Pakistan's Biggest City Torn By Ethnic Violence Karachi is a chaotic place where the government often seems to have limited control. This summer, the city has been plagued by killings that have both ethnic and political overtones.
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Pakistan's Biggest City Torn By Ethnic Violence

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Pakistan's Biggest City Torn By Ethnic Violence

Pakistan's Biggest City Torn By Ethnic Violence

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

JULIE MCCARTHY: But ordinary citizens shuttered at home are suffering, says date merchant Mohammad Naeem Baloch. He says what ought to be a time of celebration - as the Eid holiday ends the month of Ramadan - is a time of anxiety.

MOHAMMED NAEEM BALOCH: (Through translator) Especially for the laborers and the working-class people, they have been crushed because of this violence. And there have been dead bodies from various houses. So, in such conditions, how would you celebrate Eid?

MCCARTHY: Sir, I wonder if you could tell us, what did you discover? What happened to your son?

MAULA BAKSH: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: Kamran and Saqib's uncle, Mohammad Hanif, saw their bodies when an ambulance service brought them home.

MOHAMMAD HANIF: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: Rival political parties are challenging the MQM's authority. Retired Lieutenant General Moin-Ud Din Haider - who once served as governor of the Sind province, the capital of which is Karachi - says the People's Party of President Zardari is alleged to have supported its own criminal mafia.

MOIN: And, you know, propping them up as a counterforce, counterweight to MQM. So, every party wants to increase its influence on its political turf, which sometimes become no-go areas for others, and that is also a cause of friction.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILD RUNNING)

MCCARTHY: Across town, in an Urdu-speaking migrant area, a mother and father grieve for their murdered son, Malik Irfan. Irfan's mother, Zareena Begum, says her son's head was separated from his body.

ZAREENA BEGUM: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: Malik Gulzar identified his son at the morgue run by the Edhi Foundation, the city's largest charity.

MALIK GULZAR: (Foreign language spoken)

MCCARTHY: Yet Malik Gulzar does not wish to avenge his son's death. But neither does he have faith he'll find justice. Gulzar asks: If the murderers of a prime minister could not be arrested - a reference to the slain Benazir Bhutto - then who would nab our children's killers?

INSKEEP: A question put to NPR's Julie McCarthy in Karachi has she visited there. And Julie, I'd like to ask: What are police and the authorities doing during all these killings?

MCCARTHY: And the chief justice asked at one point why the police didn't know that torture chambers existed in the city. So there is this attempt being made to assign accountability and to try to stop this ethnic hostility. But there has to be political will. And you've got the PPP Party and the MQM Party denying any responsibility or connection to the targeted killings. And as long as that continues, the killing in Karachi will continue.

INSKEEP: Are the police affected by the same political divisions that seem to have poisoned every other part of the government?

MCCARTHY: Absolutely. I mean, the analysts who are closest to this say that many members of the police force have gotten their jobs not through merit, but through political patronage. If you don't have merit but have patronage, it means that criminals allied with particular parties are given cover and the police are told to release them, and they do. They follow orders.

INSKEEP: NPR's Julie McCarthy. Thanks very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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