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Karachi Gunfights Kill 13 After Lawmaker Assassination

Police in Karachi said 13 people have been shot dead today, continuing a surge in violence in Pakistan’s commercial capital that has followed the assassination of a provincial lawmaker.

Police spokesman Imran Shaukat confirmed the number of dead in the latest clashes, while television channels, including the Geo network, said those killed since midnight included gangsters, local traders and political activists.

Geo said almost 40 people have now died since the killing on Jan. 17 of a legislator from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Karachi’s biggest political party. The assassination was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which also took responsibility for a bomb attack on a MQM gathering on New Year’s Day, The News Tribe website said.

The city of 18 million people, whose banks and businesses generate 45 percent of the country’s economy, has for years witnessed spikes in violence involving members of rival political parties, ethnic communities or criminal groups.

The MQM represents Urdu-speaking immigrants from India who settled in Pakistan during partition in 1947. Its fiercest opponent is the the Awami National Party, which draws support from Karachi’s Pashtuns, a community that has grown rapidly as fighting between the army and Taliban guerrillas intensified in the country’s northwest.

Putting aside their historical antagonism, leaders of the ANP attended the funeral of the assassinated MQM politician, Manzar Imam. Representatives of the two groups later told reporters they need to stand together and fight the Taliban, which has attacked workers of both parties.

Targeted assassinations killed 85 people in Karachi in August, and more than 2,000 people died in attacks in the city in 2012, according to police data.

Last week, President Asif Ali Zardari asked workers of his Pakistan Peoples Party to prepare for polls that are planned for May. The MQM is Zardari’s ally in the federal coalition and in the regional administration that runs Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital.

-- Editors: Mark Williams, Tony Jordan

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