Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for stern action to end the orgy of killings in Karachi, but he was put in an awkward position on Monday when a coalition partner stayed away from the Sindh cabinet meeting he presided over and a group of businessmen who had sought a meeting with him to share their security concerns left due to an administrative faux pas.
MQM’s strong criticism of the government for allegedly patronising criminals and target killers was yet another shock for Mr Gilani because according to earlier reports the estranged coalition partner was expected to rejoin the government following conciliatory efforts by President Asif Ali Zardari.
The party’s stance and the security situation came under scrutiny in two sessions of the meeting held at the Chief Minister’s House.
Heated and frank discussions reportedly took place in a closed-door meeting held after Iftar where various options were discussed.
The prime minister called for a focussed operation against criminals and terrorist, the sources said.
Officials said a committee comprising the chief minister and interior minister had been constituted by the prime minister to monitor developments and report to him.
The prime minister said the killing spree in the city must be stopped and offered the federal government’s help to the province for achieving the objective.
He asked the provincial government and heads of law-enforcement agencies to take severe action against the culprits without any discrimination.
“They must be awarded exemplary punishment,” he said.
According to sources, the prime minister said if the government did not take action someone else would do so.
He urged the coalition partners and other stakeholders to extend complete support to law-enforcement agencies which were fully committed to protecting the life and property of people.
The prime minister said law-enforcement agencies were capable of doing the job if they had the backing of all stakeholders.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khursheed Shah also attended the meeting.
According to sources, an altercation took place during the meeting between Interior Minister Malik and Sindh Minister for Works and Services Dr Zulfikar Mirza over the handling of the Karachi situation.
The Awami National Party stayed away from the special cabinet meeting because it has serious reservations over the government’s decision to roll back the commissioner system in the province without consulting it and under pressure from other quarters.
Meanwhile, businessmen who had a meeting scheduled with the prime minister at the Governor’s House left after waiting for over two hours.