KARACHI: At least 12 people, including three women, were killed and 35 others, including two policemen, sustained injuries when gunmen opened fire at a rally against the demand for a separate Mohajir province on Tuesday. Violence gripped various city areas after the incident in which 40 vehicles and six shops were torched in the troubled old town areas.
The Awami Tehrik and the City Alliance, an alliance of various political groups including the PML-N, People’s Aman Committee and others, had announced a rally from Lyari to the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday against the demand for the division of Karachi. The rally began from Cheel Chowk, Lyari, and when it reached near Jodia Bazar unidentified armed men suddenly opened fire on it. The incident soon escalated into a gun-battle between rival groups.
Panic engulfed the busiest commercial area in the city, as people ran from their shops and abandoned their vehicles to save their lives. However, 35 people, including women and children, sustained injuries in the crossfire.
Firing incidents were reported from Nava Lane, Denso Hall, Dhobi Ghat, Ranchore Line, Lea Market and Juna Market. Violence soon spread to various other localities in no time. It appeared as if the attack was part of a well-planned scheme to disrupt the law and order situation in the city, police said.
The armed miscreants also attacked shops and torched vehicles which were parked in Jodia Bazaar, Napier Road, Denso Hall and other violence-hit areas. The police had placed containers and barricades near Shaheen Complex and Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road to stop the rally from entering the red zone area.
People were stranded in their offices till the evening in many areas and huge traffic jams were witnessed in the old parts of the city and beyond. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) South Range Shaukat Ali Shah said that when the rally reached near Jodia Bazar unidentified armed men resorted to aerial firing and violence soon spread to various localities of the old city.
He, however, said that a search operation was under way in the areas from where the rally was attacked and the situation had been brought under control. According to the police, at least 40 vehicles including a bus, 13 cars and 26 motorcycles besides six shops were burnt during the violence.
Contingents of the police and Rangers finally entered the disturbed areas to quell the violence and shift the injured to hospitals. Rescue teams were called and the injured were rushed to the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) and Lyari General Hospital (LGH).
According to hospital sources, they received some 30 to 35 injured, of whom 12 succumbed to their bullet wounds.
The dead were identified as Iqbal, 50, Mohammed Yousuf, 43, Aijaz, 20, Manzoor, 30, Amna, 15, daughter of Abdul Rehman, Ghazala Batool wife of Badar Hussain, Sharifaan wife of Sher Zaman, Babar, Ghulam Yasin, Ramazan, Hasib and Abdul Ghani.
The injured included: Hawa, Noman, Noor Mohammad, Mohammad Sadiq, Bahadur Khan, Azeem, Rehmatullah, Mohammad Hussain, Khalid, Zulfiqar, Jamal and Amjad.Police sources said that most of the deceased were labourers who were working in the old city areas like Jodia Bazaar and Pan Mandi. The teenaged girl Amna lived in Kharadar and had gone to the troubled spot for shopping when she got caught in thr crossfire and died.
Ghazala Batool, an employee of the Pakistan International Airlines, was also residing in the same area and was heading for her home when she was hit and died of bullet wounds. Iqbal (50) was a security guard deputed at the CHK and he was heading for his home after ending his duty when he was caught in the crossfire and died.
Talking to The News, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nasir Aftab of District South confirmed the death of 12 people in the violence and added that the police had taken positions in the old city areas, where the incidents of violence had occurred.
On a query, SSP Aftab said that no permission was taken by the parties for bringing out the rally.
Later, the Rangers and police teams launched a search operation in the Lea Market and Napier Road areas from where the firing incidents were reported.
The Rangers raided the office of a certain political party in Ranchore Lane from where they had arrested four activists and also recovered arms from their possession.
The Awami Tehreek has called for a province-wide strike on Wednesday in protest against the killings.
Meanwhile, the situation in the old city areas was tense till the filing of this report.