Political violence kills 17 in Pakistan`s Karachi

Pak govt forms judicial commission to probe into the murder of a journalist.

Karachi: Unidentified gunmen have shot dead at least 17 people in a new wave of violence in Pakistan`s commercial hub Karachi, police said on Saturday.

"At least 17 people have died in the past three days by firing by unknown gunmen in several parts of Karachi," city police chief Fayyaz Leghari said.

Geo television channel reporter Wali Khan Babar was among those killed in the latest violence.

Meanwhile, Pakistan government has formed a judicial commission to probe into the murder of a prominent journalist.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik had to come out of a meeting with some religious leaders yesterday to pacify protesting journalists who raised slogans against the government for failing to arrest the culprits behind the killing of Babar.

Malik announced the formation of the judicial commission and said it would look into violence against the journalists.

He said they were some elements who were trying to scare and silence the media and the government will not allow this to happen.

Wali Khan was gunned down in an apparent target killing in the Liaquatabad area of Karachi after the fresh wave of violence hit the city since Wednesday night.

Karachi has a long history of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence. But hundreds of targeted killings last year have raised concerns that violence could escalate and create a new crisis for the US-backed government in Islamabad.

Analysts and security officials blame much of the violence on the rivalry between the two main parties, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and the Awami National Party, both part of the ruling coalition in Islamabad.

Bad blood between the MQM, which represents the interests of majority Urdu-speaking mohajirs, and the ANP, linked to the growing Pashtun minority, goes back years. Retaliatory killings of party members are partly fuelled by ethnic tension.

Besides trying to contain violence in Karachi, the government faces a Taliban insurgency and the task of rebuilding areas devastated by August floods which inflicted USD 9.7 billion in damage and will strain the weak economy for years to come.

Stock market investors keep a wary eye on tensions in Karachi, home to Pakistan`s main port, stock exchange and central bank and the main gateway for Western military supplies bound for neighbouring landlocked Afghanistan.

(With PTI inputs)

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