KARACHI // At least 43 people have been killed in political violence in Karachi during the past 18 days, officials said yesterday as they announced the arrest of 11 suspects.
The interior minister, Rehman Malik, said during a press conference: "We can confirm that as many as 43 people had been the victims of targeted killings in Karachi during the last 18 days."
"We have arrested 11 men suspected of involvement in the targeted killings. There is a conspiracy going on against Pakistan to destabilise it, but I can't share the evidence at the moment," he added. "Criminal elements could be almost present in all political parties and action will be taken across the board against them."
The unrest comes amid heightened tensions between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which represents Urdu speakers originally from India, and the Awami National Party (ANP), backed by Pashto speakers from Pakistan's north-west.
The MQM and the ANP are partners in the Pakistan People's Party-led coalition that rules the southern province of Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital.
The chief minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, confirmed the number of victims, saying they included members of different political groups. "Some 43 innocent people have been gunned down since March 10, which included the activists of various political parties," Mr Shah said.
Political violence in Karachi reached its highest level for years in 2010, with 85 people killed after an official was shot dead in August, and more than 70 killed in October on the eve of the vote to elect the MP's successor.
Another 17 people were shot dead in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and commercial capital, in January this year.
The city is plagued by ethnic and sectarian killings, crime and kidnappings.