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Karachi still tense; toll rises to 39
May 13, 2007 19:30 IST
Three more people were killed in fresh violence in the tense Pakistani city taking the toll in Saturday's bloody clashes to 39. President Pervez Musharraf and supporters of suspended Chief Justice Iftikar M Chaudhry blamed each other for the deaths.
Opposition parties observed a Black Day on Sunday, blaming the government for the violence that turned the city's streets into a battlezone while pro-government Muthahida Quaumi Movement observed it as a day of mourning.
The two sides claimed most of the dead belonged to them.
Amid criticism of government's failure to stem violence in Karachi, Musharraf said the clashes were the fallout of 'politicising' of the issue of the suspension by Chaudhry and urged lawyers to let the Supreme Court decide on it.
Addressing a mammoth public rally in front of Parliament in Islamabad Saturday night, the General said he held the judiciary in high esteem and would accept the verdict of the apex court on the suspension of Chaudhry.
In Sunday's violence, two people were killed as police opened fire to disperse a stone-pelting group of youths who were protesting against the killings in the Quaid Abad locality of the city.
The mob also set afire a vehicle. A police personnel was shot dead by unidentified assailants from close range, said a police official.
City police chief Azhar Farooqi said the situation was tense in the city, which witnessed pitched battles among gun-totting men on Saturday.
"The situation is very tense and we have beefed up the security as best as we can in many parts of the city. But Sunday morning, we have had some protests," he said.
"The rangers and police are patrolling the streets and have orders to arrest anyone creating trouble," Farooqi said.
Police officials said that two groups clashed in Water Pump area and set ablaze two petrol pumps and furniture shops before the police controlled the situation.
Police sources said a number of people had been detained overnight after a day of violence coinciding with rallies by Chaudhury's supporters, including lawyers and opposition activists, and MQM.
Chaudhry returned to Islamabad late Saturday night without addressing his supporters after he was stranded at Karachi airport and was asked by the local government to avoid the meeting and return home.
The government also expelled his defence lawyers as well as human rights activist Asma Jahangir from Karachi.
The judge threatened to walk to the venue of the meeting in the troubled city but late Saturday night, he returned to Islamabad, avoiding further confrontation.
Unlike Saturday, when gunshots and Kalashnikov volleys were heard throughout the day, the city was enveloped in a pall of gloom as both sides started burying their dead.
The opposition Jamaat-e-Islaami held funerals for three of their workers they claimed were shot dead in Saturday's violence.
"Fazal Rehman and Shuja Rehman were buried in the city while the body of Pervez Kiyani has been sent to his hometown of Mirpur," JI leader, Munawwar Hasan said.
The city wore a deserted look, although grocery and meat shops opened up but traffic was thin.
Rangers and police forces blocked many roads for security reasons and many petrol pumps also remained shut, according to Shad.
The situation was also tense in Banaras, Landhi and Baldia as the people protested against the killings in the city.
While opposition parties have demanded the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf and the dismissal of the government blaming them for the violence, the ruling parties say Chaudhry and opposition were responsible for the deaths.
Opposition parties alleged MQM had attacked their cadres at the behest of Musharraf.
"We condemn this mayhem and we believe that the MQM could not have done it without the active support of Pervez Musharraf," spokesman for the Pakistan Peoples Party of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto said.
"We hold the federal government and Musharraf equally responsible for what has happened," he said accusing the government of trying to find an excuse to impose a state of emergency and put off elections.
"Under the current rulers, no one can guarantee peace nor any chance of democracy and fair elections," Munnawar Hasan, a leader of the Islamist alliance Muttahida Majlis-e Amal said addressing mourners who had gathered after two activists were killed on Saturday.
MQM leader Altaf Hussain, who addressed his supporters over phone from his self exile in London, said the violence was initiated in the city 'under a conspiracy'.
He said Chaudhry was told by the Sindh Home Department to postpone his visit to Karachi as intelligence reports had suggested violence but he ignored the advice - "Now after this bloodbath, he has got no peace of mind."
Hussain said 'taking advantage of Chaudhry's visit, plans were afoot to fan ethnic violence' and an attempt was made to pitch the Pakhtoons against the 'Muhajirs', the migrants from India, who support MQM.