More then eight people were killed and over 12 injured in Karachi on Tuesday as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement mourned the death of two workers killed in a shooting a day earlier. Police officials fear that the conflict between the MQM its rival party, the Awami National Party, which represents the Pakhtun community, would escalate in coming days.
The MQM has been calling for an end to Bhatta (protection money) culture, which it claims is being done by activists of the ANP and of the Peoples Aman Committee, an off-shoot of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. The MQM last week said that the people of Karachi were "fed up" with street crime, kidnappings and target killings in the city. Many businessmen in the past month have reported a surge in threatening phone calls by people demanding protection money.
While interior minister Rehman Malik says strict action is being taken against the Bhatta mafia, the MQM and other quarters disagree. The party has threatened to walk out of the ruling coalition if the government does not act quickly.
Another challenge to the government comes from the opposition PML-N party which has threated civil disobedience if the country's power situation does not improve. Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif said that the government was "witholding energy from Punjab province" and that the situation was going from bad to worse.
Hundreds of people blocked main roads in Lahore and Faisalabad as they protested prolonged power cuts. The government says that power generation in the country has been reduced owing to less water in the main dams owing to low rainfall. But the Punjab government, which is in the hands of the opposition PML-N party, claims that this is being done as part of political victimisation.