Page last updated at 07:31 GMT, Wednesday, 16 June 2010 08:31 UK

Ban on political meetings in Pakistani city of Karachi

Mourners in Karachi, 6 Feb 2010
Karachi was hit by a spate of sectarian violence in February

Authorities have banned public political meetings in the Pakistani city of Karachi after fresh violence this month has left 12 people dead.

Most of the dead were victims of drive-by shootings by unidentified gunmen riding on motorcycles.

Officials say more than 30 people were killed in violence between rival ethnic groups in the city in May.

Much of the violence in June appears to be between extremist members of the Shia and Sunni communities.

The government had earlier banned the carrying of arms and pillion-riding on motorcycles, but it appears that the ban is being flouted.

The recent killings have led to tensions in several densely populated areas of central Karachi.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that the killings were a "conspiracy" to disrupt peace in Karachi.

"The elements involved in the conspiracy first tried to ignite ethnic riots between the Pashtun and Urdu-speaking populations, but after their failure they now want to start sectarian clashes," he said.

He said that "some four months back these elements tried to create tensions between the Deobandi and Barelvi sects [two sects of Sunni Muslims] but could not succeed".

Mr Malik told the Senate in Islamabad on Tuesday that some elements in Karachi, including a "mafia" of land grabbers, were "spreading money in an effort to disrupt peace in Karachi".

Correspondents say that while Karachi has not been spared Islamist militant violence in recent months, a bigger worry is factional violence.

The city was wracked by clashes between rival ethnic-based political factions for much of the 1990s, in addition to sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis.

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