KARACHI - At least 14 people were killed and 51 others wounded in the first ever ethnic gunbattle over the subject of Mohajir province demand.
Three houses, around a dozen shops, 15 motorbikes and a dozen vehicles were set to ablaze when unknown gunmen allegedly targeted a rally taken out against the proposed province.
On the other hand, Ayaz Latif Palijo, the president of Awami Tehrik (AT) who also led the rally, gave a peaceful wheel jam strike call across Sindh and vowed to avenge ‘every single drop of blood’. “These murders will not go unnoticed. Those shedding blood on the streets of Karachi will be held accountable.”
The latest violence was a reminder of the May 12, 2007, when more than 40 people were shot dead on a day when the then dysfunctional chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was to be greeted by various political parties as a manifestation of their resistance against the Musharraf regime.
Armed clashes erupted in Lyari and spread to the whole old city and other areas when outlawed operatives of the People’s Amn Committee (PAC) took out a rally along with the other nationalist organisations headed by Ayaz Palijo.
The rally originated from the Football House Lyari and later reached the Cheel Chock, a volatile area where police have failed to retake positions despite a week-long operation claiming 40 lives last month.
The participants were holding placards and banners inscribed the remarks against the division of Sindh and chanted slogans against the Mohajir Province Tehrik and other rival political organisations allegedly supporting the movement.
As the rally reached near Ghas Mandi near the Cheel Chock, unknown gunmen threw a home-made cracker, but the blast was not fatal. The rally reached to the Napier Road where unknown gunmen resorted to fire and managed to escape, leaving four participants of rally and a passer-by injured.
Following the incident, the participants of rally staged a sit-in protest at the Napier Road near the Paan Mandi area. On the other hand, the gunmen reappeared and started indiscriminate fire in different areas including Lee Market, Paan Mandi, Napier Road and Garden; resultantly, over 50 people, including women and children, sustained bullet wounds and rushed to the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), Lyari General Hospital and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.
The attack, considered to be carried out by the Lyari gangsters who were roaming in the areas dominated by the rivals in the old city, resulted in suspension of commercial and non-commercial activities, as the traders got stuck into their shops.
The areas where indiscriminate gunfire was still being reported were dominated by the Katchi community and those of Akram Baloch, Arshad Papu and MQM, where residents and the rivals of PAC also took positions and also started retaliatory fire.
SSP South Nasir Aftab, when contacted, said at least 51 people were rushed to the different hospitals. Armed men also fired rockets at the Napier Police station.
The victims included M Iqbal, a guard of Civil Hospital, who was shot dead near the KMC Workshop, while the remaining are: Yousaf Abdullah, Amina, Ejaz Khan, Manzoor Fareed, Shair Muhammad, Baber, Sharifa Shamshari, Ghazala Batool and two unidentified persons.
Hospital sources confirmed that 10 bodies were rushed to the CHK while the body Ghazala, an officer of PIA, was shifted to the Lyari General Hospital.
As many as 31 wounded were brought to the CHK while 21 injured were rushed to Lyari General Hospital and one MQM worker Furqan rushed to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.
A cameraman of private TV channel Khalil Adeel and reporter Aslam Khan, inspector Idrees Alam Bangash, police constable Bahadur and PC Zulfiqar Bachal, were also among the wounded. Miscreants were also torched some 15 motorcycles, seven vehicles, eight shops in different parts of the Saddar Town while three houses were set ablaze near Nigar Cinema.
Following the tensions, heavy contingents of law enforcement agencies rushed to maintain the law and order. Tension prevailed in different disputed areas including Gulistan-e-Johar, Essa Nagri, Banaras, Sohrab Goth, Quaidabad, Landhi and others.
On the other hand, Ayaz Latif Palijo, the president of AT who also led the rally, gave a peaceful wheel jam strike call across Sindh and vowed to avenge ‘every single drop of blood’. “These murders will not go unnoticed. Those shedding blood on the streets of Karachi will be held accountable.”
Palijo, while addressing a press conference, announced a wheel jam strike across the Sindh from Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening. He said police had left the area as soon as the shooters started killing innocent people, while the PPP (an obvious reference to the government) ‘stood there, watching the Sindhis being killed’.
He further warned that every drop of blood shed in Tuesday’s riots would be avenged, ‘not from the innocent Urdu-speaking people, but from the terrorists’. Palijo claimed that he had received text messages last night from a certain party which threatened repeating the May 12 mayhem during the protest.
“Containers were placed during our rally to block entry into certain areas. But when those, who supported the Mohajir province were rallying, were even allowed to enter the red zone and also given juices,” he remarked. “I thank the PML-N and Jamaat-e-Islami who supported us in the protest,” he said and also thanked the Urdu-speaking people who joined his party’s call.