Pakistan's largest city goes dark after local violence

 

Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 12:38 PM

ISLAMABAD – Streets, shopping malls and schools shut down Wednesday in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and financial hub, after more than 60 people were killed over the past several days in violence attributed to political rivalries.

President Asif Ali Zardari summoned Interior Minister Rehman Malik and other top officials to determine how to stem the attacks, which have terrified residents of the city of 18 million over the past week. Although they ruled out military action, officials were mulling a curfew in the most dangerous neighborhoods, according to televised reports.

The outbreak of violence, which has included targeted killings apparently meant to intimidate entire communities, has been linked to a special election last Sunday to replace Raza Haider, a provincial assembly member from the Muttahida Quami Movement who was gunned down in August. Police have blamed a rivalry between that party and the Awami National Party for the assassinations.

In addition to political killings, Karachi has been plagued by ongoing violence pegged to tribal sectarian rivalries and to Islamic extremists operating in a city that is a key business hub and supply line for NATO’s war in Afghanistan. Before the latest attacks, more than 300 targeted killings were reported in the city this year.

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