Rights group: 740 killed in Karachi

2012-06-05 16:14
A demonstrator reacts after Pakistani policemen fire teargas during a protest against power cuts in Karachi. (Rizwan Tabassum, AFP)

A demonstrator reacts after Pakistani policemen fire teargas during a protest against power cuts in Karachi. (Rizwan Tabassum, AFP)

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Karachi - Ethnic, sectarian and politically-linked violence in Pakistan's financial capital Karachi has killed at least 740 people so far this year, a human rights organisation said on Tuesday.

Parts of the port city have become battlegrounds, with authorities unable to prevent violence blamed on activists from political parties representing rival ethnic groups.
"About 740 people have been the victims of violent shootings in the last five months," Zohra Yusuf, chair of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [HRCP], said.

The HRCP said last year a total of 1 715 people were killed in violent flare-ups in the city, which is Pakistan's biggest with an estimated population of 17 million.

Financial losses

The attacks often lead to punishing financial losses for Pakistan's economy as swathes of Karachi go into lockdown, with residents fleeing the violence and shops and markets closing.

"People are being killed with impunity by various ethnic groups while the government, it seems, has little control to put an end to it," Yusuf said.

The figures include the assassination of 107 political activists, while the rest of the victims were people with no political affiliations, HRCP said.

Much of the violence has been blamed on tensions between supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), rooted in the Urdu-speaking majority, and the Awami National Party (ANP), which represents ethnic Pashtun migrants.

Nato and the United States used Karachi to ship supplies for their war effort in landlocked Afghanistan, but Islamabad shut down the overland cross-border route after US air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.

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