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Karachi: 95 dead, shoot-at-sight orders issued

Last updated on: July 9, 2011 01:12 IST

Karachi: 95 dead, shoot-at-sight orders issued

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Pakistani authorities on Friday issued shoot-at-sight orders and ordered deployment of 1,000 additional paramilitary troops in Karachi as vicious violence continued to paralyse the country's financial capital, leaving nearly 95 people dead in last four days.

Interior minister Rehman Malik said that security forces had been given orders to shoot gunmen on sight to meet the challenge.

The violence has rocked the country's financial hub and continued on Friday although a total shutdown was observed in the city on the call for a day of mourning by the Muttahida Quami Movement for the people killed in the violence.

Rockets were fired and grenades lobbed as violence wracked the city with thousands of people stranded in their home in fear of flying bullets. The violence also escalated after President Asif Zardari issued orders to restore the commissioner's system in the city.

Police and rescue officials said that in four days 95 people had been killed with some 200 wounded in target killings and indiscriminate firing in many parts of the city, owing to political as well as ethnic clashes.

The decision to restore the commisioner's system was taken at a high level meeting in Islamabad which also proposed amendments to the local bodies system. The MQM leadership said it opposed this decision and senior member Raza Haroon said that MQM will oppose it in the assembly.

Struck by the magnitude of incidents in Karachi, the US Embassy in Islamabad on Friday said it is deeply concerned about the escalating violence in the port city.

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Image: A man rides a motorcycle through the smoke of tyres burnt by angry protesters against target killing in Karachi
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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"We call on all parties to refrain from further violence and work toward a peaceful resolution of differences," Ambassador Cameron Munter said in a statement. "The loss of...lives, including women and children, in the last three days is a tragedy."

Karachi has been rocked by violence despite the presence of President Asif Zardari in the city where he is stationed at the Bilawal house and has held meetings with his aides to discuss the situation.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who rushed to Karachi on Thursday, said that 1,000 additional militia force will be deployed to restore normalcy in the city.  Malik admitted that security forces faced challenges in some areas due to power outages.

"There is someone who is trying to de stabilise Pakistan," the minister said and added that he believes all political parties have realised that there is indeed a "third force" behind the violence.

He also said that "targeted actions" will be taken against the miscreants without any political discrimination. "We have received satellite images about those who have made bunkers and actions are being planned against them," Malik told mediapersons in Karachi where he attended a meeting of senior police and paramilitary military commanders.

The authorities have ordered shoot-at-sight order in Karachi as violence has paralysed life in the city, police said. Meanwhile, the city on Friday gave a deserted look as the main powerful ethnic group declared mourning over the recent wave of violence.

Public transport is missing and people faced problems to find transport to reach offices, residents said.

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Image: A family member of a victim of a target killing cries next to his body at a morgue in Karachi's Abbasi Shaheed hospital
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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President of the transport union, Irshad Bukhari, said that transporters had decided not to bring vehicles as the Mutahida Qaumi Movement or MQM had declared mourning. "Several vehicles had been burnt, buses hijacked and divers killed," Bukhari said, adding "we can not run buses in this situation.

Malik also presented details of the raids taking place in various areas, adding that the Baldia Town and Katti Pahari areas in Orangi town were the worst hit by violence. Malik disclosed that 89 suspects have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the target killings.

He said that out of those arrested, 12 suspects are Urdu-speaking, 19 are Pushtuns and three are Baloch. He did not specify the ethnic backgrounds of the remaining suspects.

He also said that the dead include very few politically-affiliated activists.

Malik said that the terrorists target Karachi as it is the hub of economic activity, and that "enemies are targeting it because it is of strategic importance." He said the the police and rangers were currently evacuating families from the troubled area where intermittent firing was still going on as dusk fell.

President Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries Muhammad Saeed Shafiq said that the local business community is suffering a loss of Rs 2.7 billion a day due to the ongoing violence.

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Image: A man rests on a donkey cart in front of closed shops in Karachi
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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"How can one expect the boost economy And living standard of Karachiites to improve when law and order is worsening with each passing day?" said Shafiq.

Citing an estimate, he said seven million rupees loss was suffered by petroleum industry in Karachi on an average strike day.

Malik said that security forces had been given orders to shoot gunmen on sight to meet the challenge. Police and Rescue officials said around 24 people had been killed on Friday in different areas in target killings and other violence.

In a new trend of violence that has left the people in total fear and helplessness, armed men have resorted to firing on public transport and in some parts of the Orangi town, residences were attacked with rockets and hand grenades even as few houses also being set on fire.

"As the government prepares to take decisive action against these miscreants indiscriminate firing started again from the hills surrounding Orangi Town with Qasba colony and Baldia the worst hit," a rescue official said.

All main shopping centres, offices and banks remained closed while petrol pumps had shut down since on Thursday night.


Image: Men stand next to the body of a man who was killed by unidentified gunmen, last night at a morgue in Karachi
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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