Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

More political killings in Karachi

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier in Karachi
Karachi has seen much violence recently

Five bullet-riddled bodies have been found in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, police say.

The killings on Sunday appear to be part of a renewed war among rival political factions, they say.

At least 31 people have died in targeted killings since 1 January when the decapitated body of a political activist was discovered.

Political violence is common Karachi, but it has intensified since the 28 December attack on a Shia Muslim march.

It was the discovery of the decapitated body of an activist from the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) in the old city area of Lyari, which sparked off the latest round of violence.

The district is dominated by ethnic Baloch people - this is contrast to the rest of the city which is dominated by Urdu-speaking people who migrated from India in 1947.

There is also a considerable Pashtun population in the city, including many people displaced from the north-western tribal areas where the army has been conducting operations against Taliban militants.

Ethnic rivalries

The Urdu-speaking people mostly support the MQM, while the Baloch people are supporters of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

The two parties share power in federal and local government.

But the recent killings appear to be linked to in-fighting between grassroots activists in the two parties, and have put the coalition under strain.

The two parties held a meeting at the chief minister's house in Karachi on Sunday to discuss a way to stop the killings.

The PPP believes the killings are part of a conspiracy to destabilise its government.

The MQM says they are perpetrated by criminal elements who have infiltrated the PPP's ranks.

Lyari district is known to be the hub of a drugs-and-guns mafia, with rival crime syndicates often fighting street battles for territorial control.

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