Islamabad: Close on the heels of the powerful military expressing concern at the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi, President Asif Ali Zardari has directed authorities to restore peace in Pakistan`s largest city and to take action against militants and sectarian elements.
Chairing a meeting to review the law and order situation in Karachi and Sindh province, Zardari reiterated that elections will be held on time after the government completes its tenure on March 16.
"Militants and extremists and the sectarian elements supporting them will not be allowed to subvert the electoral process by creating a law and order situation," he said.
Zardari asked the Sindh government and security agencies to take "stern action" to ensure the safety of lives and property of citizens.
He called on political forces and stakeholders to work with law enforcing agencies in Karachi and play an "active role to restore peace and stability to the metropolis".
Criminals should be brought to book regardless of any political affiliations, Zardari told the meeting that he chaired in Karachi yesterday.
During a meeting with Zardari in Islamabad on Thursday, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani conveyed the security establishment`s concerns about rapidly deteriorating law and order across the country and called for urgent steps to deal with the situation.
On Wednesday, Kayani had visited Karachi to assess the situation in the city where sectarian attacks on the minority Shia sect have added a new dimension to continuing violence that has claimed scores of lives since last year.
A series of devastating terror attacks against Shias in Quetta and Karachi have killed nearly 250 people since the beginning of the year.
The banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed the attacks in Quetta.
Rights groups and Shia organisations have called for action against the LeJ in Karachi.
During yesterday`s meeting in Karachi, Zardari said protecting the lives and property of citizens was the "prime responsibility and the priority of the government".
He condemned the recent attack in the Shia-dominated Abbas Town neighbourhood that killed 48 people, describing it as a "barbaric incident of carnage".
Zardari said all political forces had to augment the government`s efforts to restore law and order and protect lives and property in Karachi.
The people "could never be left at the mercy of a handful of vicious elements" and criminals "would be traced and brought to justice," he said.
The federal government, which is led by Zardari`s Pakistan People`s Party, has come in for significant criticism for its failure to protect the minority Shia sect and to act against banned Sunni sectarian groups like the LeJ and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan.
PPP leaders have sought to blame the PML-N government in Punjab for failing to control the LeJ, saying the group has its bases in that province.
PPP leaders like Interior Minister Rehman Malik have alleged that the PML-N has reached an understanding with the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, considered a front for the LeJ and SSP, for the upcoming polls.