Karachi erupts in violence

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Several dozen people have been killed in political and ethnic violence in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Anchor David Baron gets the details and background from journalist, Beena Sarwar, in Karachi.

DAVID BARON: Pakistan is also confronting a political crisis in its largest city. 43 people died overnight in Karachi in an outbreak of revenge attacks and arson. The violence followed the shooting of a local politician. Raza Haider was killed during a funeral ceremony at a mosque. And his political party is accusing a rival party of killing him. Schools closed and most business shut down today, as Karachi braced for further violence. But journalist Beena Sarwar says the city was fairly quiet.

BEENA SARWAR: There was sporadic firing and most of the people who had been injured yesterday died, but we didn't hear of a lot of violence today, although the funeral of the slain politician was today. And we were expecting that there might be violence, but all the political parties and leaders have been appealing for calm. Here in the lanes, in the bi-lanes of the residential lanes, every single lane that I passed today there were boys playing cricket.

BARON: Playing cricket? Why?

SARWAR: Playing cricket. Every single residential lane that I passed off of the main roads, there were boys playing cricket on the lanes because there's very little traffic, so then they set up their wickets and they all play cricket. [OVERLAPPING]

BARON: So, they're playing cricket in the road because there's no traffic?

SARWAR: Yes. Not on the main roads, but on the side residential lanes, or in the empty lots, they're playing cricket. And traffic was moving today, but it was very strange to see all the shops shut down which are always open.

BARON: Beena, Karachi is a huge city, some 18 million people live there. How much of the city has been affected by this violence?

SARWAR: I would say the violence yesterday affected pretty much all city, because the entire city pretty much shut down. And there were pockets in the city, some of the areas which are known to be trouble areas when this kind of thing happens, and buses were burned and private vehicles were torched and private property was damaged and people were killed.

BARON: So, how unusual is this outbreak of violence?

SARWAR: It seems to be very common at one time and the thing has settled down and the city is pretty much back to what is used to be before except that there [INDISCERNABLE] ?no go? areas. So there's a lot of criminal elements that get involved in politics. It's very hard to say where politics end and where the criminalization begins. And another fact is that there are different sects of Muslims who also then use violence and resort to violence against the other sect. So, the politician who was killed yesterday happened to be a Shia and there is information that he was target killed by Sipah-e-Sahaba which is an organization that is violently anti-Shia. It's a band organization, but they have cropped up under another name.

BARON: And it's an organization that's affiliated with the Taliban?

SARWAR: Well, all organizations that draw their ? all political parties or organizations that draw their basis on religion will have some affiliation with what we now call the Taliban. And eventually the Taliban, the local religious groups, the al-Qaeda, essentially they're all ? you could lump them under one big umbrella and call them all jihadis or people who believe in what they consider to be holy war for the pursuit of their interests.

BARON: Well now, Karachi is key to the US operation in Afghanistan. Most supplies come through the port there before they get trucked north. Could this instability in Karachi jeopardize that US operation?

SARWAR: Definitely. I mean any instability anywhere in Pakistan would, but Karachi being a key city, a port city, it would definitely affect everything all over Pakistan.

BARON: Beena Sarwar, a journalist in Karachi. Thank you.

SARWAR: Thank you.