KARACHI, June 21: The city plunged into panic and fear minutes after the killing of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) lawmaker Sajid Qureshi and his young son on Friday amid random incidents of firing and arson attacks as Karachi braced for another shutdown on Saturday after the deceased legislator’s party gave a call for ‘three days of mourning’.
Within an hour after the double murder outside a mosque in North Nazimabad, life in the city came to a complete halt as public transport disappeared from the roads, traders pulled down shutters, business and commercial centres wrapped up their businesses and fuel station owners suspended their operation.
Several neighbourhoods in Karachi, Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas reverberated with gunfire that further spread fear among the residents. People left their workplace early, fearing that violence would escalate after the killing of the MQM leader but were stuck at bus stops in the absence of public transport in many areas.
Within two hours following the killing, at least seven people with bullet wounds were brought to public health facilities. Officials said they came under fire after the North Nazimabad killing.
“Seven people with gunshot wounds were brought to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Abbassi Shaheed Hospital and Civil Hospital Karachi for treatment,” said an official at the police surgeon office.
“They sustained bullet wounds in firing in New Karachi Sector 5-E, Drigh Colony, Mauripur Road, SITE, Preedy and Korangi,” he said. All the victims were stable, he added.
Apart from firing, arson attacks were also reported in some areas where armed men intercepted moving vehicles and set them on fire. An official at the central fire station confirmed that six vehicles were torched in different city areas after the North Nazimabad incident.
“A Qinqui rickshaw and a Suzuki pick-up van were set on fire in Gulistan-i-Jauhar near Perfume Chowk,” he said. “Similarly, two minibuses of route N-5 and D-3 were torched near the Malir City traffic intersection. Two minibuses were set ablaze in Korangi Chamra Chowrangi and Nazimabad No 2,” he added.
“Fire tenders remained unable to access the majority of the sites due to volatile security situation,” the official said.
However, the police authorities said the daylong killings were not linked to the violence.
“The MPA and his son along with Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat activist on Abul Hasan Isphahani Road and a cleric in Shah Faisal Colony were killed in targeted attacks,” said the newly-appointed city police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo.
“The other incidents, including a killing after kidnapping, must be investigated before arriving at any conclusion. There was a kind of violent reaction after the MPA killing but we managed to contain the intensity and no major loss has been reported except a few vehicles torched in arson attacks.”
He said the police had chalked out a security plan for the Saturday funeral of the deceased legislator and his son. A strategy had also been devised to keep the ‘mourning’ peaceful with additional deployment of the Rapid Response Force, he added.
“But there is also a political responsibility that one should try to keep the mourning peaceful and avoid creating law and order situation,” said the city police chief.
Amid violence and fear, the MQM coordination came up with three-day mourning call and ‘appealed’ to the traders and transporters to keep their businesses closed on Saturday.
“Condemning the incidents as a big tragedy the Co-ordination Committee announced to observe three days of mourning throughout the country. The decision was taken in a joint meeting of the committee in London and Pakistan,” said an MQM statement. “The committee appealed to traders, industrialists, shopkeepers, transporters and people belonging to different spheres of life to observe the day of mourning and suspend business activities and keep transport vehicles off the road on Saturday.”
The associations of key business segments announced to stay away from their regular work on Saturday on the MQM appeal. They showed the same gesture on MQM’s appeal only last week when the party called for a ‘day of mourning’ and ‘appealed’ them to keep their businesses closed against killing of its workers.
“We strongly condemn the killing of MPA Qureshi and his young son and hold government responsible for failing to protect the lives of citizens,” said Ismail Lapuria, secretary of the Sindh Tajir Ittehad — a common platform of wholesale and retail markets across the province.
“We’ve responded to their [MQM] appeal and decided to keep business closed on Friday. It’s only to keep the protest peaceful and support the cause to condemn the brutality.”
Same were the thoughts from the Pakistan Petroleum Dealers’ Association and Karachi Transport Ittehad, who ‘supported’ the MQM protest and announced to keep fuel stations closed and buses off the road.
The situation forced educational institutions to postpone the exams scheduled for Saturday. The Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, the University of Karachi and the Board of Intermediate Education, Karachi announced that the exams scheduled for June 22 had been postponed. They announced that the date for the postponed papers would be notified later.
The Urdu university also announced postponement of the Anjuman-i-Asatiza programme that was supposed to be held at its Gulshan-i-Iqbal Campus on Saturday. The BIEK, meanwhile, advised students to approach their respective colleges to get a new schedule of their technical exams.