Rival ethnic groups clash over alleged love affair

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — It was a Shakespearean love story playing out Wednesday in Pakistan’s largest city: A young couple from hostile ethnic communities apparently ran off together, leading to bloodshed and rioting.
Pathans went on a rampage in Karachi, claiming a Mohajir man kidnapped a Pathan woman. His family says the couple eloped. Two bystanders were killed, eight people were injured and the lovers went into hiding.
The mob violence that spread through the city raised fears of a revived blood feud among ethnic Pathans and Mohajirs.
The Romeo of this tale is Kanwar Ahson, a political activist of the Mohajir Qami Movement and nephew of a Pakistani member of parliament.
Two years ago, Ahson took refuge for six months in the household of his Juliet, Rifat Afridi, to evade a police crackdown on the MQM, according to published reports.
The Afridis reportedly refused to let Ahson marry their daughter, saying she already was betrothed. Backing out would disgrace the family.
The couple, both in their 20s, disappeared last week. Police, who believe she left of her own free will, said they may have fled to Lahore, 300 miles north of Karachi. A Pathan council on Monday gave the provincial government 24 hours to find the couple and return the woman home.
On Wednesday, Pathan gangs burst from shantytown colonies into middle-class neighborhoods, smashing car windows and traffic lights, stoning passing vehicles and luxury international hotels.
Six policemen were dragged from a police van and beaten. Two doctors were injured because they couldn’t get out of their car after a mob set it alight — that incident prompted a general strike by the city’s doctors.
Stores were closed, and traffic on the street was light. Black smoke from burning tires rose over parts of Karachi.
Police fired tear gas and live ammunition in the air to keep the mobs on the run, and by evening the violence had tapered to sporadic incidents.
Pathans, a conservative Muslim group originally from the hills of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan, are the third-largest group among Karachi’s 13 million people.
Mohajirs are Muslims who migrated from India after the subcontinent was partitioned by the British in 1947 into the Islamic state of Pakistan and the predominantly Hindu country of India.