Lawyers' rumble leads to rioting in Pakistan
Shootings, fire kill 7 in Karachi after protest
KARACHI, Pakistan - A street fight between political rivals spiraled into rioting in Pakistan's biggest city yesterday, with armed men smashing cars and setting fires. Five people burned to death in one building and two were shot and killed.
It was the worst political violence Pakistan's new government has faced since taking office last month, vowing to curtail the powers of US-allied President Pervez Musharraf and cement democracy after eight years of military rule.
The trouble started when pro- and anti-government attorneys punched and beat each other with sticks near the main courts complex in Karachi. Soon after, armed men began shooting at and torching cars, witnesses said.
A building was set ablaze, and five charred bodies were found on the sixth floor, said police officer Syed Sulaiman. Two other people died of gunshot wounds, including a paramedic whose ambulance came under fire while trying to reach the injured.
Salman Naguri, a 22-year-old shopkeeper, said he saw two men on a motorbike shoot at a passing ambulance, which crashed into an electricity pylon.
"For 15 or 20 minutes, an injured man was crying for help from inside the ambulance but nobody helped him," Naguri said. When another ambulance crew arrived, the man was dead, he said.
It was the second episode to tarnish a powerful lawyers' movement that led months of protests against Musharraf, galvanizing his opponents and contributing to the defeat of his allies in February parliamentary elections.
Attorneys from the movement were involved in an assault Tuesday on former Cabinet minister Sher Afgan Niazi, who was beaten as he emerged from his office.
A group of lawyers allied with the pro-Musharraf Mutahida Quami Movement had been protesting the assault on Niazi when the violence erupted in Karachi.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called on "all political forces to ensure peace and harmony" in Karachi.