A Pakistani police commando takes cover beside an armoured vehicle during an operation against criminal gangs in the Lyari neighbourhood of Karachi on April 2, 2012.          —AFP PHOTO/Asif HASSAN

KARACHI: As law-enforcement personnel fought pitched battles with armed groups in Karachi’s Lyari area for the second day on Monday, seven people lost their lives and scores of others were wounded.

President Asif Ali Zardari expressed fury over the law and order situation in the city and told the authorities to show no mercy to extortionists, targeted killers and criminals.

When President Zardari was presiding over a meeting in Bilawal House, not very far from Lyari, protesters and a large number of armed people were engaged in a battle with police during which a PPP leader of the area and six other people were killed.

Rockets, petrol bombs and automatic weapons were freely used against police and political activists.

Besides PPP leader Hasan Soomro, a 10-year-old boy was among the dead.

The violence broke out soon after Sunday’s raid on a ‘hideout of suspects’ by a CID team led by SP Aslam Khan.

“We cannot and must not permit the criminal mafia to hold the city hostage,” the president was quoted as saying at the meeting by his spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar.

The Sindh governor, chief minister, federal interior minister, provincial ministers, directors-general of the Intelligence Bureau and Pakistan Rangers, the inspector-general of police and other senior officials of the federal and provincial governments attended the meeting.

According to the spokesperson, President Zardari directed the officials concerned to restore peace in the country’s economic hub and bring the criminals to book without any consideration for their political affiliation. He called upon all parties to demonstrate political will and purge their ranks of criminals and directed law-enforcers to take tough measures and use the advanced technology to get hold of criminals.

Mr Zardari directed the authorities concerned to equip the police force with aerial patrolling gadgets and heavy-duty armoured personnel carriers.

He also asked officials to use geo-fence technology for localities infested with criminal elements.

According to the spokesperson, President Zardari called for carrying out a scientific study on sectarianism, extremism, land grabbing, street crimes, targeted killings, political rivalries and migration from other parts of the country.

He also called for improved coordination between law-enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies.Giving a briefing on the assistance given by the interior ministry to the provincial government in combating crimes in Karachi, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said a policy had been devised whereby mobile service providers would deliver SIMs to cellphone users at the postal address given in their computerised national identity cards.

Mr Malik informed the meeting that criminal elements had been using stolen and snatched mobile phones by replacing the SIM. Now the PTA would automatically be alerted if a SIM was changed in a cellphone, he added.

This together with the geo-fencing would lead to almost instant identification of the location of the unauthorised user of any particular cellphone and facilitate the arrest of criminals, he said.

Earlier, the Sindh PPP core committee met at Bilawal House and discussed overall political situation in the province and coalition matters.

Sources said participants were of the opinion that the PPP should continue to pursue its policy of reconciliation in the larger interest of Sindh and the country.

Meanwhile, the Awami National Party asked its workers and the administration on Monday to take down party flags and demanded that law-enforcement agencies should show impartiality in operations against suspected terrorists and assassins.

The Sindh High Court on Monday put the provincial police chief and the director-general of Rangers on notice in a petition seeking their removal from the office for failing to control targeted killings and terrorism in the city.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar directed the respondents to file their comments and adjourned the hearing to April 18.

The petition was filed by Rana Faizul Hasan, the secretary general of the United Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

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