The federal Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, a member of the ruling People’s Party, said the death toll may be as high as 85. He said he’d sent a message to the MQM and the Awami party that said, “Let’s have a ceasefire.”
Pakistan has seen violent crime rise alongside al-Qaida and Taliban-led Islamist militancy in recent years, with Karachi bearing much of the brunt.
Also Friday, a government administrator said Pakistani troops backed by jets killed 11 suspected Taliban militants in the northwest tribal region of Kurram. That brings to 45 the number of suspected insurgents killed in Kurram since the army began an offensive there Sunday, Javed Ullah said.
The Pakistani army’s operation in Kurram follows reports that the feared Afghan Taliban militant group, the Haqqani network, is using the territory to help it launch attacks against NATO forces across the border.
But the Pakistani military is more likely focused on Pakistani Taliban militants who have declared war against the state and its security establishment. Many analysts believe Pakistan is hesitant to target the Haqqanis — as demanded by the U.S. — because of historical ties to the group.
The information Kurram is nearly impossible to verify independently because the area is remote and dangerous. It is also unclear how the Pakistani authorities distinguish between insurgents and civilians killed during their airstrikes and other battles.
• Associated Press writer Hussain Afzal in Parachinar contributed to this report.