Paramilitary troops have been deployed to help keep order in Pakistan's financial capital of Karachi after at least 35 people were killed in overnight gun battles between ethnic and political rivals.
AFP - At least 35 people were killed in 24 hours in Karachi, officials said Tuesday, as Pakistan's interior minister described the city as enduring "a reign of terror and bloodshed".
Authorities have struggled to end nightly gun battles raging across the country's financial capital, with political, ethnic and criminal rivalries leaving more than 200 people dead last month.
Much of the fighting has been blamed on supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), based among the Urdu-speaking majority, and the rival Awami National Party (ANP), which represents ethnic Pashtun migrants.
Hundreds of extra police and paramilitary troops have been deployed on the streets of Karachi, a diverse and congested port city of about 17 million people, but the cycle of civil strife has worsened in recent weeks.
"Our figures show that during the last 24 hours, 35 people have died in the violence, many of whom died in shootings overnight," provincial home department official Sharfuddin Memon told AFP on Tuesday.
Interior minister Rehman Malik said aerial surveillance would start over the city's most troubled neighbourhoods.
"We have ordered surveillance planes to be brought to Karachi for locating and weeding out the killers, who have let loose a reign of terror and bloodshed in the city," Malik said in a statement on Tuesday.
Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and its commercial centre, suffered deadly communal violence throughout the 1980s and 1990s but tensions were thought to have eased before clashes erupted again in recent years.
Government officials and coalition party members have been distributing stickers, pamphlets and placards since last week pleading for peace, but to little effect.
Memon said gunfire could be heard on Tuesday in one of the worst-affected districts, the Surjani neighbourhood, which is a stronghold of criminal gangs.
"The criminals want to destabilise the efforts for a permanent peace in the city," he said.
A security official confirmed the latest death toll.
Police officers said dozens of motorcycles were set alight inside a factory and a roadside restaurant and several vehicles were also torched.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a recent report described Karachi as being in the grip of political, ethnic and sectarian "polarisation".
The HRCP said 490 people were killed in targeted killings in Karachi in the first half of the year, compared with 748 in the whole of 2010.
Date created : 2011-08-02