Although Karachi is the most ethnically diverse city in Pakistan and is known for its violence, current levels of violence are hearken back to the 1990s, when the Pakistan Army was ordered to restore order.
The killings bring the overall death toll from a series of shootouts linked to a provincial by-election contested over the weekend to nearly 90, and some parts of the city may soon face a curfew, according to Pakistani media reports.
Ethnic violence is believed to be at the heart of the attacks, and members of parliament from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Party, which holds sway over the city and has a large constituency among Karachi’s dominant ethnic “Mohajjir” population, have been quick to point the finger at the Awami National Party (ANP), which represents the city’s Pashtun population.
“The ANP are aiming to confine the MQM so they can rule Karachi with their gangsters,” says Izhar ul-Hassan, a senior member of parliament in the Sindh Assembly. That charge is denied by Haji Adeel, a senior vice president of the ANP, who claims the MQM is blocking his party’s efforts to rid the city of weapons and accuses the MQM of victimizing his party for daring to challenge it electorally.
The particular provincial seat in question was previously held by MQM politician Raza Haider, who was murdered in August, and was retained by the party in the election. The ANP boycotted the poll.