Pak SC: Sever links with criminal gangs

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Supreme Court today called on political parties to sever their links with criminal gangs responsible for "unimaginable brutalities" in the financial hub of Karachi and directed authorities to take "strong and decisive action" in any areas controlled by armed groups.

The apex court, which had taken suo motu notice of a wave of political and ethnic violence that killed over 1,300 people in Pakistan?s largest city this year, concluded that criminal gangs were receiving financial support from political parties.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry warned the government that it must take strong action to stop the violence in Karachi.

The court`s verdict listed several recommendations, including the setting up of a committee to ensure law enforcement agencies take indiscriminate action against criminal gangs linked to ethnically based political parties to eliminate their stronghold and remove illegal weapons.

"Recent violence in Karachi represents unimaginable brutalities, bloodshed, kidnapping and throwing away dead bodies and torsos in bags," said Chaudhry, who held several hearings in Karachi to learn more about the situation in the port city.

"Criminals have succeeded in making their ways in political parties and are getting political and financial support allegedly from such parties," he said.

The political parties should "denounce their affiliation with militants in the interest of the country", he said.

"Karachi is full of arms and ammunition of prohibited and non-prohibited bores including licensed and illicit, therefore, Karachi has to be cleansed from all kinds of weapons," he said.

The apex court said police and security forces must eliminate "no go areas" while the government should set up a commission to pay compensation to those affected by the violence as soon as possible.

"If any (no go) area is found or credibly reported to the court, the police and, if required by the (Sindh) government, the (paramilitary Pakistan) Rangers shall take strong and decisive action to eliminate it," Chaudhry said.

"We apprehend that any further failure to protect the lives and property of the citizens is likely to cause unprecedented disaster," said the apex courts ruling.

Most of the killings in Karachi have been attributed to gangs linked to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which is backed by Mohajirs or descendents of Urdu-speaking people who migrated from India, and the Awami National Party, which draws its support from Pashtun migrants.

The ruling Pakistan People`s Party has rebuffed calls from political parties and the business community for calling in the army to end the violence, saying civilian law enforcement agencies are capable of controlling the situation.

Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani recently toured the city of 18 million and directed officials to beef up security measures.

He also met with leaders of the business community.

In the 1990s, the army was called in to stop ethnic and political bloodshed.