KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - Gunmen on Tuesday shot and wounded a Pakistani opposition lawmaker and killed the driver of his car, police said, as the government sought to woo his party’s deputies back to parliament after they resigned over the arrests of several leaders.
Police said four attackers on two motorcycles fired on Abdul Rashid Godil, a member of the powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, as they sped past his car.
“They made sure of his identity and shot him multiple times,” said Nasir Lodhi, a deputy police superintendent. “The lawmaker has sustained bullet wounds in his jaw and neck.”
Rashid’s driver died in the attack, said another senior police official, Munir Shaikh.
Police said it was not immediately clear who was behind the attack, which was being investigated.
The MQM dominates politics in Pakistan’s largest city, where it has gained a reputation over decades for sometimes violent rivalry with other parties and criminal gangs.
It has recently been targeted by police and military seeking to tighten control over the city. The MQM has decried the crackdown, which has included several raids on party offices, as politically motivated.
The attack came as talks began at MQM’s Karachi headquarters over last week’s parliamentary walkout to protest against what the MPs called a denial of due process for party activists who had been arrested.
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is seeking to convince MQM’s 24 lawmakers to rejoin parliament for the sake of stability in Karachi, although their resignation does not cripple the legislature’s functioning.
The attack cut short the reconciliation talks, with the MQM saying in a statement that its leaders would hold an emergency meeting to decide their course of action.
“We all think this is an intensely sad moment, that when there was momentum for political reconciliation, a member of parliament and people’s representative was shot in a cowardly attack,” MQM parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar told reporters.
The attack was an attempt to derail the talks, said Fazl-ur-Rehman, the leader of another minority party and the government’s representative in the negotiations.
“This was an attempt to sabotage this process, and now I am again thankful that despite such a big tragedy, the MQM have not changed their stance to continue talks.”
The talks would continue in Islamabad but the date has not yet been decided, he added.
Additional reporting by Kay Johnson and Asad Hashim; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez