Indian poets escape gunmen attack in Karachi



Islamabad: Indian poets Manzar Bhopali and Iqbal Ashar were among those who had a narrow escape when unidentified gunmen attacked a 'mushaira' in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi, one of the poets said today.

"We were just outside the venue of the mushaira in Clifton area of Karachi on Sunday night when the firing started. People began running in panic and we had to take cover for some time before we were escorted to safety by the organisers and the police," said Manzar Bhopali, a well-known Urdu poet from Bhopal.

At least one person was killed in the attack that was carried out by about a dozen gunmen. Political rivalry is believed to have been behind the attack, sources said.

The mushaira was organised by a unit of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a party that draws its power from Urdu-speaking residents of Karachi.

Bhopali told PTI on phone from Karachi that he and Ashar had arrived at the venue of the mushaira at about 11.30 pm when the firing began.

They had to lie on the ground for about 10 minutes as the gunmen and police exchanged fire.

"However, the mushaira went ahead as scheduled and the audience really appreciated our poetry. People in both countries want peace and better relations," Bhopali said.

"I have been to Pakistan several times but this sort of incident never occurred earlier," he added.

Four Indian poets -- Wasim Barelvi, Rahat Indori, Bhopali and Ashar -- had recently arrived in Pakistan to participate in mushairas organised by the MQM.

Barelvi and Indori had already returned and Bhopali said he and Ashar expected to go back soon.

In recent years, the financial hub of Karachi has been rocked by sectarian and political violence that has claimed hundreds of lives.

The killing of a MQM leader and his brother this morning triggered a fresh spell of violence in Pakistan’s largest metropolis.

PTI