Protestors' strike hits normal life in Pakistan
A strike has been called by a religious party to protest a suicide bombing this week that killed its top leaders and some 50 others.india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 13:19 IST
Commercial life came to a halt in this Pakistani city on Friday in a strike called by a religious party to protest a suicide bombing this week that killed its top leaders and some 50 others.
Army troops took up positions in Karachi, where a suicide bomber on Tuesday blew himself up on the dais at a public rally commemorating the anniversary of the birth of Prophet Mohammed.
The bombing killed the entire leadership of Sunni Tehreek, a moderate Muslim group, sparking rioting in the volatile port city during which protestors burned shops, vehicles and public property.
The attack brought the government of President Pervez Musharraf under pressure over what Islamic parties called its failure to ensure security.
In addition to troops, police spread out in the port city of 15 million people, which has a history of political, sectarian and ethnic violence and is the country's revenue engine.
The government warned that security forces would deal sternly with any attempt at arson or looting during the strike, which brought the shutters down in Karachi and several other cities.
Public transport was off the roads in Karachi and traffic was reduced.
Some 50,000 people flocked to the burials on Thursday of the four slain leaders amid tight security.
The situation was tense but calm in Karachi where educational institutions were closed for three days following the bomb massacre.
Authorities have also shut all gas stations in Karachi apparently for fear of a repetition of a burning of a petrol pump after Tuesday's bombing by angry supporters of the party.
"We have reports that there is a total shut down throughout Pakistan," the spokesman of Sunni Tehreek, Shahzad Munir, said.
He said a coordination committee of the party would meet after Friday prayers to decide action after the expiry of a deadline set by Tehreek for the authorities to arrest those behind the bombing.
Authorities said the strike had been peaceful so far.
"Army, paramilitary rangers and police have been deployed and there is no report of any violence," a local government spokesman said.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz briefed President Musharraf late on Thursday after a visit to Karachi where he held talks with religious leaders to urge calm and restraint.
Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said investigators were trying to identify a head found at the bombing site, believed to be that of the suicide bomber.
"We have also found pallets from the park, which the suicide bomber had strapped on to his body along with explosive material to cause maximum damage," Sherpao told federal Parliament on Thursday.
The government has announced a 10-million rupees reward for information leading to arrest of those who planned the attack.