Karachi tense as political violence toll touches 38

Political violence has killed at least 38 people here in the last three days.

Last Updated: May 21, 2010, 23:43 PM IST

Karachi: Political violence has killed at
least 38 people here in the last three days with the main
ethnic parties trading accusations over the targeted killings
that Pakistani security agencies are struggling to contain.

Relations between Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and
the Awami National Party (ANP) -- the two main ethnic parties
in Karachi -- remained tense today as the death toll in the
violence rose to 38 since Wednesday.

The leaders of the MQM and ANP who are also coalition
partners of the ruling PPP in the Sindh province exchanged
barbs and accusations over the target killings.

City police chief, Wasim Ahmed said the situation had
been brought under great deal of control in the last 24 hours
with the heavy deployment of the para-military Pakistan
Rangers and the police.

"We have also arrested over 650 people we suspected
are involved in these target killings and other criminal
activities and are trying to disturb the peace of the city,"
he said.

But violence was reported even on Friday from some
parts of the city where 10 vehicles were set on fire and
incidents of firing were reported from some localities.

Geo TV reported that shops in major markets as well as
petrol pumps were closed and traffic suspended in Nazimabad,
North Nazimabad, Qasba, Pirabad, Orangi Town, among other
neighbourhoods.

Last night armed men indulged in aerial firing in
several localities including Taimuria, North Nazimabad, Shahre
Noorjahan, New Karachi, Gulberg, Liaquatabad, and Jackson
neighbourhoods.

The violence, which began on Tuesday night, has
targeted activists of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the
Awami National Party (ANP), the Muhajir Qaumi Movement?
Pakistan (MQM-P) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).

Shahi Syed, the ANP President in Sindh called on the
Chief Justice of Pakistan to take suo motto notice of the
"targetted killings" in which he claimed many of his party
workers had been killed.

The MQM in retaliation called Shahi Syed a land
grabber who patronised criminal elements.

The MQM yesterday boycotted a meeting called by the
chief minister to discuss the law and order situation with
coalition partners and other parties after the ANP boycotted a
meeting of the Sindh governor, who is a nominee of the MQM.

The MQM and the ANP who are also coalition partners of
the PPP in the centre have constantly been at loggerheads as
they push the interests of their respective communities the
Mohajirs who migrated from India when the sub-continent was
partitioned and the Pushtoon origin residents of Karachi.

Religious parties held large protest rallies after
Friday prayers today at many places in Karachi against the
"blasphemous" caricatures of Prophet Mohammad on the social
network site Facebook. Protesters burnt US flags and chanted
`Death to Facebook`.

With hundreds of people in attendance, they demanded a
complete ban on Facebook and an apology from the social
networking site for humiliating Muslims.

Angry zealots of a religious party even attempted to
lynch two web bloggers and a civil rights activist at the
Karachi Press Club yesterday as they came out after addressing
a press conference in which they called for the authorities to
only block the "sacrilegious" link on Facebook.

The blanket ban on the two sites has drawn mixed
reactions in Pakistani civil society, with many questioning
the need for totally blocking the sites. They pointed out that
the blanket ban affected people economically and
educationally.

A spokesman of the Pakistan Telecommunication
Authority said that they had received number of complaints
from people on a toll free PTA number and email address and
acted accordingly.

The American cartoonist, whose work inspired the link
on Facebook, has already apologised to Muslims.

Angry protesters blamed American Zionism as the main
cause for trying to degrade Islam. They burnt US flags and
effigies of US leaders.

Similar protest rallies were held after prayers in
other parts of Pakistan.

There are an estimated 2.5 million Facebook users in
Pakistan and the Youtube site is also the third most accessed
site in the country.

Sweden said it has closed its embassy in Islamabad for
more than two weeks due to the security situation, refusing to
say whether any direct threats had been issued against the
mission.

PTI