Political violence sparks protest in Karachi.
Men shout slogans during a protest rally on the streets of Karachi. Several thousands protested against paramilitary and police search operation after a spate of violence in the city. -Reuters Photo
KARACHI: Thousands of people poured onto the streets of Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi on Monday to protest at a security crackdown after dozens of people died in political violence.
Security officials say up to 48 political party workers have been killed in Karachi since Thursday, when the headless body of a worker from the city’s main political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was discovered.
Karachi sees sporadic outbreaks of political violence, reflecting tensions between the MQM, which represents Muslims who migrated from India, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, and the Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party.
City police official Mehtab Ali said between 8,000 and 10,000 people participated in the rally. Another officer reported skirmishes.
“We did not stop them from holding the rally. They wanted to go to the chief minister’s house, but we prevented them doing so by firing tear gas on them,” police official Mohammad Ashraf said.
As the wave of killings gripped Karachi over the weekend, Interior Minister Rehman Malik ordered patrols by police and paramilitary rangers to curb the violence. He said political parties were not involved in the killings.
But protesters from Lyari, an impoverished neighbourhood of Karachi and stronghold of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said the security crackdown was targeting them and not MQM supporters.
“The government is victimising its own people to appease its political allies, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement,” said Habib Jan, an organiser of the rally.
“We demand an operation in the whole city without any discrimination. At present we are discriminated against.”
A police official who asked not to be named because of the political tensions said six suspects had been arrested on suspicion of arson and inciting political violence.
The MQM is the coalition partner of President Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP in the southern province of Sindh, but there remain tensions between supporters of both parties.
The political unrest in Karachi comes as the government battles a fierce bombing campaign by Taliban militants, and as Zardari faces rock-bottom approval ratings and shaky relations with the powerful military. -AFP
Courtesy : AFP, Reuters & Dawn.