Pakistan political violence kills 37

A new wave of political violence has erupted in Pakistan's financial capital Karachi, killing at least 37 activists from rival parties in the last five days, police officials said Wednesday.

The Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which have a history of bitter relations, claim their workers have been shot dead.

Both parties belong to the local governing coalition in southern province Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital, led by President Asif Ali Zardari's main ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

MQM represents the Urdu-speaking majority and is Karachi's dominant party. ANP represents an estimated two million Pashtuns who have migrated to Karachi, away from northwest Pakistan, engulfed by Islamist violence.

"At least 37 people have died in targeted killings during the past three days," a senior police official said on the condition of anonymity.

Another police official put the number of dead at 39.

Last month, similar targeted killings claimed 48 lives of the workers belonging to MQM and the PPP, sparking angry protests and calls for immediate calm from visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Unidentified gunmen started the latest killings after ANP workers came under fire while hoisting a party flag in the city's western Orangi neighbourhood on Saturday, the second police official said.

Sindh authorities on Monday announced a two-week ban on public gatherings of more than four people, rallies and brandishing arms in public.

Pakistan's richest and largest city has been largely spared Islamist violence but is plagued by crime and kidnappings, which some analysts say militant groups use to bankroll their insurgency in the northwest.

 

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