Calls for peace after 200 deaths in Karachi

The violence is blamed on activists from political parties representing competing ethnic groups.

Last Updated: Jul 28, 2011, 09:06 AM IST

Karachi: Pakistan’s government on Wednesday launched a campaign to end bloody clashes in the city of Karachi after at least 200 people were killed since the beginning of the month.

Many parts of the port city have turned into battlegrounds in recent weeks with national authorities unable to prevent spiralling violence blamed on activists from political parties representing competing ethnic groups.

The campaign is erecting billboards to mobilise public opinion, covering government buildings in white flags and encouraging rival party leaders in the city to meet victims’ families.

“We have launched a campaign to bring about lasting peace in Karachi, which is economic engine of our country,” Sharjeel Memon, the information minister of Sindh province, of which Karachi is capital, said.

“We are printing a large number of stickers, pamphlets and placards asking for peace and will distribute them across the city.”

Supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), based among the Urdu-speaking majority, have had a bitter relationship for years with the Awami National Party (ANP), which represents ethnic Pashtun migrants.

Officially the two parties said on Wednesday that they backed the campaign, but analysts questioned whether they were willing to order their activists to stop fighting.

“The situation can only be improved when the writ of the state is restored and all the parties operate without their militant wings,” Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a political commentator at Urdu University in Karachi, said.

This month is reported to be the bloodiest in Karachi since 1995, with local media reporting at least 200 people have already been killed.

Over four days of unrest in early July, 95 people died before troops took back some areas of Karachi held by armed gangs.

Hundreds of additional police and paramilitary troops were deployed last week in the city to try to quell the unrest.

Bureau Report