Ethnic killings spark doom in Pakistan's biggest city

Sat Aug 27, 2011 8:28pm EDT
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By Michael Georgy

KARACHI (Reuters) - Imran Ali's kidnappers jabbed pistols into his sides and led him down a quiet street as fresh ethnic carnage spread fear in Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi.

Two other people blindfolded and held with the construction worker had just been shot at point-blank range. It was his turn.

Minutes later he was face down in a ditch filled with sewage, playing dead until the men were satisfied that three bullets had done the job and walked away.

"It feels like people are just being picked off in the streets because of their ethnic background. How can we live like this," Ali, a member of Karachi's Urdu-speaking community, said from a hospital bed.

"Apocalypse is coming to Karachi."

Pakistan's financial capital has a long history of ethnic violence between the dominant Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) -- which represents the Mohajirs, descendants of Urdu-speakers who migrated from India after Pakistan's birth in 1947 -- and the ethnic-Pashtun Awami National Party (ANP).

Those parties are often accused of using ethnic gangs in a turf war over everything from land-grabbing schemes to extortion rackets to votes, allegations they deny.

But the worst bloodshed since the army was called in to ease street battles in the 1990s has created an unprecedented sense of doom and increased fears over instability in Pakistan, a strategic nuclear-armed U.S. ally.   Continued...

<p>A child holds a flag of the religious and political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, as part of a peace protest against the recent violence in Karachi on August 26, 2011. REUTERS/Athar Hussain</p>