Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pakistan: At least 12 killed as gunmen go on deadly rampage at Karachi market

People rush a shooting victim to an emergency ward at a local hospital in Karachi, Pakistan on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010

(AKI) - At least 12 people were killed and several others were injured when armed gunmen opened fire near a busy market in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, police and hospital officials said. The officials said the death-toll was expected to rise.

Those who were killed belonged to the ethnic Urdu-speaking community, which blamed ethnic Pushtuns for the carnage.

Pakistani men sit next to the body of a relative at a hospital following gunmen attacks in a market in Karachi on October 19, 2010
But a senior police officer, Naveed Khawaja, told Adnkronos International that the attackers came from Lyari area of Balochistan and were unlikely to be Pushtuns.

Lyari is a stronghold of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the majority of its population are ethnic Balochis.

Some 60 people have been killed in targeted killings in Karachi in recent days and Tuesday's attack in the Sher Shah area of the city is likely to stoke further ethnic violence.

Violence erupted in Karachi on Saturday ahead of a by-election for a provincial seat in surrounding Sindh province, between the groups representing the majority Urdu-speaking population and minority Pashtu-speakers.

In the last four days, people from different ethnic backgrounds including Urdu, Balochs and Pushtun were brutally killed in broad daylight.

The seat in Sindh fell vacant after a provincial assembly law maker Syed Raza Haider belonging to the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) was gunned down in August this year. Clashes erupted after the murder, in which 100 people died.

The MQM, which represents the Urdu-speaking population, accused the Awami National Party (ANP) of being responsible for killing, a charge which the Pashtun ANP denies.

"The MQM has called an urgent party meeting and we are reflecting on all options including leaving the coalition government in the province as well as the federal government," Federal port and shipping minister and MQM member Babar Khan Ghori told AKI.

Despite repeated demands by the MQM, the government had failed to provide protection to party workers and supporters from "the criminals who take the refuge in different ethnic identities and political parties," he said.

Ahead of the vote, the MQM claimed that its workers and supporters were being targeted, and it threatened to leave the ruling coalition. Pakistan's president Asif Zardari had to personally persuade the MQM to stay, during a meeting with Sindh's governor, Ishratul Ibad.

MQM won the election with huge margin. It was boycotted by the ANP.

The recent violence came after a deadly spate of killings in Karachi in which Shia and Sunni parties targeted each other's members.

Members of groups belonging to the Sufi and pro-Taliban Deobandi sects also killed one another in the bloodletting.

The climax of the recent sectarian violence was a suicide attack at the Sufi shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi on 7 October in which eight people were killed and 65 were injured.

The sprawling city accounts for over 60 percent of Pakistan's revenue. The country's main financial institutions, multinational corporations and industry are located there.

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