KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has called on workers to stage sit-ins protests across Karachi against the arrest of party workers during a raid late on Wednesday night.

Dozens of MQM workers were arrested during a raid carried out by Sindh Rangers in Karachi's Gulshan-i-Maymar area out of which eight were released in the early hours of Thursday. A party official confirmed to Dawn that while eight have been released, over 15 remain in Rangers' custody.

The MQM has selected 11 venues to hold demonstrations against the arrest of party workers. These include areas of Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Rizvia Society, Sharah-i-Faisal, Landhi, Numaish, Liaquatabad, Teen Talwar and Gulshan-e-Iqbal. The central protest venue will be outside Chief Minister House.

Elected representatives from their areas have been directed to take charge of the protests taking place in their constituencies.

Altaf Hussain made the announcement of citywide protests while addressing a 'sit-in' held by MQM legislators and office bearers, outside Chief Minister House.

In his address, Hussain alleged that the MQM has been targeted and sidelined for three years.

Altaf Hussain hits out at Rangers, ex-CJ and media for 'bias'

He lambasted former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary and termed him a "liar and hypocrite". He also blamed some sections of the media for harbouring a bias against MQM. He warned owners of media houses as well as journalists against "airing any lies" against his party.

Hussain also accused the Rangers of discriminating against his party. He said courts had ruled against several parties and had ordered to eliminate their militant wings, but Rangers had been targeting peaceful MQM activists.

"Carry as many raids as you can but we will never bow down," a defiant Hussain said in a message apparently directed at the paramilitary force.

MQM chief condemns workers' arrests

Earlier in a statement, Hussain had strongly condemned the arrest of MQM activists from a party office in Karachi and termed it illogical.

In his statement, he said the MQM had been striving to bring a durable peace to Karachi and instead of praising its efforts, authorities were targetting MQM workers.

No to Rangers, yes to new province

“We don’t want Rangers in Sindh. Now a new province is a must,” Hussain said.

He said terrorists of banned outfits were targeting law enforcement agencies, public and private installations, but instead of curbing such elements, MQM’s innocent activists were being arrested and tortured.

The MQM chief said double standards were in place when it came to different parties, saying those who stormed the Pakistan Television Headquarters, barged into the precincts of the Parliament and other government buildings were being given a soft treatment while peaceful political activists of MQM were being arrested.

He added that MQM always supported the armed forces and urged the army to arrest the corrupt and assured his full cooperation in this regard.

He also alleged that some elements had decided to declare patriotic citizens as traitors. He also reiterated his stance on ‘Mohajirs’ and said they are asked to repatriate every now and then.

Speaking about party’s grievances, he said MQM was being targeted in the pretext of Karachi operation and alleged that MQM activists were subjected to extra-judicial murders and have even been arrested right from their wedding ceremonies.

Rangers spokesman says personnel were shot at in Gulshan-i-Maymar

Spokesman for Sindh Rangers Major Sibtain Rizvi said personnel of the military force were on a routine patrol in Gulshan-i-Maymar at 8pm on Wednesday when they were fired at from inside a building.

Without naming MQM, he said 23 suspects were arrested from that building and were questioned, the spokesman said, adding that some were later released. He did not confirm the specified number of those released.

The spokesman added that a proper legal course of action would be taken against those suspected of involvement in the attack.

Private schools to be closed for the rest of the day

Karachi’s private school management association has announced that all schools in the city will be closed for the rest of the day.

Speaking to DawnNews via telephone, Sharfuzzaman, who heads the Private School Association, said sometimes decisions have to be taken in accordance with the situation.

He said the association took the decision in light of the ongoing situation in the city, adding that a number of parents had come to the schools saying they wanted to take their children home.

We could have taken the decision earlier but last night it didn’t appear that the situation will take the turn it has, he said.

Sharjeel Memon says Rangers to issue explanation on MQM arrests

Speaking to media representatives outside the Sindh Assembly, provincial minister Sharjeel Memon said the Rangers official would issue an explanation regarding the arrests of MQM workers.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader said the arrests seem to have come as part of the Karachi operation that the Rangers has been deployed with in Karachi.

He said the matter would be resolved through talks.

He added that the PPP leadership was in touch with MQM leaders and the matter would soon come to a resolution.

Wednesday’s action was targeted against MQM: Waseem Akhtar

Speaking to media representatives, MQM leader Waseem Akhtar said Wednesday’s action did not seem to be routine activity.

“I know how agencies operate…I have worked in the government…I know how these things work,” he said.

He said the government should focus on those who are actually challenging its writ in Islamabad and in the tribal areas.

Saying Urdu speaking migrants from India were as Pakistani as anyone else, he said DG Rangers should understand that bias against a certain community will not yield any positive results.

CM Sindh calls MQM

Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah contacted MQM leaders and expressed his concern over the raid and arrest of MQM workers.

He said MQM was a coalition partner of the PPP and any "cruel" steps against the party were condemnable. He assured MQM leaders that he would contact Rangers and police officials in this regard and will play a role in getting activists of the party released.

City police chief assures justice

Furthermore, Karachi police chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo also contacted MQM workers and assured them of full justice, saying no injustice would be done to members of the party. He said no arrested workers would be subjected to prejudice and only those found guilty would be tackled in accordance with the law.

MQM to boycott Sindh Assembly session, says party lawmaker

Initially, the MQM had decided to raise the issue on the floor of the Sindh Assembly and all MQM legislators were asked to reach today on time so a strong protest could be recorded. But later on, MQM lawmaker Khwaja Izharul Hasan told media representatives outside CM House that party members in Sindh Assembly will boycott today’s session.