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Karachi Comes To A Standstill Because Of New Round Of Violence

A man takes pictures of a vehicle burned by angry protesters in Karachi, Pakistan.
A man takes pictures of a vehicle burned by angry protesters in Karachi, Pakistan.

Pakistan's second largest city came to a standstill, when protesters torched cars and burned buses. Acrimony between political parties is being blamed for the violence that left 14 people dead and more than two dozen wounded in Karachi.

NPR's Julie McCarthy filed this report for our Newscast unit:

Accusations hurled by a senior minister of the Sindh province for which Karachi is the capital ignited the unrest. Zulfiqar Mirza, who is also a leader of the ruling Pakistan People's Party denigrated the leader of the rival MQM party inferring that he was a murderer.

The MQM dominates the city with its Urdu-speakers, who migrated from India when Pakistan was created. The verbal assault drew hundreds of MQM supporters to the streets and heavy firing was reported through the night. Last week ethnic clashes between the MQM and the Pashtun Nationalist Party, the ANP, killed about one hundred people.

The Guardian reports that Mirza also took shots at the area's Urdu-speaking people and as he made the impromptu remarks, members of his own party pulled him away from the microphone, but he still managed to say:

"For your own sake, for Pakistan's sake, for Karachi's sake, stand up and rid us of these wretched people," Mirza said in his diatribe. "They came to this province when they were hungry and naked and we took them in."

Mirza, who is close to president Asif Zardari, said that if the Urdu speakers wanted to carve their own province out from Sindh, "they will have to step over our dead bodies first". He also lacerated the party's leader, Altaf Hussain, who has lived in exile in London for decades, calling him "the biggest criminal".

Reuters reports that Mirza later apologized for his comments and party leaders sought to diffuse the situation. But Reuters adds that Karachi is the commercial capital of Pakistan and a complete stoppage will undoubtably hurt its economy.

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