Pakistani politician shot dead, rival party blamed

‘ACT OF TERROR’::Opposition leader Imran Khan said he held the head of a rival party and the UK responsible for Zohra Hussain’s assassination ahead of re-polling in Karachi

AFP, KARACHI, Pakistan

Mon, May 20, 2013 - Page 6

Pakistani politician Imran Khan yesterday blamed a rival political leader for the killing of a senior member of his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party, who was gunned down outside her home in the violence-plagued city of Karachi.

The killing of Zohra Hussain, 59, vice president of the women’s wing of the PTI, in Sindh Province, came on the eve of a partial re-run of the May 11 election in the city.

Security was tight for yesterday’s re-polling in one constituency following allegations of ballot-stuffing, with troops, police and paramilitary rangers backed up by armored personnel carriers.

Hussain was targeted by three gunmen on a motorcycle outside her home in an upmarket part of Karachi late on Saturday, the latest killing following an bloody election campaign marked by more than 150 violent deaths.

Former cricket star Khan was quick to pin the blame on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Party, which represents the Urdu-speaking majority, and specifically MQM leader Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in London.

“I hold Altaf Hussain directly responsible for the murder as he had openly threatened PTI workers and leaders through public broadcasts,” Khan said on his Twitter feed, describing the killing as “a targeted act of terror.”

“I also hold the British Govt [government] responsible as I had warned them abt [about] Br [British] citizen Altaf Hussain after his open threats to kill PTI workers,” Khan said.

Altaf Hussain condemned the attack in a statement and demanded a “judicial inquiry to get to the culprits.”

Firdous Shamim, a local PTI leader, told reporters that Zohra Hussain “was leaving her home for work when three gunmen attacked her. She thought they wanted to snatch her purse and handed it over to them, but they killed her.”

Police said all three gunmen escaped after the attack.

“They shot her with one bullet near her chin and she could not survive,” senior police official Nasir Aftab told reporters.

The motive behind the shooting was unclear and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Karachi, a city of 18 million people, contributes 42 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, but is rife with murder and kidnappings, plagued by years of ethnic, sectarian and political violence.

The city last year suffered record violence linked to ethnic and political tensions.

PTI spokesman Jamal Siddiqui said a large number of party leaders and workers would attend Zohra Hussain’s funeral, which was to take place yesterday afternoon.

Tensions have been running high between the PTI and the MQM, Karachi’s dominant party, after Khan’s party accused it of widespread vote-rigging. The MQM has denied the charge and announced a boycott of the re-run.

The PTI and the right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami Party have staged nationwide protests against the alleged irregularities.

The Pakistani Election Commission ordered the partial re-run due to allegations of ballot-stuffing in a constituency known as NA-250, a largely affluent neighborhood.