KARACHI: Violent protest broke out in different parts of the city on Tuesday against the ‘Lyari operation’ that witnessed police resorting to baton charge, firing tear gas shells and gunshots into the air to disperse the charged crowd.
The protest in the Baloch-dominated areas paralysed daily life in the respective localities and the hours-long stand-off between the police and demonstraters in sizzling heat kept traffic off the roads. The protesters including women and children demanded an immediate end to the ‘crackdown on the Lyariites’, trapped in the deadly clash between the police and gunmen for the last five days.
The protest triggered from the Mauripur Road neighbouring the clashes-hit Lyari, where hundreds of protesters took to the main road chanting slogans against the government and the law enforcement agencies. They burnt tyres on the road and blocked the key thoroughfare which facilitates movement of mainly commercial and heavy traffic.
After failing to dissuade the angry mob from agitation, the police fired tear gas and gunshots into the air but faced tough resistance. The police, however, denied that their actions caused injury to any of the protesters.
“We moved only after realising that the prolonged demonstration was affecting traffic movement and attracting heavy deployment of police that were already engaged with the gangsters in Lyari,” said Sohrab Meo, the area’s sub-divisional police officer (SDPO).
The longest protest was witnessed at the Korangi Expressway, where hundreds of protesters, mostly women, blocked the main road linking it with the Shaheed-i-Millat flyover and Sharea Faisal. An almost four-hour long protest cut off the southern district from the eastern part of the city, as the protesters demanded immediate withdrawal of police from Lyari.
Carrying placards, they accused the government of targeting the stronghold of a particular ethnic community for political gains. A number of attempts by the police to defuse tension failed to produce any result. The situation turned violent when the policemen fired shots into the air, and in return were rained with stones by the protesters. The episode lasted for a few minutes before the police finally fired tear gas shells to disperse them. However, no arrest was made.
“Since it’s a public holiday on account of Labour Day, there is no heavy movement on the road but still we fear for the safety of public property,” said Inspector Haji Sanaullah, the SHO of the Tipu Sultan police station. “We have not arrested anyone neither was there any kind of loss or damage on any side during the demonstration.”
Another round of the protest on the same ground was later witnessed on the main Malir 15 bus stop, a key link that connected Sharea Faisal with the National Highway. Hundreds of protesters converged near the main Malir 15 traffic signal that blocked traffic on both sides of the road.
The Saudabad police backed by Rangers managed to restrict protesters from moving forward. Finally, a brief baton charge from the police dispersed the crowd after almost an hour.
“The situation led to suspension of traffic from Malir to the Quaidabad area,” said an official at the Saudabad police station. “The commuters were, however, helped in diverting their vehicles onto alternative routes by traffic police. The situation turned normal within an hour.”