Karachi tense after 34 killed in violence

Updated on May 13, 2007 03:39 PM IST
The city is tense, a day after at least 34 people were killed when pro-government and opposition activists clashed on issue of suspension of judge.
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Reuters | By, Karachi

Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi was tense but quiet on Sunday, a day after at least 34 people were killed when pro-government and opposition activists clashed as the country's suspended top judge tried to meet supporters.

A judicial crisis over government attempts to remove Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has escalated into the worst political street violence Pakistan has witnessed since the 1980s.

It is also become the most serious challenge to President Pervez Musharraf's authority since he seized power in 1999.

Provincial government spokesman Salahuddin Haider said the death toll from the clashes was at least 32. Two opposition activists were killed in an attack on a party office earlier, a spokesman said.

More than 130 people were wounded.

The fear in Karachi on Sunday was that the violence would spark bloody feuding between ethnic-based factions that plagued the city in the 1980s and 1990s.

Police, criticised by the opposition for failing to stop the bloodshed on Saturday, said security measures were in place.

"We definitely have a security plan. We have increased patrols, and will focus more on the areas worst affected yesterday," said Karachi police chief Azhar Farooqi.

Karachi's streets were largely deserted on Sunday although a group of young men burning tyres blocked a road in one neighbourhood, a witness said.

Funerals for those killed in the clashes were due to take place later on Sunday.
Musharraf, who is also army chief, condemned the violence in a speech at a rally of tens of thousands of his supporters in Islamabad late on Saturday.

But he ruled out declaring a state of emergency saying the people were with him. Elections due late this year would be held on time, he said.

He also said Chaudhry and his supporters had ignored warnings not to go to Karachi because of fears of violence in the volatile city.

The suspension of Chaudhry on unspecified accusations of misconduct on March 9 outraged the judiciary and the opposition and has turned into a campaign against Musharraf and his government.

Chaudhry denies wrongdoing and has refused to resign.

His visit to Karachi was meant to be the latest in a series of protests by the opposition and lawyers to press for his reinstatement.

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