KARACHI - Sindh Minister for Archives Muhammad Rafique Engineer, whose house was set ablaze by a group of unidentified arsonists in Lyari, on Thursday dispelled the impression that the operation in the constituent town targeted the Sindhis or Balochs.

“This is a wrong perception, created by certain quarters,” asserted the minister on the floor of the Sindh Assembly on Thursday. “The operation in Lyari is being carried out purely against criminals that have made the lives of locals miserable and have given weapons in the hands of innocent teenagers instead of pens, books and football. Besides, drugs are being sold in the area like candies and sweets,” added Rafique Engineer, who was elected twice for the provincial constituency of Lyari.

“I want to declare on the floor of this House that we do not like the smell of gunpowder,” said the lawmaker as he asked the criminals to lay down their weapons.

“Since 2003, a number of PPP workers and leaders have been killed in Lyari,” Engineer said, and recalled that Waja Karim Dad, who had been elected twice as MNA from Lyari and done a lot for the area, was gunned down in the sacred month of Ramazan; Malik Muhammad Niazi, who was the asset of the PPP, was killed while taking out a rally in support of Prime Minister Gilani; Anwar Bhai Jan and Hassan Soomro were mowed down in the similar way.

The minister alleged that hidden hands were bent upon destroying peace in the city and were distributing weapons to create a law and order situation. “We will not retreat rather fight back to safeguard democracy and the rule of law.”

Rafique Engineer further said that his house which the criminals set alight, belonged to his great grand mother. “I have all documentary evidences that date back to 1876. My father and forefather had rendered invaluable sacrifices for the democracy. So, such incidents cannot budge me,” he declared. “The Karachi Port – as it is today – contains the sweat and blood of our forefathers.”

The archives minister said with dismay that “the Lyariites are hardworking and peace-loving people, who toiled to earn their livelihood. But, a handful of criminals have held these poor people hostage.” “I want to inform the people of Lyari that the government is aware of their plight and has been striving to provide them relief.”

He said that besides Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad, Raza Haroon and other colleagues, MQM chief Altaf Hussain also contacted him by telephone from London and talked to him for 40 minutes, expressing his support. Similarly, he said, the ANP had given a statement in his favour. “All this has given a boost to my morale.”

Senior Minister for Education Pir Mazhar ul Haq, speaking under the rule 215, condemned the attack and burning of the house of Rafique Engineer. He said the PPP wanted to set its house in order and “that’s why the operation was started from its stronghold of Lyari to flush out the handful of criminals”.

He said that baseless allegations were levelled against the government. He said Lyari is the original Karachi, where peaceful and hardworking poor people were living. The PPP, during its tenure, carried out huge development works in Lyari; it constructed playgrounds, parks, established schools, colleges, university, hospitals and also provided job opportunities to residents of this old neighbourhood.

He said the government was aware of the miseries of the people who were affected because of the operation.

MQM’s Syed Sardar Ahmed, while condemning the attack on the house of Rafique Engineer, said that his party always supported the poor people of Lyari.

Meanwhile, the House took up a private resolution of PPP minority member Saleem Khursheed Khohar regarding the inclusion of minorities’ heroes in the curriculum and referred it to a standing committee on education and literacy. The House also referred the resolution of PPP’S Humera Alwani recommending strict action against those involved in forced nikkah in lieu of Chatti to house standing committee on law with direction to submit reports in two weeks or next session.

It also referred yet another private resolution of PPP member Anwar Mehar about waste material of industries of Punjab damaged cultivated land of Sindh to standing committee on irrigation.

The House, which was called in order by Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro at 11:15am, was adjourned till Friday morning.