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    Three shot dead in clashes in Pakistan

    Islamabad/Karachi, May 12 (PTI): Pakistan's deepening political crisis over the suspension of Chief Justice Iftikar M Chaudhry descended into violence today as three Opposition party workers were shot dead and sporadic clashes broke out in Karachi ahead of separate rallies by the top judge and President Pervez Musharraf.

    As Chaudhry, whose suspension has sparked one of the biggest political protests in Pakistan reached Karachi by air to take part in a lawyer's convention, gunmen shot dead Asghar Ali, Jahan Zeb, Opposition activists, who were involved in making arrangements for Chaudhry's arrival in the city.

    Another person Suhail Qadri, an activist from the Sunni Tehrik religious party, that has a long running rivalry with MQM was also shot dead.

    Chaudhry was accompanied on the flight to Karachi by his defence lawyers, noted human rights activist, Asma Jahangir, and some media personnel.

    Ahead of his arrival in Karachi, most of the roads from the airport to the city were blocked by vehicles by local authorities. A number of lorries and heavy vehicles were put on the road with flat tires so that they cannot be moved.

    Clashes between supporters of Chaudhry and MQM workers were reported from populated areas of the city like Malir, City, Shah Faisal colony and Landhi.

    Sources said some police officials were also injured in the clashes.

    Inside the city, a large crowd of MQM supporters from various parts of Sindh have converged at the mausoleum of Pakistan-founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah where Chaudhry was scheduled to go to lay wreath and later address a lawyers' convention being organised in connection with 50th anniversary of Sindh High Court Bar Association.

    The MQM, which is the local ruling alliance partner, is holding a big rally in favour of Musharraf.

    Musharraf would address, what the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q leaders claimed, a "massive public rally" in front of Parliament in capital Islamabad, while the ruling coalition ally Muthahida Quami Movement (MQM) geared up to hold a big demonstration in Karachi in his support.

    Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court Sabihuddin Ahmed has summoned the city police chief to explain the prevailing tense situation in the city ahead of the rallies of Chaudhry and the MQM.

    Police Chief, Azhar Farooqi, was summoned to the High Court after the killing of the two persons.

    The summon also came after reports said unidentified people believed to be MQM workers stopped lawyers from entering the court since morning and clashed with them.

    Ahmed ordered authorities in the city to immediately clear all roads and arteries in Karachi of all types of blockades and allow Chaudhry a clear and hurdle-free passage to the Supreme Court Bar Association office.

    The instructions were issued by the Sindh Home Secretary, Chief Secretary and Inspector General of Police in an emergency hearing after lawyers and Opposition parties were prevented from going to the airport to greet the Chief Justice.



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