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Karachi University clashes reflect Pak city's demographic turf war

January 25, 2011 - Karachi

Although Karachi is a hideout for Taliban insurgents, the Pakistani metropolis' violence is rooted in a demographic turf war, not religion, according to analysts.

Karachi 's long-dominant political force is the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which represents Urdu speakers who migrated after partition from India, The Washington Post reported.

But the MQM is being challenged by Pashtun arrivals from Pakistan's war-torn northwest region and peasants from the surrounding Sindh province, causing the fissures to grow deeper and the groups' gunmen more brazen, it added.

At the University of Karachi, as in the city, the group affiliated with the MQM is viewed as the most potent, and professors said it disrupted the teacher selection session in December, the report said.

Professors in Karachi University said they have lately perceived an even deeper-seated factionalism- one that is imperiling academic discourse, the report added.

"The students in our university are coming from the same society in which we live . . . and at every level of society, we observe this intolerance," said food science professor Abid Hasnain, a 25 year-veteran who heads the Karachi University Teachers Society, which temporarily boycotted exams after clashes last month.

Although political groups in the university cannot boast of large numbers, they wield pressure over administrators as emissaries of national parties and the 'muscle' behind street demonstrations, the report said.

"Unfortunately, we in the administration are very weak . . . and we believe that this group may help me get a higher position, and when I get a higher position, they blackmail me," said Khalid Iraqi, a public administration professor who said he recently resigned as the university's head security officer.


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