Pakistan ethnic violence seen to subside. As troops patrol Karachi, students criticize government leaders
Karachi, Pakistan — Thousands of Pakistani Army and Navy troops patrolled the streets of Karachi yesterday, as parts of the city were hit by violence for the fourth straight day. The troops shot dead two curfew-violators, and 21 people were reported killed in clashes between the Pathans and Mohajirs, rival ethnic groups. By yesterday, the toll stood at some 150 dead and 550 injured, in what has been described as the worst ethnic strife Karachi has seen since the violence at independence in 1947.
But as of press time Tuesday, the sprawling city appeared to be generally quieting down. Buses and taxis stayed off the roads; businesses were shut down; schools and offices closed; and many trains did not run.
An Army colonel told Reuters that rioting had subsided and ``the situation is much better today.''
A protest by some 200 angry medical students prevented military President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq and civilian Prime Minister Mohammed Khan Junejo from visiting victims in a Karachi hospital. The students said there were no drugs or medicines and senior staff members had not shown up for two days. The students called for the two leaders' resignations and physically ejected police who had come to provide security.
``We don't welcome Zia and Junejo, they should resign,'' they said, shoving a large force of police, including some 50 senior officers, off the hospital grounds.
The violence, which affected about half this city of 7 million, pits the ethnic Pathan group from northwest Pakistan against the Mohajirs and other Urdu-speaking people many of whom were refugees from India.
The Pathans, semi-nomadic tribespeople, control a significant portion of drug smuggling and arms running in Pakistan and accuse the Mohajirs of constantly agitating for a government crackdown. On Friday, police conducted a sweep through several parts of Karachi, including a predominantly Pathan neighborhood, and reported confiscating weapons and drugs, including 506 pounds of heroin and a large quantity of hashish.
Angered by the police raids, the Pathans took to the streets and began erecting barricades. Witnesses said full-scale rioting began Sunday when Pathans attacked Mohajirs. Rioting between the two groups last month killed 51 people, and tensions have remained high.
Prime Minister Junejo warned that the culprits would be caught and punished and inspected the damage in Orangi Town, where more than 300 buildings were set on fire Sunday. Volunteer organizations have set up camps in four schools in Orangi to house some 2,500 men, women, and children refugees.