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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 17:32 GMT
Police crack down on Karachi militants
Pakistani paramilitary soldiers stand guard on a Karachi street
Political horse-trading may have sparked the crackdown

Police in the Pakistani city of Karachi have rounded up about 30 members of a militant ethnic group and sealed off the party's main office.

The crackdown against the Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi group had been demanded by the rival and bigger faction, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

The move seemed to be part of an attempt to woo the MQM into supporting the pro-military Pakistan Muslim League, or PML (Q), in the formation of a centrist coalition government.

If so, it has already partly borne fruit; the MQM announced later on Monday it would support the PML (Q) in the election on Tuesday of a speaker and deputy speaker.

No resistance

The crackdown against the Haqiqi faction started in the early hours of Monday morning.

Supporters of the Jamat-i-Islami (Party of Islam) chant anti-US slogans in Karachi
Karachi is a hotbed of militant activity

By evening police had arrested the 30 activists and sealed off the main office in the city's Landhi township.

There was no resistance from party supporters; most are believed to have gone into hiding to avoid arrest.

The MQM has long accused the Haqiqi group of making parts of Karachi's eastern district a virtual no-go area for MQM supporters.

Until now its demands for a crackdown had gone unheeded.

But the PML (Q) desperately needs the support of smaller groups and factions in parliament to try to form a coalition government, and the authorities seemed to have come to the rescue by taking action against Haqiqi.

A senior Haqiqi member strongly criticised the police action, calling it illegal and unlawful.

He demanded the immediate release of all Haqiqi supporters and the reopening of the party office.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

18 Nov 02 | South Asia
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16 Nov 02 | South Asia
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