KARACHI has gone on an indefinite strike, with businesses, shops, schools and transporters ordered to shut down until police arrest those responsible for the city’s worst bomb attack in years.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which controls most of Pakistan’s largest city, ordered the strike three days after a powerful car bomb killed 50 people and wounded around 140 others in Shia Muslim neighbourhood Abbas Town.
Sunday’s bomb was the fourth in a series of major attacks on the minority Shia community since January 10 that have killed more than 250 people.
While there has been no claim for the Karachi bombing, the banned extremist outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi said it carried out the previous attacks.
There has been widespread outrage at the government’s apparent powerlessness in the face of rising sectarian violence, which has raised alarming questions about the security of general elections due to be held by mid-May.
“We are starting a peaceful movement right now against the terror attack on Abbas Town and the government’s failure in arresting the terrorists despite the lapse of three days,” Raza Haroon, an MQM leader, told a news conference.
“We appeal to all traders, businessmen and transporters to suspend their activities during our protest.”
The MQM last month withdrew from the main ruling coalition in a move interpreted as a way of jockeying for political advantage as parliament prepares to dissolve in mid-March.
Karachi, a city of 18 million people, contributes 42 per cent of Pakistan’s GDP, but is rife with murder and kidnappings, plagued for years by ethnic, sectarian and political violence, and campaigners warn the situation is getting worse.
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