Karachi violence: Over 300 detained for questioning

Karachi, Jan 18 (PTI) In a house-to-house searchoperation here, Pakistani paramilitary troops today detainedover 300 people for questioning in the wake of a surge inethnic and political violence in the city that claimed nearly30 lives.

The paramilitary Pakistan Rangers launched the searchoperation in the restive Orangi Town area this morning anddetained over 300 people for questioning, local media said.

However, local residents claimed that about 600 peoplehad been detained.

Contingents of paramilitary personnel kept guard duringthe search operation and people were asked to stay indoors.

All markets, hotels and patrol stations in the area wereclosed. Local residents said children could not go schools asthe entire area was sealed.

Troops cordoned off the area and vehicles were bannedfrom entering Orangi Town during the operation. Motorcycleriders faced identity checks.

Officials said more search operations were expected to beconducted in other sensitive areas of Karachi.

Residents had mixed reactions to today''s operation. Somewelcomed the move and others said the operation was causingproblems for the general public.

Following the recent spate of killings in Karachi, thePakistan Rangers have been given the same powers as police toconduct search operations, set up check points and detain andinvestigate suspects.

Earlier, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said that apartial curfew would be imposed in parts of the city tofacilitate operations by security forces.

According to a strategy framed at a meeting chaired byMalik, aerial surveillance will be intensified and helicopterswill be used to air drop police commandos during snapoperations.

Authorities have already banned pillion riding ontwo-wheelers as several recent killings were carried out bymotorcycle-borne gunmen.

People have been asked to carry their identity cards atall times to avoid inconvenience during operations by securityforces.

The latest spell of violence since Thursday has leftnearly 30 dead, including a reporter of the Geo News channeland a former deputy mayor.

Much of the violence has been blamed on rivalry betweengroups representing Urdu-speaking people and a growing numberof Pashtuns. The Urdu-speakers traditionally back MuttahidaQaumi Movement while Pashtuns support Awami National Party.

Both political parties are members of the PPP-ledcoalitions at the Centre and in Sindh.

Interior Minister Malik has claimed that a "third force"is trying to engineer a split among the PPP, MQM and ANP. Hedid not identify these elements.

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