PAKISTAN has ordered 1000 extra troops to deploy in Karachi with instructions to shoot-to-kill in attempt to stem the growing bloodshed from months of political violence.
Another 65 people have been killed since Tuesday in the country’s biggest city, which has witnessed the deadliest six months of political violence since 1995.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says 490 people have been killed in targeted killings in the first six months of the year.
Gunfire reverberated in several neighbourhoods and thousands of people were stranded, short of food and too frightened to go out after three consecutive nights of violence.
The US ambassador to Pakistan voiced concern about escalating instability in the city, whose Arabian Sea port is used by the United States to ship supplies to the 150,000 foreign troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The killings have been blamed on loyalists of former coalition partners, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP), which represent different ethnic communities and straddle volatile political fault-lines.
Although the stock market was still open, trading was sluggish as most of the city shut down, with shops closed and bus drivers on strike. The dominant local party, MQM, has called for a day of mourning.
“At least 65 people have been killed in the violence since Tuesday. The number of injured is around 100,” Sharjeel Memon, the information minister in the southern province of Sindh where Karachi is the capital, said.
A security official confirmed the toll.
In the worst incident last night, gunmen opened fire on two buses, killing 12 people, including a six-year-old girl, a security official said.
Anwer Kazmi, who works for Pakistan’s largest charity, the Edhi Foundation, said it was difficult to deliver food and water because of incessant gunfire.
“Seven of our ambulances have been fired on so far and one of our volunteers has been shot and injured,” Kazmi said.
Local residents in troubled neighbourhoods spoke of their fear, saying they were running out of supplies and could do little but cower at home.
Memon said the government had ordered security forces to “shoot on sight” any armed men involved in the attacks.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the government would deploy an extra 1000 troops on the streets.
“We are bringing 1000 more paramilitary troops to control the situation in Karachi,” Malik told reporters, after Pakistan’s leading human rights commission criticised government inaction over the violence.
Malik called for “targeted action” against the killers, but said there would be no large-scale operation in the city of 16 million.
“We know which forces are behind these killings. We have satellite records of the areas where terrorists are killing innocent people,” said Malik, comparing those responsible to Taliban insurgents in the northwest.
“These militants are no lesser evil than the Taliban. They are killing people to destabilise the democratic system”.