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KARACHI: Pakistan’s top court warned yesterday that upcoming elections had to be peaceful to be fair, heavily criticising the government and security forces for failing to stop endemic violence in Karachi.
“If your family lives in fear, then how can a fair election be held peacefully, which is a constitutional requirement?” asked Khilji Arif Hussain, one of five Supreme Court judges investigating a massive bombing in Karachi.
Sunday’s attack killed 50 people in a mainly Shia area of the country’s largest city, bringing to more than 250 the number killed in four major bombings on the minority community in Pakistan since January 10.
Parliament is due to dissolve in days in preparation for elections. But the rising violence against Shias has raised questions about security.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry told the court that he had been told there were 28 Shias and 22 Sunnis among the dead.
Pakistan’s top judge criticised the authorities for failing to control violent killings in Karachi, where ethnic, political and sectarian tensions led to the deaths of at least 2,000 people last year.
“The authorities should control the militant outfits, there is a turf war here,” Chaudhry said, warning that people were being killed with impunity.
“The police force is still highly politicised. There are criminals in the police and if police recruitment is continued to be made on political grounds, it will never improve the law and order.”
Authorities on Wednesday axed the police chief in southern Sindh province following criticism from Chaudhry. He was also removed from his position after an unarmed man was shot dead in a public park in 2011, but later reinstated.
The city’s top administrative official Hashim Raza Zaidi said the government was compensating families of the victims and would take nine months to rebuild buildings destroyed in the blast.
Karachi, a city of 18 million people, contributes 42 percent of Pakistan’s GDP but is rife with murder and kidnappings, and politically linked violence.