Karachi limped back to normalcy on Thursday, with isolated incidents of arson and firing being reported from some parts of the city.
The overnight death toll from incidents of violence that shook the city on Wednesday evening reached 33, with more than 50 persons injured, police said.
Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah blamed “terrorist elements” for Wednesday’s carnage in which many people died due to incidents of firing by unidentified persons.
The trouble started after two Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) activists were murdered in the city. Soon after, buses and teashops, mostly owned by members of the Pakhtoon community, were attacked.
Altaf Hussain, the chief of MQM, the city’s main political party, told the media the drug and encroachment mafia was behind the attacks and warned of more violence if the government did not act swiftly.
President Asif Ali Zardari, who is on a trip abroad, said the violence would “strengthen the hand of the extremist elements in Pakistan”. He ordered an inquiry into the violence and gave shoot-at-sight orders.
While schools remained shut on Thursday, offices saw a low turnout and streets remained partially empty. Many transporters said they had kept their buses off the road after incidents of burning of buses and other public transport vehicles were reported on Wednesday.
Observers said the violence was expected on the back of rising tensions between the MQM, which is supported by immigrants from India who have settled in the city, and the Awami National Party, which represents the Pakhtoon community.
The MQM had been warning of an increase in the arrival of Taliban elements in the city while the ANP had taken the line that many of the Pakhtoons who arrived in Karachi as troubles erupted in the North West Frontier Province were not Taliban but their victims.
Shahi Syed, local head of the Awami National Party, said the violence, in which activists of the MQM and ANP were killed in targeted shootings, was pre-planned. On Thursday, government officials claimed the city was returning to normalcy.