KARACHI, July 1: Hundreds of Lyariites led by Pakistan Peoples Party legislators and leaders staged a sit-in in front of the Rangers headquarters on Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road on Monday against the ‘extra-judicial killing’ of an area youth by paramilitary soldiers last week, keeping the traffic system in busy district south paralysed for several hours.
The protesters, including dozens of women and children, took to the streets in the second half of the day. They first emerged on Mauripur Road, suspending traffic on the key link for the city cargo traffic. They took more than two hours to ‘force their way through’ and reach Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road, said to be a in high-security area housing a number of government buildings and described as a ‘red zone’ by the security administration.
A heavy contingent of police carrying tear-gas guns and supported by a water cannon were deployed along the procession route with a number of blockades on I. I. Chundrigarh Road and other crucial links. However, the police did not make any serious attempt to stop the marchers and removed every single hurdle, including barriers, traffic dividers, trucks and water tankers, which came in their way.
The authorities sounded quite soft when asked about the reasons behind their move to allow the protesters to converge in front of the paramilitary forces headquarters. They said it was part of a strategy to prevent any untoward incident that could have led to casualties.
“The protesters were not allowed to stage a sit-in. They forced their way through,” District South SSP Nasir Aftab told Dawn. “We tried to stop them but they defied the security arrangements and forced us to remove barricades. But it’s a fact that the protesters were very peaceful and they did not act in a way that could have attracted police action. We had a plan in place and if we had used force that could have led to casualties. So an effort was made to keep things normal but under control.”
The security arrangements, put in place much before the procession began marching from the Lyari Football Ground, affected the traffic flow and by 4pm the system was in a mess in entire district south.
The situation started worsening in the second half of the day when the police blocked Aiwan-i-Saddar Road, where the Governor House is situated, and Dr Ziauddin Ahmed Road met the same fate under ‘security measures’. Mauripur Road was already closed after the protest rally participants emerged from the neighbouring town.
The situation caused severe traffic jams on roads bearing heavy traffic, including I. I. Chundrigarh Road, M. R. Kayani Road, Sarwar Shaheed Road, Abdullah Haroon Road, South Napier Road, Old Outram Road, Hasrat Mohani Road, Wood Street, Shahrah-i-Kamal Ataturk, Burnes Road, Belassis Street, Shahrah-i-Liaquat and Nicol Road, and the mess stretched to parts of Saddar and Sharea Faisal.
The PPP legislators and leaders ‘regretted’ that their protest caused inconvenience to tens of thousands of people, but vowed to continue their ‘struggle’ for peace in Lyari, where they said a ‘deliberate mess had been created by the establishment and a group with vested interests’.
“The people of Karachi enjoy every right to know that under what law they are being killed by those supposed to protect their lives,” said Karachi division PPP president Abdul Qadir Patel, who was among the several party leaders leading the protest.
“The young man (Saqib aka Boxer) was picked up and shot dead by Rangers personnel only to declare him a gangster. Is this the way you want to bring peace back? Is this the way you prove yourself a law-enforcement agency? We would not sit silent against this brutality and would make every move to seek justice and restore peace to Lyari.”
A number of participants in the procession were carrying posters of people killed in Lyari violence in recent years. They also chanted slogans against ‘Rangers brutality and extra-judicial killings’. They dispersed only after the authorities intervened and made assurances to them.
“We have forwarded a memorandum to the authorities concerned through the deputy commission south,” said Sanya Naz Baloch, a PPP member of the Sindh Assembly from Lyari, whose recent picture with Chief Justice Ifikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has made a buzz on social media.
“We only decided to disperse after the authorities invited us to a meeting with senior police and Rangers officials on the Lyari issue on Wednesday at the Rangers headquarters. We expect something positive will emerge from it, but we want to make it clear that we have only suspended not wrapped up our protest.”
Though she conceded having met the chief justice, Ms Baloch said it was only her ‘wish’ to get snapped with the CJ and had nothing to do with discussion on Karachi peace.
“It’s a two- or three-week-old picture. I only met him as I wanted my photograph taken with him. So, I posted that photograph on Facebook. It’s not in the way the media has portrayed it,” she said when asked about the background of her picture with the CJ, with a section of the media reporting that she had discussed the Karachi law and order situation with him.
Traffic flow started easing only after the sit-in ended near sunset. The authorities removed barriers from roads that helped move hundreds of vehicles, some of which had been stuck in traffic jams for hours.