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Killings In Largest Pakistani City Target Ethnic Pashtuns


People gather near a bus that was set on fire by a mob in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi on May 20.

People gather near a bus that was set on fire by a mob in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi on May 20.

KARACHI, Pakistan -- A spate of killings targeting ethnic Pashtuns has shaken Pakistan's largest city of Karachi, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal reports.

The death toll was at least 36 over the last several days.

Life in western Pakistani cities, most importantly Quetta, came to a standstill during a shutdown strike on May 21 to protest the killings.

Unknown armed men on motorbikes have targeted mostly ethnic Pashtuns. The victims come primarily from Pakistan's west and northwest.

The principal Pashtun nationalist parties of Pakistan say the majority of the victims are their supporters. Those two secular parties -- Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) and Awami National Party (ANP) -- have accused supporters of the rival MQM party of carrying out the attacks.

The MQM is supported by Pakistan's Urdu-speaking population, whose ancestors came from India after the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Karachi has a long history of ethnic violence between the Urdu-speakers and ethnic Pashtuns. In the 1980s and 1990s hundreds of people from the two rival ethnic groups were killed in mob and other violence.

The local government, fearing growing violence, has closed all educational institutions in Karachi.

On May 19, demonstrations were held in several Pashtun-dominated regions to condemn the killings.

The seaport of Karachi has a population of some 15.5 million people.
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