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HYDERABAD, May 26: Leaders of mainstream nationalist parties have strongly denounced targeted killing of passengers of a bus near Sakrand on Friday and termed it a deliberate attempt to plunge Sindh into a civil war and divert people’s attention from the May 22 incident of firing on a rally in Karachi.

They said while talking to Dawn on Saturday that it was high time the government took the incident seriously and ordered a probe to expose elements behind the tragic incident. Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah, president of Sindh United Party, said that everyone knew who was behind the murder of Muzaffar Bhutto. His murder followed by attack on Mohabbat-i-Sindh rally in Karachi appeared to be links of the same chain, he said.

He said that a rally that demanded a new province remained safe while the other rally that sought unity of Sindh was attacked.

“The Sakrand incident should be taken seriously. To me, it is an attempt to divert people’s attention from May 22 incident and part of a conspiracy to plunge Sindh into a civil war,” he said.

He said the message conveyed by the assailants while killing the passengers on ethnic grounds laid bare the conspiracy because people from different communities, including Urdu-speaking, Pukhtoon, Punjabis and others lived in Sindh.

“The assailants had made a deliberate attempt to shatter trust between the communities and it had been purposely done,” he said.

He said he did not rule out foreign hand behind it. “They [elements behind such incident] want to break the trust between people,” he said.

Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party (STP) chairman Dr Qadir Magsi said: “The STP will not allow such incident or support it on any ground because it smacks of attempt to foment ethnic riots in Sindh,” he argued.

Karachi is already bleeding and such incidents will only serve to plunge Sindh into crisis. He too saw Muzaffar Bhutto’s murder and attack on Karachi rally interrelated.

“The Sakrand incident is aimed at diverting people’s attention because Pukhtoons share support Sindhis’ views against division of Sindh,” he said.

He said the irresponsible message voiced by the assailants while spraying people with bullets had made people worried. “We need to think over it very seriously and that’s why we have been saying all along the government should order an impartial investigation into the incident and expose elements behind this conspiracy,” he said.

Awami Tehrik president Ayaz Latif Palijo echoes similar views. “We believe that the incident was a deliberate attempt to create a gulf between communities who speak different languages… but we will keep emphasising the very communities should strengthen their bond,” he said.

In fact, he continued, an ethnic terrorist group was behind this conspiracy as it was hand in glove with international cohorts to divert attention of people from May 22 incident.

He said that 180 million people of the country needed to understand that a war was raging in their area between international forces to pressurise Pakistan to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Acting vice-chairman of Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (B), Dr Niaz Kalani, said violence bred violence. “Violence in all its manifestations needs to be condemned and no one can support it,” he said. He could not say anything why the assailants linked it with ethnicity, he said.

Jeay Sindh Mahaz (Chandio) chairman Riaz Chandio said the incident would deal a blow to the national movement which was gradually gaining acceptance among people because of its non-violent means in line with late G.M. Syed’s ideology.

Late Syed had always believed in non-violent means to achieve goals and nationalists had always launched political struggle to mobilise people. “It is a terrorist incident to taint the image of nationalist movement in order to keep people away from it,” he said.