The steadily heating issue of the Chief Justice’s suspension and trial in Pakistan has boiled over in Karachi, as pro-government and anti-government forces clashed, with “gunmen” (terrorists — who else is it that wantonly murders unknown innocents for political ends?) purportedly from MQM shooting into the crowds and killing 28. The demonstrators and Â rival counter-demonstrators clashed, with 100+ injuries.
UPDATE: The death toll has risen to 37 as reported by VOA and AP. The military and police have orders to shoot to kill rioters perÂ reports on Fox news.
Story from AP:
A political crisis threatening President Gen. Pervez Musharraf exploded into violence Saturday when clashes between pro-government gunmen and opposition supporters killed at least 28 people and thwarted a major rally against military rule.
The violence in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, was the worst in a two-month crisis shaking the government under Musharraf, a vital U.S. ally who provoked the turmoil by ousting the head of the Supreme Court on March 9.
Gunmen with assault rifles traded fire among bungalows and concrete apartment blocks in the city of 15 million, a major port and home to Pakistan’s stock market. Shipping containers and immobilized trucks blocked streets and men brandished rifles and handguns against a backdrop of burning cars and buses.
The attacks trapped ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry at the Karachi airport, unable to attend what organizers hoped to be the largest rally yet calling for Chaudhry’s reinstatement and for Musharraf to step down.
Musharraf loyalists insist that the president remains popular despite resentment of his alliance with the Bush administration to pursue al- Qaida.
But simmering resentment has been unleashed by Musharraf’s removal of Chaudhry, who had a reputation for challenging government misdeeds. Critics accuse Musharraf of removing Chaudhry to protect the president’s plan to seek a new five-year term. The government maintains Chaudhry was ousted because he had abused his office.
Musharaaf has with the Chief Justice’s removal set moderate Pakistanis and some divisions of the PPP which previously supported him against his continued rule. He is a man walking the razor’s edge, but so far has shown to be nimble. My recommendation is that the justices hearing the case go non-stop and get it decided quickly one way or the other, this cannot continue to brew without throwing Pakistan once more to chaos.