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Karachi creeps to normal after violence

Life in Karachi is back to normal and stock market has recovered after two days of violence, which killed nearly 40 people.

world Updated: May 15, 2007 13:35 IST

Life in Pakistan's biggest city Karachi crept back to normal on Tuesday after two days of violence, which killed nearly 40 people and an opposition strike called to protest the bloodshed virtually shut the city down.

The country's worst political street violence in two decades erupted when Pakistan's suspended top judge tried to meet supporters in the city on Saturday.

About 150 people were wounded in the clashes between pro-government activists, who opposed the visit by suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, and opposition supporters backing him in his confrontation with the government.

"Everything is fine at the moment and city life has returned to normal," city police chief Azhar Farooqi told media.

"Police are conducting joint patrols with the Rangers and everything seems to be under control," he said, referring to 13,000 paramilitary troops in the city.

Authorities have banned demonstrations and authorised paramilitary troops to shoot anyone involved in serious violence in the city, which has a history of bloody feuding between ethnic-based factions.

Farooqi said the city was largely peaceful on Monday, with no casualties from political violence reported. A paramilitary commander said three people were killed in a clash between rival criminals.

Shares on Pakistan's main stock market rose in early trade on Tuesday, buoyed by increased investor confidence after the market held its own on Monday despite the opposition's nationwide protest strike and political concerns, dealers said.

"Even after yesterday's strike and the political situation the market managed to recover very well and that's why today we are seeing investors building fresh positions," said Muzzamil Mussani, a dealer at JS Global Capital Ltd in Karachi.

Government attempts to remove Chaudhry over unspecified accusations of misconduct leveled on March 9 have outraged the judiciary and the opposition and snowballed into a campaign against President Pervez Musharraf.

The campaign is the most serious challenge to the authority of the president, who is also army chief, since he seized power in 1999.

The opposition blames the government and the pro-government Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which runs Karachi, for the violence.

Musharraf blamed Chaudhry, saying he had ignored appeals not to visit the volatile city.
Most of those killed on the weekend, when rival gunmen took over the city's deserted streets, were opposition supporters from former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's party and the ethnic-Pastun based party.

Their MQM rivals are mostly the descendants of migrants from India.