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Clashes at Karachi university reflect city's intractable feuds

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"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," Iraqi said.

At the university, 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.

In late December, a bomb planted under a tree exploded next to a lawn where a Shiite students' group was praying, hospitalizing four in what appeared to be a rare act of terrorism on a university campus. Last week, police arrested three students who were affiliated with an Islamic organizationwhose members are Sunni.

Shahana Urooj, one of the university's top administrators, said the university had increased the number of army rangers and private security guards after the December turmoil. She said administrators also asked the city's political parties to "control" their students. But, she said, the parties typically deny links to troublemakers.

In interviews, student group leaders described the dynamics with a blend of evasion, blame and conspiracy theories. Ali Wasif, 23, a Shiite student leader who witnessed the bombing, said he attributed it to "Zionist" and other non-Muslim "elements."

Abdul Moqtada, a leader with the Sunni group, accused administrators, calling it their policy "to divide and rule the student groups."

On a recent day, amid exams that were finally underway after several postponements, students congregated in small groups outside the political science building. They expressed only frustration when asked about student organizations, whose names they would not utter. Some called for a revival of the ban on campus politics.

Ahsan Awan, 24, heads what he describes as an apolitical group that works "for the empowerment of neutral students." Nevertheless, he said, it would be up to the administration and the army rangers to stand up to the student organizations.

"In a society like Pakistan, it's very hard to actually go against them," he said.


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