260 victims of target killings in Karachi this year

Karachi: The menace of target killings continued unabated in Pakistan`s financial hub, with seven more deaths in the last 24 hours bringing the number of such victims to 260 in three months.

A report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said a total of 260 people have been shot dead or killed in target killings in Karachi since the start of this year.

Tragically, 169 of those killed are said to have had no political affiliation while 91 were identified as activists of political or religious parties.

"The assumption that target killings are being carried out because of enmities between the leading political forces in the city appears to be negated by these latest figures," a HRCP official said.

Leading newspapers have expressed fears that the target killings are mostly related to ethnic violence specially due to the strong differences between the Mutthaida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which represents the Urdu-speaking population and the Awami National Party (ANP) which speaks on behalf of the Pushtuns, many of whom have immigrated to Karachi in search of livelihood or to escape the ongoing conflict in the tribal areas.

ANP leader in Sindh province, Shahi Syed, delivered a month-long ultimatum to the ruling government yesterday to address its grievances and demands, failing which it would sever its ties with the government as its coalition partner in the province.

Syed claimed that the government has ignored development projects in areas dominated by Pashtuns and has also raised fears over the fairness of the population census being carried out in the city in preparation for the next elections in 2013.

Police officials said that the congested Gulistan-e- Jauhar area remains the main conflict area as far as target killings are concerned.

"Even on Sunday, we found bodies of around four people in different locations who were apparent victims of target killing from Gulistan-e-Jauhar," one official said.

In Gulshan-e-Iqbal, a worker of the MQM was shot dead by unknown motorcycle borne assailants when he was standing outside his home.

The provincial government last week relieved one of its senior leaders, Zulfiqar Mirza, of his duties as Home Minister after increasing complaints that he had failed to improve the law and order situation in Karachi and curb the trend of target killings.

Mirza told the media he was removed on the demand of the MQM which was behind the extortion racket in the city.