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Pakistan axes police commander after attack

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Pakistan axed the chief of police in southern Sindh province on Wednesday over a bomb attack that killed 50 people in a Shiite Muslim area of Karachi, following stinging criticism by the country's top judge.

Sunday's car bomb in the Abbas Town area of Pakistan's largest city was the fourth major attack on the minority Shiite community with blasts killing more than 250 people since January 10.

The banned extremist Sunni outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the three previous attacks, but there has been widespread outrage at the government's apparent powerlessness in the face of rising sectarian violence.

Anwer Mansoor Khan, lawyer for Sindh provincial government, told a Supreme Court hearing in Karachi on Wednesday that police chief Fayyaz Leghari was being removed from his post, along with one of his deputies.

Leghari was also removed from his post in June 2011, but was later reinstated, after security forces shot dead an unarmed man in a public park.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry slammed the government and security agencies for negligence, demanding to know why heads had not rolled after Sunday's attack.

"We'll not allow anyone to enjoy public office at the cost of public taxes and do nothing to safeguard their lives and properties," Chaudhry said.

"Those who died in the blast and others who are continuously being targeted in other terrorist acts are not foreigners. They are our own blood, they pay taxes for our salaries."

Khan said a number of junior police officials had also been removed from their posts and an inquiry would decide whether any were guilty of negligence.

Lawyer for the police, Shah Khawer, told the court that at least 50 people were killed and 139 wounded in Sunday's blast, which tore through two apartment blocks as worshippers left nearby mosques, trapping people beneath piles of rubble.

The city of 18 million people contributes 42 percent of Pakistan's GDP but is rife with murder and kidnappings, plagued for years by ethnic, sectarian and political violence, and Chaudhry warned the situation was getting worse.

Pakistan's parliament is due to dissolve in days in preparation for elections. But rising violence against Shiites, who make up around 20 percent of the 180 million population, has raised serious questions about security.

The court ordered the Rangers' chief to use his 11,000 troops to safeguard the city's entry points and not allow "a single bullet to enter".

Rangers' chief Rizwan Akhtar said his troops conducted overnight operations and arrested 59 suspects in the blast.

The court ordered the country's three main intelligence agencies -- Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau -- to submit reports on Friday on the blast.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130306/pakistan-axes-police-commander-after-attack