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Pakistan violence leaves 33 dead

A wave of violence has seen 33 people killed in the last 24 hours in Pakistan's largest city, with many of the victims tortured, shot and stuffed in sacks that were dumped on the streets, officials have said.

There has been a surge in killings in Karachi in recent weeks that many blame on gangs affiliated to the city's main political parties. The government has been unable to stem the violence, as it also grapples with a faltering economy and a raging Islamist insurgency.

The unrest illustrates the precarious state of Pakistan's stability at a time when the US wants the nuclear-armed country to step up its fight against Taliban militants who stage cross-border attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Authorities were investigating the circumstances surrounding the 33 people killed in Karachi in the last 24 hours, city police chief Saud Mirza said.

Sharfuddin Memon, the security adviser to the government in Sindh province, where Karachi is the capital, said the latest round of violence seemed to be driven by a mix of political and criminal motivations.

"Gangs operating in the city are involved in the fresh killing," said Mr Memon. "They are kidnapping people for different reasons, torturing and killing."

A former national politician from the ruling Pakistan People's Party, Waja Kareem Dad, was gunned down Wednesday evening, Mr Memon said. Others were also killed by gunfire and grenade attacks, he said.

Karachi, population 18 million, has a long history of political, ethnic and sectarian violence, but the recent wave is high by historical standards. More than 300 people were killed in July alone.

The recent bout of violence followed a decision in late June by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the city's most powerful political party, to leave the federal coalition led by the Pakistan People's Party and join the opposition.

There were at least 490 political, ethnic and sectarian killings in Karachi during the first half of the year, and more than 1,100 killings of all kinds, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

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