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Karachi violence kills 71; more than 100 arrested
Depoliticising police, disarming political activists called vital
By Amjad Bashir Siddiqi
KARACHI- Additional security forces have been deployed in Karachi after 21 people were killed in the ongoing violence in Pakistan's largest city August 4, officials said.
As many as 71 people have been killed after the August 2 assassination of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader and parliamentarian Raza Haider.
Law enforcement agencies are investigating the slaying but also rounded up nearly 100 suspects in connection withthe rioting and arson that have gone on for two days.
The MQM announced a three-day mourning period after the assassination.
The roads were empty August 4, with businesses and banks closed and offices nearly deserted.
The first two days of mourning and consequent business shutdown have cost Rs 20 billion (US $233.1m) in lost revenue and production, Abdul Majid Haji Mohammad, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Central Asia Online.
Port operations have been suspended, causing export and import orders to pile up, he added.
The rival parties in Karachi are feuding over the death. MQM legislator Faisal Sabzwari accused the Awami National Party (ANP) of links to extremists.
ANP Sindh President Shahi Syed denied having any role in Haider's slaying and demanded instead the de-weaponisation of Karachi.
Mobs have rampaged through different parts of Karachi since the murder, shooting at anyone in sight. Police stood aside because "they had orders to show restraint," police sources confirmed.
The Haider assassination continues Karachi's series of targeted killings. In the last year, the MQM, ANP and sectarian activists have battled for control of Karachi.
More than 786 targeted killings have occurred since January 2010, according to Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah.
Unofficially, the number of target killing victims is about 1,000, say independent analysts.
Even if the targeted killings are meant to score political points, most of the victims have not been political players: they tend to be peddlers, pedestrians, hotel employees, labourers and other unfortunate victims of cross-fire.
Politicians like Haider comprise a minority of the dead.
The Mohajir-Pashtun fighting has turned Orangi Town, Malir, Shah Faisal Colony and "turf war"-stricken Gulistan-e-Jauhar into battlegrounds.
Such largely worker-inhabited neighbourhoods witness frequent attacks aimed at wresting them from a rival party's control. MQM leaders accuse the ANP of setting up "no go areas" barred to outsiders. Such areas have become Taliban and mafia havens, Sazbzwari said.
The quality of policing in Karachi is suspect to some politicians and observers.
Karachi needs unbiased law enforcement, Syed told Central Asia Online. “Karachi’s police must be depoliticised if the lives of innocent labourers are to be saved."
“It is not Einsteinian science to establish check posts in turf war areas to keep raging groups at bay and deploy police on the rooftops to shoot anyone seen committing arson or looting,” security analyst Jameel Yusuf told Central Asia Online.
The police must conduct raids based on specific information and examine suspect vehicles without showing favouritism, Jameel said. Police officials say the assassins favour 9mm pistols and AK-47's.
“Single, point-blank head shots are the favourite modus operandi,” said one police official, but sometimes killers will randomly spray bullets from an AK-47.
Middle-class Gulistan-e-Jauhar in eastern Karachi is one neighbourhood divided by violently enforced ethnic lines. Sindhis, Pashtuns, and Mohajirs share partial control of it. Nobody steps into areas belonging to the other groups.
Khalid Khan, a resident of Gulistan-e-Jauhar, describes life and work there as "hostage" to the warring gangs. During periods of conflict, gunmen on rooftops exchange fire.
"Our apartment blocks have bullet holes," he said, adding that gunfire can be so intense that residents cannot sleep.