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KARACHI: Karachi went on an indefinite strike, with businesses, shops, schools and transporters asked to shut down until police arrest those responsible for the city’s worst bomb attack in years even as top police officials were sacked yesterday.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) called the strike three days after a car bomb killed 50 people and wounded 140 in a Shia neighbourhood in the Abbas Town. MQM controls almost all the city, apart from the working class neighbourhood of Lyari, a bastion of support for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party at the federal level, and areas home to new migrants, ethnic Pashtuns from the northwest.
Sunday’s bomb was the fourth major attack on the minority Shia community since January 10 that have killed more than 250. While there has been no claim for the bombing, the banned extremist Sunni outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi said it carried out the previous attacks. “We are starting a peaceful movement against the terror attack on Abbas Town and the government’s failure in arresting terrorists despite the lapse of three days,” Raza Haroon, an MQM leader, told a news conference.
The MQM last month withdrew from the main ruling coalition in a move interpreted as a way of jockeying for political advantage as parliament prepares to dissolve in mid-March.
Haroon said the strike would cause “difficulties” but appealed on people not to resort to violence.
“We appeal to the people not to harm government or private property during the peaceful protest, which will continue until the killers of innocent people are arrested,” Haroon said.
Shootings were reported in parts of Karachi, and other southern cities Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Nawabshah.
Provincial paramilitary chief Rizwan Akhtar said his forces arrested 59 suspects.
Anwer Mansoor Khan, lawyer for Sindh provincial government, told a Supreme Court hearing yesterday that police chief Fayyaz Leghari, his deputy and several other officers were sacked an inquiry would decide if they were guilty of negligence.
Leghari was sacked in June 2011, but was later reinstated, after forces shot dead an unarmed man in a public park.
Lawyer for police, Shah Khawer, told the court that at least 50 people were killed and 139 wounded in Sunday’s blast, which tore through two apartment blocks as worshippers left nearby mosques, trapping people beneath piles of rubble.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said: “Those who died in the blast and others who are continuously being targeted in other terrorist acts are not foreigners. They are our own blood, they pay taxes for our salaries.”
He slammed the government and security agencies for negligence, demanding to know why heads had not rolled after the attack.
“We’ll not allow anyone to enjoy public office at the cost of public taxes and do nothing to safeguard their lives and properties,” Chaudhry said.
He ordered the Rangers’ chief to use his 11,000 troops to safeguard the city’s entry points and not allow “a single bullet to enter”.
He also asked Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau to submit reports on tomorrow.
Rangers’ chief Rizwan Akhtar said his troops conducted overnight operations and arrested 59 suspects in the blast.
Karachi, a city of 18 million people, contributes 42 percent of Pakistan’s GDP but is rife with murder and kidnappings, plagued for years by ethnic, sectarian and political violence. Agencies