New York, April 21, 2011–An outburst of violence took the lives of at least 20 people in a bomb blast and targeted attacks in Karachi on Wednesday and Thursday. The huge port city of more than 13 million people is caught in a gangland-style turf war made worse by sectarian and political conflict, according to media reports.
In the most recent violence, at least 15 people were killed and 40 others were wounded in a blast at a gambling club in Karachi on Thursday, local and international media reported. The cause of the blast was unclear, but gangland-style turf wars are a major reason for the unrest in the city.
On Wednesday, Naveed Kamal, a news reporter with the local news channel Metro One TV, was in serious condition after being shot by two men on a motorcycle. Pakistani news media said Kamal, 26, was in the intensive care unit at Aga Khan Hospital but was likely to survive.
Two other journalists were killed in Karachi this year in similar attacks. The first attack, in January, was clearly related to the journalist’s work. The motive for an attack on a crime reporter in April was still not clear.
“While this current surge of violence in Karachi is daunting, the targeting of journalists in this sprawling city is clearly on the rise,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “Investigators must act decisively and bring the culprits to justice if this disturbing wave is to be reversed.
“Unfortunately, given Karachi’s chaos and Pakistan’s history of impunity for the killers of journalists, that does not seem likely,” Dietz said.
Kamal was shot in the evening near the city’s popular zoo and garden spot Safari Park as he was returning home from work, according to media reports. A similar attack took the life of Geo TV reporter Wali Khan Babar on January 13. Pakistani news media have reported that arrests have been made in the case, though no charges have been brought yet. And on April 2, crime reporter Zaman Ibrahim was killed when two motorcyclists following him shot him in the head, according to Pakistani media reports.
The motive behind Ibrahim’s killing is not clear. Police told reporters investigating the shooting that they believed he had been killed over an internal political party dispute but have made no more statements on the case.
Soon after Wednesday’s attack on Kamal, journalists rallied in the city. The Karachi Union of Journalists called the shooting “an attack on the journalist community.” Sindh Province Information Minister Sharjeel Memon apologized to the group for the shooting, and said he felt that the wave of attacks on journalists was aimed at quieting them, according to Pakistani media reports.
For journalists, Pakistan was the deadliest country in the world in 2010, according to CPJ data. The country also ranked 10th on CPJ’s global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are regularly slain and authorities fail to solve the crimes.