KARACHI: Life in the city mostly remained paralysed for the second consecutive day on Tuesday when more than 20 sit-ins were staged at key traffic intersections by Shia organisations to protest the Quetta carnage.
Most public buses were also off the roads amid random incidents of violence, including arson attacks, firing and a clash between protesters and law-enforcers.
The violent episode was witnessed in Kharadar, where dozens of people had converged apparently to stage a sit-in. As they were chanting slogans, stones were thrown at nearby shops and moving vehicles.
The situation prompted action from the police and Rangers contingent posted nearby which led to a clash between the two sides.
“A young man, Hasan Zaidi, sustained a bullet wound in the shooting,” said an official at the Kharadar police station. “The police detained some suspects but they were released after brief questioning. Miscreants also set a motorbike on fire, but it was saved from complete destruction.”
The protesters accused the police and Rangers of sabotaging a peaceful protest by ‘attacking’ them, but the authorities denied the charge and said the protesters challenged the law which attracted the police action.
“There was no firing from our side. We detained only four suspects but released them on assurances of their elders. The policemen deputed for their security were attacked and prevented from performing their duty,” said DIG-South Shahid Hayat.
Earlier in the day, a young man was shot dead following an altercation between a group of protesters staging a sit-in near the Star Gate and some other people who were opposing it.
Police said that Syed Safdar Hussain Kazmi, 29, was killed by unidentified gunmen.
A spokesman for the Majlis Wehdat-i-Muslimeen said that the victim was very vocal during the altercation.
Following the incident, two motorcycles were set on fire on Shahra-e- Faisal near the Star Gate bus stop, nearly half a kilometre from the Natha Khan bridge one of the more than 20 spots of sit-in protests across the city. Random firing also sowed fear in residents of apartments along Shahra-e-Faisal between Star Gate and the Natha Khan bridge.
A minibus was set on fire near the Quaid-i-Azam mausoleum off Preedy Street.
By sunset, though senior leaders of Shia organisations attending the sit-in at the Numaish traffic intersection had announced an end to the protest following talks between Shia leaders and government representatives in Quetta, the sit-ins continued.Earlier, sit-in protests in almost every city district attracted hundreds of participants, including women and children.
The sit-ins were held at Numaish, Incholi on Shahrah-i-Pakistan, in Gulshan-i-Maymar on the Superhighway, in Malir on the National Highway, at Natha Khan Goth, Colony Gate, Star Gate, in Korangi Industrial Area, at Babar Market in Landhi, in Steel Town, Nazimabad, North Nazimabad and Gulistan-i-Jauhar.
Traders and transporters said city life was almost suspended for the second consecutive day as sit-in protests in different areas badly affected traffic and fear among people due to random incidents of violence convinced most Karachiites to stay indoors.
“Most markets were open for business on Tuesday,” said Ateeq Meer of the Karachi Tajir Ittehad — a common platform of 350 wholesale and retail markets across the city, which had supported Monday’s strike call by Shia organisations against the Quetta killings.
“But there were no buyers and at a majority of the shops workers could not arrive. So by the second half of the day, a large number of traders had pulled down shutters.
As we have heard that the sit-ins are over, we expect normal business on Wednesday.”
Transporters referred to fear factor that prevented them from bringing buses on roads. They also cited arson incidents in almost every city district which convinced them to stay away from regular business till the situation normalised.
“And the third reason is that fuel stations were mostly closed,” said Irshad Bukhari of the Karachi Transport Ittehad. “It’s the third day that most of the fuel stations were closed and a large number of transporters failed to get fuel for their vehicles. We did not ask our members to stay away from business, but it’s fear that they realised on their own and kept their buses off the roads.”