A general strike, called by opposition parties to protest against the killing of some 40 people in Karachi over the weekend, paralyzed life Monday in the southern Pakistani port city, according to local press reports.
The private NNI news agency quoted witnesses as saying that all major shops, government and private offices were shut in Pakistan's biggest city and public transport of the roads suspended.
The provincial Sindh government has banned gatherings of more than five people in the city where rival rallies sparked the worst gunbattles in recent years.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf dismissed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in March to face charges of misconduct, which triggered anti-government protests across the country. Chaudhry has since become a symbol of the anti-Musharraf movement.
Witnesses in Karachi said that small restaurants, which usually remain open on strikes, were also closed due to the strike.
The provincial government had also announced a close holiday Monday and canceled all examinations.
Some 12,000 paramilitary rangers have been deployed to check violence in the city, which is giving a deserted look.
Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad said that the rangers had been given powers to shoot those who would try to create lawlessness.
The opposition groups blamed the killings on the pro-Musharraf Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), but the MQM said that the opposition groups were behind the violence.
Local press reports said that the strike call also received positive response in other major cities, including provincial capitals of Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.
Lawyers also boycotted courts across the country and took out processions to condemn the Karachi killings.
The provincial government of Sindh also announced mourning to protest against the bloodshed.
The opposition parties planned a rally to welcome the chief justice Saturday and the MQM organized a counter rally on the same day.
Chaudhry was confined at the Karachi airport for several hours and finally gave up his plan to address the lawyers in the city and fled back to Islamabad.