Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told political parties to help police and paramilitary forces stop daily gang and sectarian killings in Karachi, the country’s financial capital.
Gilani made his appeal at the weekend after President Asif Ali Zardari telephoned the leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the main party in the city, to stress the need to work together to fight lawlessness, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
The government is “deeply concerned about the law and order situation in Karachi” and is taking “stringent measures” to restore control, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Aug. 20, APP reported.
More than 1,500 people have been killed in Karachi since January, according to Geo television. The city of 18 million people, whose banks and businesses contribute more than 70 percent of the country’s tax revenue, has for years witnessed surges in violence involving members of rival political parties, ethnic communities or criminal groups.
“We are collecting information against the elements involved in sabotaging peace in Karachi and action will be taken without any discrimination,” APP cited Malik as saying in a television interview yesterday. Government officials have held meetings with law enforcement agencies to improve security, he said.
Zardari on Aug. 19 held an emergency meeting in the capital, Islamabad, with top officials from Sindh province, including the Sindh’s Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Home Minister Manzoor Wassan and other senior administration officials, APP said. The president said the authorities will target all criminals responsible for the surge in killings.
Karachi is a volatile mix of ethnic groups, including Urdu-speakers who originally emigrated from India after partition in 1947 and who largely support the MQM, and ethnic Pashtuns from Pakistan’s northwest, represented by the Awami National Party.
In 2008 elections, the MQM won 17 of Karachi’s 20 seats in the National Assembly, Pakistan’s parliament. Chief Minister Shah is a member of Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party.
Zardari made his telephone call on Aug. 19 to MQM leader Altaf Hussain in London, APP said.
The Edhi Foundation, the country’s biggest rescue service, has had more than 85 bodies brought to the organization’s mortuary, the largest in Karachi, since Aug. 17, spokesman Anwar Kazmi said by phone last week. Four police officers were killed and 25 injured when their bus was ambushed by gunmen in the Korangi area of the city, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported yesterday, citing police.
Pakistan’s benchmark stock index fell 2.2 percent to 10,879.82, the lowest in more than nine months on Aug. 19. The rupee fell to a record low, closing down 0.2 percent at 86.8500 per dollar.
“There is fear among investors because of the continuing killings,” said Umer Bin Ayaz, an equities trader at JS Global Capital Ltd. in Karachi. “There is no support either because all regional markets are also down.”
As well as being home to stock markets and the central bank, the Arabian Sea port serves as the headquarters in Pakistan for companies such as Citigroup Inc. and Unilever Plc.
Pakistan’s leading trade organization has called for the army to be deployed to curb the violence.
“There is no other way left, it is quite clear the situation is not under control,” Khalid Tawab, vice president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said by telephone last week. “If this persists, businesses and factories in Karachi will have to be shut down.”