Fears of violence sparks panic in Karachi

Markets, shopping centres and petrol pumps were closed coinciding with a clean up operation by law enforcement agencies.

Karachi: Fears of violence sparked panic in
Pakistan`s financial capital on Monday amid rumours of firing on a
rally of the Mutthaida Qaumi Movement, a popular political
party in southern Sindh province.

Markets, shopping centres and petrol pumps were shutdown
coinciding with a clean up operation being carried out by law
enforcement agencies in different parts of Karachi, which has
experienced sectarian and ethnic violence, leading to the
deaths of hundreds of people over the last few months.

Rumours spread fast that unidentified assailants had
fired upon a rally of the MQM at the Karachi Press Club,
leading to panic.

"The rumors have got credence because of the statements
made once again by Zulfiqar Mirza (former home and senior
minister of the Sindh) inciting people and spreading ethnic
differences through his latest outburst against the MQM," a
MQM office bearer said.

The situation worsened amid reports that police and
paramilitary rangers had started operations in the city,
particularly at offices of the MQM, which is the single
largest party in the financial hub.

The MQM last week rejoined the Sindh government after its
ministers resigned from the federal and provincial cabinets in
August over differences with the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party
(PPP) and over the inflammatory statements of Mirza.

"The markets, petrol pumps and shopping centres have
closed down mainly because of the raids carried out on the MQM
sector offices," a police official said.

Pakistan Peoples Party leader Mirza returned from abroad
on Sunday and resumed his tirade against the MQM.

Nisar Khuhro, the Speaker of the Sindh Assembly, said
today that the resignation of Mirza has been accepted and a
notification will soon be issued in this regard.

"I have accepted the resignation,? Khuhro told the media.
Mirza had announced his resignation as senior minister
and Assembly in August, accusing the MQM of spreading ethnic
hatred and violence in the city.

Khuhro said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (EC)
will now do its part. Once a member of the assembly resigns,
it is the election commission?s job to hold by-elections for
the vacant constituency.

On September 7, Governor of Sindh Ishratul Ebad accepted
Mirza`s resignation as minister for works and services.

Amid the sectarian and ethnic violence over the last
three months, Pakistan`s human rights commission on Saturday
blamed political parties for the bloodshed in Karachi.

The rights watchdog appealed to the political parties to
disband private militias and disarm criminal gangs to end
bloodshed in the country`s commercial capital.


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