Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday ordered an operation by Pakistani law enforcement agencies to end a wave of ethnic and political violence in Karachi even as MQM chief Altaf Hussain called on the premier to quit if he was unable to restore peace in the port city.
Gilani ordered an operation by the police, paramilitary Pakistan Rangers and other law enforcement agencies while chairing a meeting of the Sindh Cabinet in Karachi.
The move coincided with unabated violence in Pakistan's largest city, with TV news channels reporting the death of at least 13 people on Monday.
"The time has come to take action in Karachi. If we don't take action now it will be too late," Gilani was quoted as saying by Dawn News channel.
The situation in Karachi can be tackled by the Pakistan Rangers and police and there is no need to call in the army, he said.
Gilani said the federal government was ready to help the Sindh government to restore peace "but the bleeding of Karachi must stop forthwith", an official statement said.
He directed the Sindh government and heads of law enforcement agencies to take "stern and indiscriminate action" against those behind the unrest in the city.
"This is unacceptable and the culprits must be brought to justice by awarding them exemplary punishment," Gilani said.
Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Hussain Wasan told the media that the first phase of the operation would focus on nine areas of Karachi, including Lyari, Korangi, Qasba Colony and Kati Pahari, where violence has escalated in recent days.
Nearly 100 people have died in the past six days in Karachi, which has been wracked by ethnic and political violence since last year.
The current violence was triggered by the abduction and murder of five Baloch men. In a related development, Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain said Gilani should step down as premier if he was unable to restore peace in Karachi.
"It is my brotherly advice to the Prime Minister to resign from his office if he is unable to bring peace to Karachi," the London-based Hussain said in a statement.
Karachi has for long been considered the stronghold of the MQM, which draws its strength from Urdu-speaking residents of the financial hub.
A large influx of Pashtuns escaping the unrest in northwest Pakistan has triggered tensions in Karachi. Supporters of the MQM and the Awami National Party, which is backed by the Pashtuns, have engaged in a turf war over the past few years.
The meeting of the Sindh Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Gilani decided that Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Interior Minister Rehman Malik would monitor the situation in Karachi.
They would inform the PM about the implementation of decisions to restore peace in the city.