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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ISLAMABAD2157
2007-05-14 11:10:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

VIOLENCE IN KARACHI: RUMOR MILL ACTIVE WHILE CITY WAITS

Tags:   ASEC  PGOV  PK  PREL 
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VZCZCXRO4184
PP RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHIL #2157/01 1341110
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 141110Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9109
INFO RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT PRIORITY 2390
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ASTANA PRIORITY 0144
RUEHKB/AMEMBASSY BAKU PRIORITY 0141
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK PRIORITY 4184
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 7107
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5608
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 0925
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 4755
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT PRIORITY 3122
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI PRIORITY 5993
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE PRIORITY 2298
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR PRIORITY 0623
RUMICEA/USCENTCOM INTEL CEN MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 2306
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISLAMABAD 002157 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/14/2017
TAGS: ASEC, PGOV, PK, PREL
SUBJECT: VIOLENCE IN KARACHI: RUMOR MILL ACTIVE WHILE CITY
WAITS

Classified By: Charge Peter Bodde 1.5 (b), (d).

1. (U) The weekend's politically motivated violence in
Karachi left over 40 people dead and hundreds wounded. As of
1400 local May 14, clashes and drive-by shootings claimed two
more lives. Consulate General Karachi reports that the city
is tense as it braces for the funerals of the seven persons
killed May 13 and the possibility of funeral-related
violence. Most of Karachi's shops are closed and few if any
people or vehicles are on the roads. A public order banning
gatherings of more than five persons is in effect. Press
reports indicate that some groups of political activists may
be preparing for further confrontations. The Consulate has
granted liberal leave to all local employees, and official
Americans are staying indoors. All TDY travel to Karachi is
canceled.

2. (C) The three hubs of Karachi's political power -- the
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM); the Pakistan People's Party
(PPP); and the sizable Pashtun minority, many of whom support
the Awami Nationalist Party (ANP) -- all suffered casualties
over the weekend. As in past episodes of inter-party
fighting (political violence in Karachi between 1986 and 1996
claimed at least 10,000 lives), the heavily armed MQM appears
to have precipitated the violence, with equally well-armed
PPP and Pashtun cadres fighting back.

3. (C) Because the MQM is a member of President Musharraf's
national coalition government, the Pakistani rumor mill and
some news outlets are postulating that Musharraf allowed, or
even somehow encouraged, the weekend's violence in Karachi.
(Note: We have seen nothing to indicate that this might be
true. Indeed, Musharraf certainly would have anticipated
that violence of this magnitude would further weaken his
political position. Musharraf realizes that law and order
problems anywhere in Pakistan erode public confidence in his
administration. Meanwhile, the Chief Justice's reputation,
while not necessarily harmed by the incidents, was not
enhanced either. The events in Karachi eclipsed the Chief
Justice's attempt to visit the Sindh High Court and knocked
his legal case off the front pages of the newspapers. End
Note.)

4. (C) Comment: The government apparently did not take
adequate precautions to prevent its coalition partner from
engaging in violent tactics similar to those for which it was
known in the 1980's and 1990's but which it had increasingly
eschewed, especially since joining the Musharraf government.
A confluence of distracting events, including complex
preparations for May 12's pro-Musharraf rally in Islamabad,
may have contributed to the government's lack of attention.
We stress again, though, that we do not see duplicity in the
failure. We also doubt there is any one reason the police
were unable to control Saturday's and Sunday's violence.
With political groups so heavily armed, any police force
would have found the situation more than challenging.
Similarly, if press reports are true that a few mid-ranking
police officials disarmed their street constables Saturday
morning, it may have been out of fear that some police might
join the fighting or exacerbate the violence by firing into
crowds. Whatever the case, the deaths of several police
officials each day indicate that some police were attempting
to impose security despite their limited training and
relative lack of fire power compared to the MQM fighters. As
Saturday proved, few matters facing Pakistan are as important
as law enforcement training and equipping -- the reason we
continue to support such programs (especially riot control
training, a new focus of our mission), and the reason we
believe our law enforcement training programs are supremely
important.

5. (C) Comment continued: If history repeats itself, this

ISLAMABAD 00002157 002 OF 002


acute period of violence will play itself out within a day or
two. The larger task facing the federal, provincial, and
city governments will be preventing a deterioration into
cycles of political violence like those that plagued Karachi
during the 1980s and 1990s. End Comment.

6. (C) Consulate Karachi also reports:

-- The closure of Karachi port is costing Pakistan as much as
USD 11 million per hour, the value of goods normally
processed in that time. Office of Defense Representative -
Pakistan understands the port will reopen on May 15, meaning
the closure should not unduly effect goods bound for U.S.
forces in Afghanistan.

-- PPP contacts tell the Consulate that ISI officials called
them Friday evening to recommend they stay indoors on
Saturday. ANP contacts report they received no similar phone
calls.

-- The situation is such that tabulating actual death tolls
is difficult.

-- (Note: In past episodes of violence, only the Pakistan
Army was able to bring the MQM under control. The Pakistan
military deployed on Sunday, though Consulate Karachi reports
soldiers are not highly visible as of 1400 Monday. End Note.)
BODDE