x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Eleven killed in Karachi political violence

Senior member of President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party urges people of Karachi and Hyderabad to 'rise and rid themselves' of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a party that has its roots in Urdu-speakers who migrated from India.

KARACHI // Fresh political violence gripped Karachi, yesterday, leaving 11 people dead in fighting sparked by a senior leader in Pakistan's  ruling party criticising the city's dominant political group.

Crowds went on a rampage and burnt vehicles after Zulfiqar Mirza, a minister in the Sindh provincial assembly and senior member of President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), urged the people of Karachi and Hyderabad to "rise and rid themselves" of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a party that has its roots in Urdu-speakers who migrated from India, known as Mohajirs.

"I appeal to the people of Karachi especially, and of Hyderabad, to stand up for yourselves, for Pakistan, for Karachi and for your innocent children, and rid yourselves of these cursed ones," Mr Mirza said to reporters, referring to senior MQM leaders.

In comments broadcast repeatedly by television stations, he also criticised Mohajirs for being ungrateful for the home they were given after the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Yesterday, many roads were closed after protesters burnt tyres and torched vehicles following heavy firing all night in many areas. Hundreds of extra paramilitary policemen were ordered onto Karachi's streets.

The interior minister, Rehman Malik, told reporters in Islamabad: "We have dispatched 500 FC [Frontier Constabulary] troops in Karachi."

The move comes five days after Mr Malik claimed that the government had restored order to parts of Karachi, where a week of unrest killed 95 people in the deadliest year of violence in the city since 1995.

The Karachi police chief, Saud Mirza, said: "Since last night, 11 people have been killed and 13 vehicles burnt."

At least one person was killed in Hyderabad, police said.

Many flights from Karachi were delayed because crew members struggled to get to the airport through the violence. The situation also forced an early closure at the Karachi Stock Exchange, because of poor attendance, Mohammed Sohail, the chief executive officer of the Topline Securities brokerage, said.

* Reuters with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse