Karachi: Gunfire and grenade attacks in Pakistan`s largest city killed at least 10 people on Wednesday, including a former national lawmaker, the latest deaths in a surge of violence in recent months, officials said.
Fighting in Karachi, a sprawling port city of 18 million, has added to the political instability in the nuclear-armed, US-allied nation and provided another distraction for the government as it fights a Taliban-led insurgent movement. It also undercuts Pakistan`s struggling economy, because Karachi serves as the country`s main commercial hub.
Waja Kareem Dad, a former lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan People`s Party, was gunned down on Wednesday evening, said Sharfuddin Memon, the security adviser to the government of Sindh province, where Karachi is the capital. He was one of at least 10 people killed by gunfire and grenade attacks, Memon said.
Karachi has a long history of political, ethnic and sectarian violence, and much of the fighting is blamed on gangs that are said to be affiliated with the main political parties in the city. More than 300 people were killed in Karachi in July alone, according to Memon.
The recent bout of violence followed a decision in late June by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the city`s most powerful political party, to leave the federal coalition led by the Pakistan People`s Party and join the opposition.
Fighting intensified in mid-July after Zulfiqar Mirza, a senior member of the People`s Party, lashed out at the head of the MQM, Altaf Hussain. Mirza called him a murderer and an extortionist and also maligned the city`s Urdu-speaking community that makes up the party`s base — although he later apologised.
The MQM dominates politics in urban areas of Sindh, including Karachi, but over time it has seen challenges to its power from the People`s Party and the Awami National Party, a Pashtun nationalist party.
There were at least 490 political, ethnic and sectarian killings in Karachi during the first half of the year, and more than 1,100 killings of all kinds, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Also on Wednesday, Islamist militants crossed over from Afghanistan and shot dead an anti-Taliban tribal elder and his son in a northwestern tribal region, officials said.
Afsar Khan and his son Sher Alam were standing guard at a border post manned by members of a citizens` militia in the Bajur tribal region when around 15 insurgents attacked them, said government official Tariq Khan.
Afsar Khan was among volunteers who had burned the homes of a militant faction some two months ago, said police official Fazal Rabbi.
The Pakistani Army has fought militants in the tribal belt for years, but militants still mount attacks there. In recent months, several of the attacks have originated from across the porous border in Afghanistan.