Killing Spree in Karachi Continues; 99 Dead in Five Days
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Militants patrolled the streets of Pakistan’s largest city today, killing 20 people and shooting at the owners of the few stores that tried to open. They threatened more violence unless their supporters were released from jail.
Ambulance drivers collected several bullet-ridden bodies today that had been abandoned in the streets. On Sunday, 33 people were killed in fierce fighting.
Streets, usually packed with overcrowded buses, diesel-belching rickshaws and hundreds of thousands of cars, were deserted.
``I haven’t left my home in three days. I feel trapped,″ said Nasir Shafaat, speaking by telephone from one of the worst-hit areas in central Karachi.
``People are running out of food,″ he said. ``Everything is closed. It is horrible. People are roaming the streets with their weapons, firing at anyone who tries to open their shop.″
Ninety-nine people have been killed since Thursday night, when militants avenging the alleged rape of a 16-year-old supporter began their rampage.
The militants, from the Mohajir Qaumi Movement led by Altaf Hussein, have threatened unspecified action unless arrests are made in the rape and in the killing of MQM activists. Their deadline passed late today.
Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission, in a 20-page report today on the violence, called the situation in Karachi ``grim.″ Saying ``excesses″ by police and intelligence agencies aggravated the violence, it called for an overhaul of the police force and greater representation of Karachi’s ethnic groups.
The MQM represents Indian Muslims who settled in Pakistan after 1947 and is the most powerful political force in Karachi, a city of 12 million people.
The violence has also closed the financial center of Pakistan. The Karachi Stock Exchange remained closed today; it has not opened since the rampage began
The few financial institutions that opened for business today closed quickly after receiving threatening telephone calls, police said.
Marauders have attacked police stations, military patrols and rival rebels with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, automatic rifles and firebombs. They also set government office buildings and dozens of vehicles afire.
Outside the provincial legislature, paramilitary Rangers set up sandbag bunkers to protect against possible assaults on Parliament.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says India, Pakistan’s archenemy, is fomenting violence in Karachi and is financing and training Hussein’s militants.
The MQM accuses Ms. Bhutto’s government of discrimination, saying its members are denied access to jobs and education. Tensions were aggravated last year when Ms. Bhutto canceled promised local elections that the MQM was expected to win.
Ethnic violence has killed 800 people in Karachi this year, more than 300 in the past five weeks.