A provincial lawmaker of the ruling MQM party and his bodyguard were shot dead by unidentified gunmen here today, sparking tensions in Pakistan's financial capital where religious and ethnic violence have been frequent.
Trouble erupted in parts of Karachi after Reza Haider of the ruling Muthaida Qaumi Movement and a member of the Sindh Assembly was killed alongwith his bodyguard in downtown Karachi.
The 35-year-old Haider, who is a senior leader of the MQM, was gunned down along with his bodyguard Khalid Khan as they arrived at a mosque in Nazimabad no 2 to attend the funeral prayers of a friend.
"Four persons riding a motorcycle came to the mosque and as Reza Haider was performing abolation they fired at him from close range, it was a clearly a target killing,” a senior police official said.
"There is lot of tension in the city and in some parts some mobs have set vehicles on fire and ordered shopkeeper to shut down their trade, we have increased the patrolling of police and para-military rangers in the city," a government official said.
The death of the MQM leader comes in the midst of a series of target killings in the city in which some 40 activists of different political and religious parties have been killed in the month of July itself.
Soon after the killing of the lawmaker, MQM activists took to the streets and ordered the closure of all major markets and shopping centres. Major traffic jams were witnessed on the main roads of the financial capital as people rushed back to their homes amid fears of violence and looting.
The MQM and the Awami National Party which represents the Pakhtuns have been at loggerheads for the last few months in the midst of the target killings despite being part of the coalition government in the province.
Both blame each other for the target killings while the MQM, which represents the Urdu speaking migrants from India and controls the majority provincial and national assembly seats from the city, blames the ANP for supporting the land mafia and drug dealers.
Senior MQM leader Babar Ghouri said they had been trying to tell the government for the last few months to put a stop to the target killings.
"It is difficult for us to ask our workers to be patient in such conditions although our leader has asked everyone to remain calm. But there is a conspiracy to destabilise and foment trouble in the city," Ghouri said.