KARACHI: At least 17 people including two children have been killed in political clashes in Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi in the past two days, a government official and police said Thursday.
Police and paramilitary have been put on high alert and authorities closed all schools and colleges after the latest outbreak of politically related violence in Karachi, the biggest and richest city in Pakistan.
The Awami National Party (ANP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which have a history of bitter relations, say their members were shot dead by rival supporters.
"At least 17 people have died in targeted killings during the past two days," Jameel Soomro, spokesman of the southern Sindh provincial government, told AFP.
"It seems to be political violence, but we have ordered an inquiry to know the actual reasons behind these killings."
A police official requesting anonymity said the victims from Tuesday and Wednesday’s unrest included two children and a policeman.
The ANP and MQM are parties in a coalition led by President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) ruling Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital.
MQM represents the Urdu-speaking majority and is Karachi’s dominant party. ANP represents an estimated two million ethnic Pashtuns who have migrated to the city from northwest Pakistan.
The clashes started after gunmen shot dead an ANP worker late Tuesday night, spokesman Soomro said.
In February, similar targeted killings claimed 37 lives of the two parties’ workers.
In January, 48 workers belonging to MQM and the PPP were killed, sparking angry protests and calls for immediate calm from visiting former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
Karachi has been largely spared Islamist violence but is plagued by crime and kidnappings, which some analysts say insurgent groups use to bankroll their insurgency in the northwest.