More than 60 alleged target-killers with various political and ethnic affiliations were detained after raids conducted on Saturday night and during the day on Sunday. The men were allegedly involved in the ‘tragic deaths’ of 25 ‘innocent persons’ and are said to be responsible for injuring more than 40 people over the past two days, Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Ali Mirza said on Sunday.
Flanked by newly-appointed Information Advisor Sharmila Farooqui, Katchi Abadis Minister Rafiq Engineer, the CM’s political advisor Rashid Rabbani and the CM’s media consultant Waqar Mehdi during a press conference at the Chief Minister (CM) House, the home minister said that the men were arrested during raids conducted ‘across the board’ in three zones of Karachi – South, East and West – based on information provided by intelligence agencies.
He lamented the fact that certain section of the media had created an impression, “probably deliberately”, that an ‘operation’ was being conducted in the metropolis. He conceded, however, that some ‘rough’ areas were surrounded suddenly to create a ‘deterrent’ and avoid loss of life. Some people who have been detained were nominated as the accused in FIRs lodged after the killings, the home minister said.
He also called for exerting ‘internal pressure’ on political parties to make them work towards ending targeted killings in the metropolis.
The current spate of violence, which had caused 25 casualties till the time the press conference was called, began when two people were apparently kidnapped and killed, before their bodies were dumped in a different area, a phenomenon which Mirza referred to as ‘mysterious killings’ and which, he said, was on the rise in Karachi.
Five to six people were accused of the deaths of these two men, and law-enforcement personnel have been conducting raids for the past four days to arrest the alleged killers. “If you don’t trust us, you are being unfair to us,” the home minister said, without addressing anyone in particular.
He further said that investigators were looking into the various aspects of these murders because some apparent targeted killings from the past six to eight months were later found to be the results of some personal disputes. For instance, a man who was killed in a park recently was said to be a victim of targeted killing; it was found later, however, that he had been invited there by a woman and then murdered by her brother in order to settle some personal score, the home minister said.
Coming back to the current round of killings, Mirza said that after the murders of the two men became public, the bodies of three other people were recovered from a car. One of the victims was a driver while the second had some political affiliation.
Without naming any party, the home minister said that the political group concerned had ‘expelled’ the victim a while ago, presumably due to his activities which were considered undesirable.
Investigators also found some documents in the car, which made them suspect that the murders might have been motivated, at least in part, by some property disputes.
Pieces of paper pertaining to Bhatta (extortion) were also found. Mirza said that investigators were looking into these three murders from various dimensions. These included the victims’ current or past political affiliations and their suspected involvement in land-grabbing.
A woman who had spoken to one of the victims on the phone has been detained and is being interrogated, he said.
After these five murders, two young men who worked in Garden were kidnapped and killed. Mirza said that these murders had turned the situation in the metropolis ‘volatile’ and ‘some friends’ had begun to issue hostile statements. “While it is easy to blame foreign players such as RAW and Mossad, I should say with sadness, shame and helplessness that we are all responsible for these killings,” the home minister said. “We are all responsible for the murder of a father who had gone to purchase medicines for his ailing daughter; the murder of a person who used to earn his livelihood by selling Naan (bread); and the death of a person en route to work.”
He added that while these murders took place soon before the PS-94 by-elections, no untoward incident was reported during the polling. One party boycotted the polls, however, because they were ‘not satisfied’ with steps that the government had taken to provide security at polling stations. This, Mirza said, was despite that fact that thousands of police and Rangers personnel were deployed around polling stations on Sunday, as opposed to the usual deployment of 100 to 150 law-enforcement personnel.
The police, home department and the Sindh government have no mechanism to detain killers before they commit murders, he said, adding that even if the security of Karachi were leased out to the US, the latter would not be able to ensure peace in the metropolis in the presence of ‘determined killers’. The home minister hastened to add that this did not mean that the police were not doing their jobs. Around 53 suspects were detained for alleged involvement in targeted killings in Karachi during 2009 and 2010. Each of these men, Mirza said, was suspected of killing at least six people. He added that while he did not want to blame any organisation in particular, all 53 suspects had political affiliations.
The home minister said when the situation deteriorates in Karachi, it also adversely affects economy and the prospects of foreign investments. He called on all political stakeholders concerned to come forward and prevent the city from descending into chaos.