Pakistan on brink of disaster as Karachi burns
By Isambard Wilkinson and Massoud Ansari in Karachi, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 11:37pm BST 12/05/2007
Chaos gripped the streets of Karachi yesterday as gun battles left at least 31 people dead and hundreds more injured, threatening a complete breakdown of law and order in Pakistan's largest and most volatile city.
With plumes of black smoke billowing over the city of 12 million people, there were extraordinary scenes as gunmen on motorbikes pumped bullets into crowds demonstrating against Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, while police stood by and watched.
In images more reminiscent of Baghdad, bloodstained corpses lay where they had fallen in the streets and bodies piled up in hospital morgues. As the sense of crisis deepened, a crisis meeting between Gen Musharraf and the prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, resolved to send in paramilitary troops to restore order, and to place the army on standby. The men agreed that a state of emergency would be imposed if the first two options failed.
It was the bloodiest escalation of the two-month long saga which began when the president attempted to sack the country's chief justice in March. The ensuing challenge by lawyers and opposition parties to Gen Musharraf's eight-year rule has left the president - a key Western ally in the "war on terror" - desperately clinging to power.
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