International Herald Tribune Asia - Pacific

Subscribe to the newspaper
Find out more >>
Clippings
Remove all clippings Remove all read clippings

Riots in Karachi leave dozens dead

KARACHI, Pakistan: Troops were told to 'arrest or shoot anyone involved in violence and riots threatening life or property.'

A man was killed Sunday in Karachi as rioting continued for a second day, leaving more than 39 people dead in one of the biggest challenges to General Pervez Musharraf since he took over as president of Pakistan in a military coup in 1999.

Rallies timed for a visit to Karachi on Saturday by the country's top judge set off gunfights and clashes between rival political activists that left corpses in the streets and raised new fears for the stability of Pakistan.

The unrest resumed Sunday in several neighborhoods of Karachi dominated by ethnic Pashtuns, and "unknown people" shot and killed a man identified as Saifur Rehman, according to Shad Masih, a police officer. He said the police had dispersed a crowd in the area using tear gas.

Still, most of the city was calmer Sunday, with security forces in armored personnel carriers and pickup trucks with mounted machine guns patrolling mostly peaceful and deserted streets.

But in a sign that tensions were still high, the government authorized paramilitary troops on Sunday to shoot anyone involved in serious violence in Karachi.

"We have increased the presence of Rangers in the city and have told them to arrest or shoot anyone involved in violence and riots threatening life or property," the interior secretary, Syed Kamal Shah, said.

The clashes Saturday, some of the worst political violence in Pakistan in years, were set off by the arrival of Iftikhar Chaudhry, whom Musharraf suspended as chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Chaudhry had come to Karachi to address lawyers of the Sindh High Court Bar Association, but he was unable to leave the airport after his arrival around noon Saturday.

Gunfire began as Chaudhry's plane landed, and dozens of vehicles were set on fire. Smoke rose from at least four areas of the city, where competing rallies had been scheduled by members of the pro-government political party in power in Karachi and supporters of the judge. Armed groups from the two camps exchanged fire.

Pakistan has been embroiled in a growing legal and political crisis since Musharraf suspended Chaudhry in March, accusing him of misuse of power and nepotism. Chaudhry has denied the charges, and his supporters say they are politically motivated.

At a state-sponsored rally Saturday evening in Islamabad, Musharraf addressed a crowd from behind a bulletproof screen.

He said that his "heart was bleeding" when he saw television coverage of the violence in Karachi but that a judicial issue had become inappropriately politicized. He warned opponents against trying to capitalize on the situation: "Do not challenge us. We are not cowards like you. We have the power of the people."

Karachi, the country's commercial hub, has a history of sectarian and political violence. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the party that controls the city government, is allied with Musharraf.

Leaders of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said that Chaudhry was responsible.

"The chief justice should have known this would happen," Nasreen Jalil, the deputy mayor of Karachi, said by telephone.

She said that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement would not allow the opposition to take over the city.

Chaudhry and lawyers traveling with him returned to Islamabad late Saturday.

Human rights activists condemned the violence and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement's role in it.

"The sequence of events leading up to this violence, including statements from the provincial authorities and the arrest of hundreds of opposition activists in the last few days, indicates that the government, acting through its coalition partners, has deliberately sought to foment violence in Karachi," said Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.

"The callous inaction of law enforcement authorities in the face of extensive violence can either be explained as government incompetence or complicity," Hasan said.

Gunfire along Afghan border

Pakistani security forces and Afghan soldiers exchanged gunfire along their border Sunday, leaving at least six Afghan troops dead, The Associated Press reported from Islamabad, citing a Pakistani military official.

Afghan officials gave a different account. General Abdul Rahman, chief of the Afghan border police, said Pakistani heavy-weapons fire had hit a school, a bazaar and clinic, killing one civilian and wounding five police and three civilians.

Tension has been running high between Afghanistan and Pakistan, its eastern neighbor, over controlling the 2,430-kilometer, or 1,510-mile, border and stemming the flow of Taliban and Al Qaeda militants that stage cross-border attacks inside Afghanistan.

Back to top
Home  >  Asia - Pacific

Most E-Mailed Articles

Last 24 Hours
Last 7 Days
Last 30 Days

AudioNews: IHT.com on the go

Listen to IHT articles on your computer, and create custom podcasts for your portable music player. Try it now.
IHT Subscriptions
Sign Up  |  Manage
More Features
Blogs
Top Ten Articles

  Site Feedback | Terms of Use | Contributor Policy | Site Map
About the IHT | Privacy & Cookies | Contact the IHT   
Copyright © 2007 the International Herald Tribune All rights reserved   IHT