Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Tense Karachi returns to normal

Troops rescue a Pakistani boy from a troubled area of Karachi on Monday, December 1, 2008.
Many of those killed or injured were bystanders

Life in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi is returning to normal following three days of violence which killed at least 35 people, police say.

They say that most of those who died were caught in gun battles since Saturday between unidentified people.

While most businesses are now open, schools remain closed.

The violence erupted after months of tension between the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM).

The ANP mostly represents Pashtun migrants from the north-west and from Afghanistan, while the MQM represents Urdu-speaking people.

Karachi is Pakistan's biggest city, its commercial centre and has a long history of political, ethnic and religious violence.

Arson attacks

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan, in the southern Clifton area of the city, says that while shops have re-opened a strong sense of tension remains in many parts of Karachi.

Troops on the streets of Karachi
Many parts of the city remain deserted except for the security forces

Our correspondent says that people are fearful that the violence of the past three days could speedily re-surface.

Witnesses said that on Monday gunmen riding in cars or on motorbikes indiscriminately targeted motorists and pedestrians in different parts of the city.

In some areas, there were arson attacks in which houses and businesses belonging to rival communities were targeted.

Karachi, a city of over 15 million, contains a sizeable number of Urdu-speaking Muslim people who migrated to Pakistan after the partition of India in 1947.

It also has a large Pashtun population, which has grown further since last year when tens of thousands were displaced by the military operation in the country's north-western tribal areas and ended up in Karachi.

The MQM leadership has been publicly airing fears of Taleban infiltration of the growing community.

The Taleban in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan are predominantly Pashtun.

The ANP has criticised the MQM statements, calling them a conspiracy against Karachi's Pashtuns.

Over the last couple of weeks, dozens of tea stalls and timber shops owned by Pashtuns in MQM-dominated areas were forced to close down by activists believed to be MQM workers, police sources said.


Attacks in different areas on public transport vehicles, mostly owned by Pashtuns, also added to the communal tension, they said.

The violence began on Saturday following the killing of a Pashtun tea-stall owner in an MQM-dominated neighbourhood in the north of the city, the police said.

The Pashtuns, mostly ANP supporters, shut down most of the overland entry and exit points to Karachi, which they control.

The three main parties - the MQM, the ANP and the Pakistan People's Party of President Asif Ali Zardari - have all joined together in a bid to reduce tension.

But their call has largely gone unheeded, officials and witnesses said.

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