Karachi, Hyderabad shut down as MQM lawmaker burie
Karachi: Pakistan's commercial hub shut down on Friday to mark the funeral of an MQM lawmaker who was killed along with three of his bodyguards in a Taliban attack that triggered protests and raised a threat of more violence in the unrest-hit city.
Businesses, markets, shops, petrol pumps, and educational institutions remained shut and traffic was thin on the roads as a complete shutdown was observed in the twin cities of Karachi and Hyderabad.
There were no reports of violence, however, and the city remained largely calm even as emotional scenes were witnessed at the burial of the slain leader.
Manzar Imam, a member of the Sindh Assembly, was killed yesterday after gunmen attacked him in a restive area of the city. His bodyguard and two other policemen assigned to protect him also died in the attack.
Imam was buried after the Friday prayers as top leaders of the MQM and other parties including the PPP, PML-N and Awami National Party attended the funeral.
Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral prayers at Jinnah ground close to the MQM headquarters today amidst tight security to prevent any violence or unrest.
With the killing flaying sentiments, Karachites had braced themselves for a day of unrest and violence. However, they heaved a sigh of relief today after the funeral ended peacefully.
Soon after the attack yesterday, firing and violence was reported from some parts of the city where protesters also set buses and cars on fire and four people were reportedly killed.
The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban accepted responsibility for the attack with their spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan warning of more attacks on MQM leaders.
"This is the first of our gifts to the people of Karachi to free them from the clutches of the MQM. We are against this party as it believes in secularism," Ehsan told television channels in a message.
The city bore a deserted look as people preferred to stay indoors. Public transport was largely absent and attendance in offices remained very thin.
"Given the history of violence our city has seen, people now prefer to take precautionary measures and stay indoors on such days," social worker, Sairam Burney said.
Karachi has witnessed some of the worst ethnic, sectarian and political violence in the last two years and unofficial reports say around 2,000 people were killed last year in target killings and related violence.
The MQM called for a three-day mourning period and their call has been supported by Awami national Party, which represents the big Pushtun speaking population in the city.
Imam is the second MQM lawmaker assassinated in the city in two years after Raza Haider was gunned down in August, 2010.