Security forces on high alert in Karachi

April 10th, 2008 - 5:28 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
Karachi, April 10 (DPA) An eerie calm persisted Thursday as the southern port city of Pakistan limped back to normality after Wednesday’s deadly clashes which left 12 dead and dozens injured. Riot police and paramilitary troops patrolled the streets with power to shoot on sight, while a thin presence was reported in government offices as people preferred to stay indoors.

The violence was triggered Wednesday after two groups of lawyers squabbled during a protest against the manhandling of Sher Afgan Niazi, a former cabinet minister and a staunch supporter of President Pervez Musharraf, in the eastern city of Lahore.

The riots soon spread across Karachi, the commercial hub of the country, and six people were killed due to sporadic firing. Mobs set ablaze dozens of vehicles and at least two buildings, including the offices of a bar association from where six charred bodies were recovered.

The lawyers’ representatives have blamed the activists of pro-Musharraf ethnic Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political party for the killings.

The Karachi Stock Exchange’s key KSE-100 Index was up by 15 points in the opening session Thursday, as market analysts believed the city was returning to normal due to tough administrative measures by the local authorities.

“We are seeing 95 percent presence in all major brokerage houses and transport is also normal, though tension persists,” said Ateeq Ahmad, an analyst at Capital One Equities.

In a major police shake-up, three senior police officials were transferred for not effectively controlling the situation, said Arif Ahmad Khan, home secretary of Sindh province, where Karachi is located.

He said strict orders have been released to take stern action against anyone seen disturbing the city’s peace.

Karachi has a history of violence. Similar clashes took place between Musharraf’s supporters and opponents May 12, 2007 when deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry visited the city. More than 40 people were killed and over 100 injured.

Around a dozen people died and hundreds of vehicles were set ablaze in riots that erupted following the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in the garrison town of Rawalpindi Dec 27.

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