500 detained in Karachi to check political violence

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Karachi, Jan 18 (PTI) Pakistani paramilitary troopstoday detained over 500 people for questioning in the wake ofa surge in ethnic and political violence in the city thatclaimed nearly 30 lives as it carried out house-to-housesearch in densely populated areas of the city.

Karachi which is home to millions of immigrants fromother parts of Pakistan and refugees and illegal aliens fromAfghanistan and Bangladesh witnessed a fresh bout of targetkillings last week in which some 31 persons were killed.

As violence continued in the city, four people werereported killed and three others were injured in firingincidents in different parts of the city in the past 24 hours.

Officials said that the rangers had entered the Faqircolony in Orangi town early morning and conducted a door todoor search operation which continued for five hours.

The suspects were detained and shifted to an unknownplace for interrogation. Roads leading to and from Orangi Townwere also shut down with the area police which is oftenaccused of sheltering criminal elements also being kept in thedark about the operation.

Some of the affected families told differenttelevision channels that the rangers had entered homes withoutfemale officers leading to disrespect of women and children.

Due to the recent wave of violence the provincial homedepartment has given Rangers police powers to conduct searchoperations, set up check points and detain and investigatesuspects in the city.

Authorities have also increased police and Rangerpresence in violence-prone areas after imposing a week longban on pillion riding.

The law enforcement agencies rounded up some 225people and presented them in judicial courts today for havingviolated the ban on pillion riding on Monday.

People have been asked to carry their identity cardsat all times to avoid inconvenience during operations bysecurity forces.

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 rivalrybetween groups representing Urdu-speaking people and a growingnumber of Pashtuns. The Urdu-speakers traditionally backMuttahida Qaumi Movement while Pashtuns support Awami NationalParty.

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

Interior Minister Malik has claimed that a "thirdforce" is trying to engineer a split among the PPP, MQM andANP. He did not identify these elements.

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