Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader and MPA Syed Manzar Imam was shot dead by suspected Taliban gunmen in Karachi’s Orangi Town locality on Thursday, along with two police guards and a driver.
Minutes after Imam left his home in the congested Orangi neighbourhood; five men on three motorcycles intercepted his Toyota Corolla car near Nishan-e-Haider Chowk and sprayed it with bullets, according to the police.
“It was a well coordinated attack,” said DIG West Javed Odho. “We have found over 40 casings of bullets fired from 9mm pistols and submachine guns.”
Imam, 43, was hit by eight bullets in the head, face and chest, causing his immediate death. The police initially said that the attackers had used AK-47s.
According to media reports, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed responsibility for the attack.
“I can’t say with certainty which banned extremist outfit is behind it. But the MPA had a confrontation with some religious elements in the area,” said Odho, who refused to explain what he meant by ‘confrontation.’
“You must realize that Orangi Town is a difficult area. There were threats to his life. And a possible connection with the murder of another MQM MPA cannot be ruled out,” he added.
Odho also said that the two guards with him were policemen, who had been provided for security after they received information that his life was under threat.
The police have determined that Imam was a victim of extremist violence, but contrary to what his name suggests, he was not a member of the Shia community and belonged to the Ahle-Sunnat sect. The incident shocked the MQM, which has already lost MPA Raza Haider (whose constituency was also Orangi Town) in a similar attack in 2010 and several workers at a recent bomb blast near its rally.
Hundreds of MQM activists, including core party leaders, poured into Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where the bodies of the MPA and other victims were taken for medico-legal formalities.
The news of his death spread like wildfire throughout the city. Shopping centres, markets and petrol pumps were shut within an hour as people scrambled to reach home, creating traffic gridlocks.
MQM leader Wasay Jalil said that Imam did not belong to the Shia community but the involvement of sectarian outfits have not spared anyone.
“For the last five years, we have been telling law enforcement agencies to keep a lookout for extremists. They have killed two of our MPAs and attacked our rally. It looks like there is no law in the city,” he added.
Jalil said that the MQM will not be deterred by the attacks and continue to press for reforms, which will help counter religious intolerance. The party has announced three days of mourning.
Imam rose through the ranks of his party from the bottom rung of the ladder – he started off as an activist in 1986 and was then nominated for a provincial assembly seat in 2008.
President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned assassination and directed the concerned authorities to bring the culprits to justice. He expressed his sympathies with the bereaved families.
Meanwhile, Sindh Dr Governor Ishratul Ebad Khan also called on the president at Bilawal House, where he discussed the ‘current situation’, according to a spokesperson.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2013.