Political violence in Pakistan kills 43: Officials

AFP , Monday 28 Mar 2011

Pakistan's interior minister confirms that 43 people have been victims of targeted killings in Karachi, a city plagued by ethnic and sectarian violence

At least 43 people have been killed in political violence in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi during the last 18 days, officials said Monday as they announced the arrest of 11 suspects.

"We can confirm that as many as 43 people had been the victims of targeted killings in Karachi during the last 18 days," interior minister Rehman Malik told a press conference.

"We have arrested 11 men suspected of involvement in the targeted killings."

"There is a conspiracy going on against Pakistan to destabilise it, but I can't share the evidence at the moment," Malik added.

"Criminal elements could be almost present in all political parties and action will be taken across the board against them."

The unrest comes amid heightened tensions between the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which represents Urdu-speakers originally from India, and the Awami National Party (ANP), backed by Pashto-speakers from Pakistan's northwest.

The MQM and the ANP are partners in the Pakistan People's Party-led coalition that rules the southern province of Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital.

Sindh Chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah confirmed the number of victims and said they included members of different political groups.

"Some 43 innocent people have been gunned down since March 10, which included the activists of various political parties," said Shah.

Political violence in Karachi reached its highest level for years in 2010, with 85 people killed after a lawmaker was shot dead in August and more than 70 killed in October on the eve of the vote to elect the MP's successor.

Another 17 people were shot dead in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and commercial capital, in January this year.

The city is also plagued by ethnic and sectarian killings, crime and kidnappings.

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