Khan, with the south district police, were seen busy tackling the situation while the Rangers were seen nowhere in the affected areas of Lyari on Monday.
All CID personnel took part in the anti-rioting action in civvies and had their faces covered though their bullet-proof vests distinguished them from the ordinary people. A strong contingent of police commandos was also employed to help tackle the situation.
In what appeared to be a reaction to the police action in Lyari, a group of people blocked the main Sharea Faisal at Malir 15 on Monday night.
According to the police, the protesters had come from Salar Goth, where they forced people to close their shops and other businesses. They fired into the air to scare people.
Later, during their demonstration at Malir 15, the protesters called for an immediate end to the police action in Lyari.
The demonstration caused a serious traffic jam for some time on several thoroughfares, besides Sharea Faisal.