For Pakistan 2013 began no different than 2012, with terrorists announcing their growing presence by gunning down seven aid workers in Swabi in the north-western province of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa and setting off a blast in Karachi near a venue of a political rally during the evening rush hour on Tuesday.

Six of the seven aid workers gunned down in Swabi were women, reflecting a clear message that targeting women is now kosher. Last month saw at least seven women health workers involved in the polio immunisation programme being killed across the country.

According to the police, the vehicle of the employees of the NGO, Support with Working Solution (also known as Ujala), was ambushed by motorcycle-borne assailants. They sprayed the vehicle with bullets, killing seven on the spot. The driver survived the attack and is undergoing treatment. One child who was in the vehicle at the time of the ambush was taken out before the shooting began.

Locals claimed that four of those killed were teachers at a school run by the NGO. The NGO administration, according to some media reports from Swabi, is of the view that its personnel were targeted for participating in the polio programme.

Though huge casualties were feared in the Karachi blast — which was heard across the city — the loss of life was confined to one while about 30 sustained injuries. The explosives were packed in a motorcycle parked near buses that were to ferry people to a political rally nearby.

The rally was jointly called by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran (TMQ), a political organisation led by religious leader Tahirul Qadri whose arrival in Pakistan from Canada in December has set the cat among the pigeons. Dr. Qadri has set January 10 as deadline for the government to mend its ways and announce an interim government in consultation with all stakeholders — including the military and judiciary — failing which the TMQ has threatened to lead a long march to Islamabad from January 14 and turn Constitution Avenue into a Tahrir Square.

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