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03 Aug 2010 11:57
Political and ethnic violence erupted in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi after the murder of a lawmaker, killing 45 people as protesters torched vehicles and shops, officials said on Tuesday.
The lawmaker, who represented the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a partner in the Sindh provincial ruling coalition led by the Pakistan People’s Party, was shot dead by gunmen on motorcycles on Monday.
Raza Haider’s assassination sparked panic in the teeming city of 16-million, where markets closed and streets emptied as gunfire erupted overnight in parts of the financial capital.
Dozens of vehicles and several shops were set on fire and scores of people were wounded. Police said they had stepped up security to prevent major incidents of violence or sabotage, deploying hundreds of officers to protect Haider’s funeral later on Tuesday.
The unrest comes with Pakistan already battling to contain unprecedented flooding that has killed up to 1 500 people and affected a total of 3,2-million, largely in the impoverished north-west.
“Another 10 critically injured victims of violence expired this afternoon, bringing the overall death toll to 45,” Hamid Parhiar, police surgeon of Sindh province, told Agence France-Presse.
“City hospitals received more people injured due to gunshots today [Tuesday] and now we have 93 wounded people admitted.”
Officials described the dead as rickshaw drivers, cab drivers, labourers and passers-by from various ethnic groups who were shot dead in some of the city’s most destitute neighbourhoods.
‘Miscreants torched buses’
Sindh government spokesperson Jameel Soomro had initially put the death toll at 31 with nearly 50 people wounded in the unrest.
“The violence seemed to be the reaction to yesterday’s [Monday] killing of the MQM MP, but at the same time a third party could exploit the situation to destabilise our democratic government and disturb Karachi,” he said.
“Miscreants torched up to 24 buses and cars last night.
They also damaged a petrol station and a few shops in different parts of the city.
“The city is calm now and we have already given orders to the paramilitary Rangers to shoot on sight if they come across miscreants involved in creating law and order problem,” he said.
The MQM called for a city shutdown to protest against the lawmaker’s killing, leaving markets, schools and colleges closed on Tuesday.
Reports from Hyderabad, 174km to the east, said vehicles and properties had also been set ablaze after the MP’s assassination.
Provincial authorities have already banned public political meetings in Karachi in an effort to control intermittent waves of political killings.
The government has not released exact figures, but two security officials told AFP on Monday that more than 170 people have died in targeted killings since the beginning of this year.
Karachi has been largely spared the Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked bomb attacks that have dogged north-west Pakistan, but is plagued by ethnic and sectarian killings, crime and kidnappings.—AFP
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