Karachi: With violence continuing unabated in Karachi, pressure is mounting on the ruling PPP to call in the military's assistance for restoring law and order in the troubled city, that is Pakistan's biggest financial hub.
As deployment of police and paramilitary forces has failed to quell the bloodshed, demands are being raised for the Army to be called in, with PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif and top business leaders from the city joining the chorus.
As many as 87 people have been killed over the last four days, with seven more casualties including two children, reported since last evening in the wave of ethnic violence.
The pressure only increased on President Asif Zardari and the government after the chief of the Army staff, General Ashfaq Pervaz Kayani offered military assistance in restoring peace in the city.
General Kayani told the media after a gathering in Rawalpindi last night that the military could help control the situation in Karachi, if the government so willed.
Kayani said, it was the duty of the Army to serve the nation but felt that the situation could be controlled by utilising police and para-military rangers effectively.
He said, Karachi was the economic hub of Pakistan and the situation there should not be allowed to deteriorate.
But, it was the government's call to seek assistance of the military, he added.
As many as 87 people have been killed over the last four days. More disturbing has been the emerging trend of armed gangs reportedly kidnapping people from public transport vehicles on ethnic basis after checking their ID cards, and incidents of buses being fired upon or set on fire.
Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, also demanded that the Army be called in to control the situation in Karachi.
Shahbaz told, a press conference in Karachi that killing of innocent citizens was a failure of the government, and the administration needs to use every option, including calling in the Army, to restore peace in the city.
Interior minister, Rehman Malik and the Sindh home minister, Manzoor Wassan were also told point blank during a meeting with business community leaders and traders in the city yesterday that military assistance should be sought to control the situation in the city.
A former President of powerful trade and industry association, Site, said at the meeting that if the government could not provide security to the business community than it would be forced to raise its own forces to fight the criminal and terrorist elements behind the violence in Karachi.
Malik yesterday ruled out the possibility of seeking military help, insisting that the Army was busy fighting the war on terror. He, however, promised that the strength of the police force would be increased soon.
The PPP, aware of the tight rope it is walking because of the rampant law and order situation in Karachi, has used every method to convince the city's biggest representative party, the Mutthaida Qaumi Movement to rejoin the government.
The MQM, which has the largest number of seats in the national and provincial assemblies from Karachi, parted ways with the government few months back accusing some of the PPP leaders of patronising criminal gangs in Karachi.
The MQM, is however, expected to rejoin the government over the next 24 hours, following increased pressure.
The MQM has many times pointed fingers at former home minister, Zulfiqar Mirza, for patronising and supporting criminal gangs in the gang war infested Lyari area and using them for extortion rackets and ethnic cleansing against Urdu speaking 'Mohajirs'.
Karachi, which has been a melting pot for people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, millions of immigrants from other parts of Pakistan and even foreign refugees, has been torn apart by ethnic violence this year.
The MQM, the Awami National Party which represents the Pashtun-speaking populace, and the PPP have blamed each other for the violence.
MQM legislator, Raza Haroon said they had creditable and confirmed reports that Urdu speaking people were being targetted by criminals gangs in Lyari and Pashtuns who have came to the city fleeing the military operation in Swat and floods in the northern regions of the country.
First Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011, 14:31