Paramilitary force claims it killed four MQM ‘target killers’ after they opened fire on soldiers.
The Rangers paramilitary force said Friday it had killed four terror suspects during a gunfight in Karachi, but leading opposition party Muttahida Qaumi Movement said the men were executed as part of an ongoing political vendetta.
Rights groups say authorities have resorted to hundreds of extra-judicial killings during a “clean up” operation that began in 2013 in a city that has long been plagued by criminal, political, ethnic and Islamist violence.
A spokesman for the Rangers said that the incident took place after they raided a hideout in the city’s west used by the killers of Hasnain Bukhari, a lawyer who was murdered in March this year. “Upon seeing the Rangers, the terrorists opened intense fire, which was effectively responded to,” the spokesman said. “During the encounter four terrorists died whereas one solider of the Rangers was wounded,” he added.
Those killed were identified as members of a team of target killers of the MQM, the Rangers said in a statement. The statement alleged that the four men were involved in the killing of as many as 28 people, including police officials and a lawyer.
But the MQM, the main political party in the city of 20 million, also issued a statement saying the four were party activists who had “disappeared” months ago after being kidnapped by the Rangers. The MQM also announced a day of mourning on Saturday.
Aminul Haq, a senior MQM leader told AFP that the families had so far identified three of the men and had lodged missing persons cases for them at the time of their disappearance. Haq added that in the past two years 45 party workers were murdered extra judicially, while 165 were missing.
The MQM has itself been accused of using extortion and murder to cement its grip on power—charges it denies.
Political observers believe the party, which was close to the country’s military establishment during the 1999-2008 rule of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has since fallen out of favor. Tensions have been rising in recent months between MQM chief Altaf Hussain, who rules the party from London, and the military.
The rift widened in June when Hussain, in an address to his workers, accused the Rangers of torturing and killing party workers and dumping their mutilated bodies on roadsides. Recently the Lahore High Court slapped a complete ban on the broadcast or publication of Hussain’s speeches in the national media.
Haq said that the party would challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court.