Blood-soaked Karachi: the nation in microcosm

UNLESS events dictate otherwise, Pakistan will not hold national elections until 2013.

However, outwith the known conflict in the border areas with Afghanistan, violence seethes - often hand-in-hand with politics.

In Karachi this month, at least 185 people have died in fighting linked to ethnic and political differences.

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The city, home to more than 18 million people, has a history of ethnic and sectarian violence and local quarrels can often explode into battles engulfing entire districts.

The areas recently affected are home to both Pashtuns and Muhajirs, the descendants of Urdu-speaking refugees who fled India in 1947 following partition.

Recent fighting has also included Sunni-Shia violence, with personal feuds played out in an environment that has seen a breakdown in law and order.

How much longer the present government can continue is a moot point.