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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Strike Brings Karachi Screeching to Halt

KARACHI, Pakistan -- A general strike paralyzed Karachi and closed businesses in other major Pakistani cities Monday as discontent grew over President Pervez Musharraf's ouster of the chief justice and a weekend of violence that left 41 people dead.

Shops were shut and traffic was thin on the roads in the southern port city, where security forces have authority to shoot rioters on sight, after the worst political violence in Pakistan in years broke out over the weekend.

Security forces Saturday took no action as rival groups demonstrating over an abortive visit to Karachi by suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry fought fierce clashes that also wounded more than 150 and caused widespread damage to property. Opposition parties blamed the government for the violence and called a nationwide protest strike Monday.

"There is a complete strike in Karachi," said Azhar Faruqi, the city police chief.

He reported that law and order was improving -- after the unrest took an ominous ethnic turn Sunday with clashes between Urdu-speaking Mohajirs linked to a pro-government party and Pashtuns, whose rivalry has caused bloodshed here in the past.

Officials said the strike was being observed in towns and cities across southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital. It was also observed, in varying degrees, in Islamabad and the capitals of Pakistan's other three provinces, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.

Many citizens appeared to support the strike call; others observed it out of fear of recrimination or unrest during pro-Chaudhry street demonstrations.

In Lahore, about 8,000 people, including lawyers, opposition party and human rights activists, chanted "Go Musharraf Go!" and "Death to Altaf Hussain." Hussain is leader of the pro-government Mutahida Qaumi Movement party blamed for much of the Karachi violence.

They burned two effigies of Musharraf and hundreds of protesters pushed through a police barricade.

The weekend's bloodshed marked a serious escalation in a crisis that began March 9 when Musharraf suspended Chaudhry, and has hardened opposition to plans for the general, a key U.S. ally, to extend his nearly eight-year rule, seeking another term this fall.