KARACHI - Rangers swung into action and started picking up MQM leaders and key activists Monday night in a massive operation launched after the party workers resorted to mob violence earlier in the day.

At least one man died and seven others injured as Muttahida Qaumi Movement activists clashed with police and ransacked Karachi office of ARY News after being instigated by party chief Altaf Hussain, who castigated the media ‘for not giving them due coverage’.

Later at night, paramilitary Rangers raided party’s offices in three major cities of Sindh and sealed MQM headquarters, Nine Zero, in Karachi.

They also detained a number of MQM activists and leaders, including Farooq Sattar, Khawaja Izharul Hassan, Arshad Vohra, Khawaja Sohail, Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain, Amir Khan and Waseem Ahmed. Sattar and Izharul Hassan were freed after questioning. Party’s official website was also shut down.

Altaf Hussain in his telephonic address from London stoked up his supporters against ARY News, SAMAA, Geo News and others.

In the provocative speech, delivered to a hunger-strike camp of the party set up near city’s Press Club, the self-exiled leader allegedly also made contemptuous remarks against the state of Pakistan and its institutions, besides making his followers raise anti-Pakistan slogans.

The provoked party activists started moving towards the nearby office of ARY News at Madina Mall, yards away from the hunger strike camp, attacking the police on the way, an eyewitness said.

The cops were heavily outnumbered and the mobsters were being led by a group of women, something that prevented use of sheer force by police in the start.

Television footage showed dozens of men and women barging into ARY’s office, smashing doors, windows and equipment with rods and batons and setting fire to several vehicles.

“MQM workers fired shots at the ARY News office, ransacked the premises and set fire to a police mobile,” SSP police Saqib Ismail said. “We have carried out teargas shelling to disperse the mob, he added.

Rangers came in for help to police and the two forces made the mobsters disperse.

Earlier, the enraged MQM activists also clashed with police on the streets, sparking volleys of gunshots and tear gas at several places across the city, police and witnesses said.

“One man was brought (to the hospital) dead, who was shot with a gun,” Dr Seemi Jamali, the director at a state-run hospital said. Three of the injured belonged to media organisations, she added.

A motorcycle too was set on fire by the mob while violent crowd also tried to burn a DSNG of Samaa TV channel, leaving a cameraman wounded.

The enraged MQM workers also caused damage to shops at Zainab Market, forcing owners to close their businesses.

Major arteries of the city, including Sharah-e-Faisal and II Chundrigar Road also witnessed severe traffic jam after the attack. The roads leading to CM House and Governor House were shut by the law enforcers.

The MQM has held sway over Karachi for years and law enforcement agencies, its opponents and many residents have accused it of racketeering, abduction, torture and murder in its bid to maintain power. The party, run by Altaf Hussain from London, denies links to crime.

President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Governor Murad Ali Shah and leaders of different political parties condemned attack on the ARY News and other acts of violence committed by MQM members.

“It is an attack on freedom of press and expression,” the PM said in a statement and directed the authorities concerned at the federal and provincial levels to bring the culprits to task at the earliest.

Army Chief General Raheel Sharif telephoned Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) DG Major General Bilal Akbar and received a briefing on the violent episode. The army chief directed Maj-Gen Bilal to arrest the perpetrators behind the unrest.

DG Rangers in a statement said the paramilitary force will not let Karachi law and order situation deteriorate, and will take strict action against those taking law into their hands. He urged the traders to keep their businesses open and promised to provide protection to them.

CM Murad Shah called Sindh IGP and sought a report on the incident. He directed the police chief to ensure safety and security to journalists and other citizens.

The IGP in turn directed the DIG South to take strict action against the miscreants. According to a statement, the police chief also issued orders to increase police patrolling on the streets, besides providing improved security to all media houses.

Information Pervez Rashid said that foreign ministry would soon write to British government to bring MQM leadership in London to justice. He said the authorities in the UK had already started investigating Altaf Hussain’s alleged role in violence in Karachi.