Death toll from Pakistan political unrest rises

A second night of political and ethnic violence in Pakistan’s financial capital, Karachi, raised the death toll from the worst such unrest in the city for years to more than 60, officials said.

The killing rampage was unleashed after the murder on Monday of an MP from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a partner in the Sindh provincial coalition led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

Forty-six deaths were confirmed by dusk Tuesday. On Wednesday, officials said another 14 were reported overnight.

“Hospitals received 14 more bodies of victims of violence overnight, increasing the death toll to 60,” said Jameel Soomro, spokesperson for the government in southern province of Sindh.

“In total, about 100 people have been injured. More than a dozen are in a critical condition.”

A senior security official put the death toll at 62.

“The situation is still tense and there are reports from some areas of intermittent gunfire,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Schools and markets were shut and traffic thin on streets after the rampage, which saw protesters torch cars and shops.

Plagued by ethnic and sectarian killings
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.

This week’s unrest marked the deadliest bout of such targeted killings since the coalition MQM-PPP and Awami National Party (ANP) took office in Karachi March 2008.

MQM and ANP represent different communities in the city and have blamed each other over the killings.

The government has not released exact figures, but Rights bodies said 260 targeted killing cases were reported in Karachi during the first six months of the year, compared with 156 during the same period in 2009.

The unrest exacerbated woes in a country battling to contain unprecedented flooding that has killed up to 1 500 people and affected 3,2-million. — AFP

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