BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Sunday, 13 May 2007, 01:56 GMT 02:56 UK
Pakistan's president urges calm
Karachi policeman amid debris after street violence
Mr Musharraf blamed Mr Chaudhry for the violence
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has appealed for calm after 34 people died in the country's worst political violence in years.

Supporters of President Pervez Musharraf fought street battles with those of top judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, suspended by the president.

Mr Chaudhry abandoned plans to address a rally in the city.

Opposition groups blamed the pro-Musharraf MQM party of organising the unrest, but it denied the claim.

Speaking at a mass rally in Islamabad on Saturday night, Mr Musharraf ruled out declaring a state of emergency and appealed to the country to stand united.

He blamed "elements who tried to create turmoil by politicising" Chief Justice Chaudhry's suspension.

Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad, 12-5-2007
If you really feel sorry over what has happened in Karachi, then stop these protests
President Pervez Musharraf

Speaking behind bullet-proof glass, he said a judicial panel was examining the case.

He also criticised Mr Chaudhry, saying the top judge had ignored warnings against travelling to Karachi.

Mr Chaudhry flew from Islamabad to Karachi on Saturday morning, planning to address a rally in the city.

But after landing, he was unable to leave the airport, because roads into the city were blocked.

After several hours, Mr Chaudhry abandoned his plans and returned to Islamabad.

The president also appealed to the demonstrators, saying: "If you really feel sorry over what has happened in Karachi, then stop these protests."

Cause celebre

Since his suspension on charges of "misuse of authority", Mr Chaudhry has become the focus of widespread opposition to the government of Mr Musharraf, who took power in a coup in 1999.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says opposition parties have turned Mr Chaudhry's case into a campaign against military rule.

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry leaving from Karachi from Islamabad
9 March: Musharraf suspends Chaudhry for "misuse of authority"
16 March: Violence at pro-Chaudhry rally in Islamabad
3 April: Chaudhry appears before private session of court
6 May: Large rally in support of Chaudhry in Lahore
12 May: Violence in Karachi, ahead of planned rally

His supporters say that Mr Musharraf wants the judiciary headed by a lawyer whom he can more easily manipulate.

Our correspondent says tension had been building ahead of the judge's visit when the local authorities announced plans for a counter rally.

But she says the scale of the confrontation took people by surprise.

In the worst violence, MQM supporters and activists from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto fought gun battles for an hour.

The private Aaj TV channel showed pictures of its office under fire. "We are under attack," said journalist Talat Hussain on air, sheltering behind a wall.

"It is state-sponsored terrorism. The Sindh [province] government is responsible but we are not going to back off," said Sherry Rehman of the PPP.

An MQM spokesman denied his party was involved in the violence at the TV station.

A lawyers' spokesman told the BBC that bar association members in Karachi had also been attacked by MQM activists in various parts of the city.

The lawyers say that activists attacked them and prevented them from entering the Sindh High Court premises where Mr Chaudhry had been due to speak.

Violence on the streets of Karachi

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific