KARACHI: The city observed a complete shutdown on Saturday as the strike announced by traders on Friday to mark a ‘black day’ against extortion threats won support from political parties including the key Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
Traffic was scarce on the roads and business centers and markets were shut.
“We were under immense pressure from our colleagues in hundreds of markets to call a shutter-down strike,” said Ateeq Meer of the All Karachi Tajir Ittehad, a platform of more than 300 city markets.
“Earlier, we had announced plans for a sit-in on M.A. Jinnah Road but called it off after assurances by the city police chief. On Thursday, we were once again given guarantees by the Sindh IG but today traders are again getting calls. To top it all, the police aren’t even bothering to trace the callers through their contact numbers.”
According to him, the representatives of the city markets’ association after an urgent meeting decided to call a ‘shutter-down strike’ which attracted support from several political parties including the MQM, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Sunni Tehreek.
In a statement released by the MQM’s secretariat in London, the party chief Altaf Hussain appealed to all party workers that the strike against the extortion mafia should to be peaceful.
The MQM chief said that if any party worker was found responsible for any arson or miscreant activities, then that worker’s membership would be suspended permanently.
The political parties and the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry — the key body representing industrial and conventional businesses — voiced their support after the traders’ decision.
Earlier, fuel stations and transport bodies had also expressed their reluctance to operate on the day and educational institutions announced postponement of all scheduled activities.
The local education board had announced that examinations scheduled for Saturday had been postponed in view of the city’s law and order situation.
“The 170 CNG stations in the city will definitely remain closed under the gas load management,” said Abdul Sami Khan of the Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association.
The closure of CNG stations in the city for 24 hours on Saturday from 9am onwards under gas load management schedule further trimmed down the number of vehicles on the roads.
The strike call by the traders against extortion came as a grim reminder of the shutdown almost exactly a year ago.
In April 2011 the city’s commercial activities had also come to a grinding halt in a protest against the same menace and that time as well the government’s coalition partner, the MQM, had emerged as the main political party supporting the move.