36 dead in Pakistan political violence

Updated: 2007-05-14 06:08

KARACHI - Two Pakistani political activists were killed on Sunday in a second day of violence, raising the specter of bloody ethnic feuding that plagued Pakistan's biggest city in the 1980s and 1990s.

On Saturday, 34 people were killed and more than 130 wounded in the country's worst political street violence in two decades, sparked when Pakistan's suspended top judge tried to meet supporters in the southern city.

Government attempts to remove Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry over unspecified accusations of misconduct on March 9 have outraged the judiciary and the opposition.

The judicial crisis has snowballed into a campaign against President Pervez Musharraf and is the most serious challenge to the authority of the president, who is also army chief, since he seized power in 1999.

One person was killed by gunfire in violence that broke out after the funerals of three opposition supporters killed on Saturday, police said. In another incident, a member of the pro-government Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which runs Karachi, was shot dead in a ethnic Pashtun part of the city.

Protesters set fire to several shops and cars elsewhere, but overall, the city was calmer. Most shops were closed and police and paramilitary troops patrolled largely deserted streets.

"The situation has improved today but it's still tense in some parts of the city, especially where there have been funerals," said Waseem Akhtar, the top provincial Interior Ministry official.

Chaudhry, who denies wrongdoing and has refused to resign, flew into Karachi on Saturday, hoping to meet his supporters. But the violence prevented him from leaving the airport.

Musharraf condemned the clashes and criticised Chaudhry for ignoring a government appeal not to go to the volatile city.

In a speech to tens of thousands of supporters in Islamabad on Saturday, Musharraf ruled out declaring a state of emergency.

He said elections due this year -- first a presidential election followed by a general election -- would be on time.


Mourners at the funeral of two members of an opposition religious alliance shouted anti-Musharraf slogans and called for an Islamic revolution as the bodies, draped in party flags, were carried away for burial.

A top leader of the alliance, Munawar Hassan, told the crowd they should struggle against "terrorism" peacefully.

The police have been widely criticised for failing to stop Saturday's clashes between members of the MQM, which opposed Chaudhry's plan to rally with supporters, and its old enemies.

They include the religious alliance and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Most of those killed on Saturday were members of the PPP and the opposition Awami National Party (ANP), which represents Pashtuns.

Provincial ANP President Afrasiab Khattak said he feared ethnic violence, saying: "If they fail to control militancy it will divide Karachi on ethnic lines."

But a PPP leader played down the fear.

"I don't think it's ethnic violence, it's government supporters trying to beat the opposition into submission," said Raza Rabbani, leader of the opposition in the upper house.

Lawyers are due to boycott courts across the country on Monday and the Islamist alliance has called for a nationwide protest strike.

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