Karachi braces for shutdown after Muttahida worker’s ‘extrajudicial killing’

Published January 29, 2015
SHOPS are closed on Tariq Road on Wednesday evening after a call for a shutter-down strike for Thursday given by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement over the killing of its worker Sohail Ahmed.—PPI
SHOPS are closed on Tariq Road on Wednesday evening after a call for a shutter-down strike for Thursday given by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement over the killing of its worker Sohail Ahmed.—PPI

KARACHI: A young man who was found shot dead in the Mochko area on Tuesday was identified as a senior worker of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), triggering a strong reaction from the party on Wednesday that called it extrajudicial killing by the law enforcement agencies and ‘appealed’ for a ‘peaceful shutter-down strike’ across Sindh on Thursday.

The body of 46-year-old Sohail Ahmed, who had been missing for more than a month, was found in bushes in Scheme-42 in the Mochko area.

The body with two gunshot wounds each in the head and the neck was moved to the Edhi morgue after medico-legal formalities at the Civil Hospital Karachi, where the victim was identified as the unit in-charge of the MQM’s organisational structure in Society sector.

Initial finding of the investigators endorsed the MQM version that Sohail had been missing for more than a month and his family had lodged an FIR for his disappearance. “He went missing on Dec 15, 2014,” said Mochko SHO Inspector Chaudary Saleem. “The report for his disappearance was lodged with the Ferozabad police station that said he was picked up by some unidentified persons from an area near his home.”

A number of MQM leaders later reached the Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth to receive the body. A large number of workers were also seen at the facility and then accompanied the leaders to move to the victim’s home with the body.

“It’s nothing new,” the MQM’s deputy parliamentary leader in the Sindh Assembly Khwaja Izhar-ul-Hasan told reporters outside the morgue. “Our 35 missing persons have been killed over the past one year and they all were murdered extrajudicially. Here I appeal to the army chief and the ISI DG that for God’s sake take notice of this brutality as the government is not responding to our protests. They are determined to carry on this custodial deaths process in the name of law. We are a party with a true political culture and would take every democratic and legal course for our protest.”

Already in a serious tug of war with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the MQM this time directly blamed the ruling party and the law enforcement agencies for the disappearance of its worker and then his killing citing reasons of its conviction.

“It all began with Khuli Kutchehri in Bahadurabad organsied by the PPP,” said a statement of the MQM’s coordination committee. “The police officers and the PPP workers at the Kutchehri tried to stop Sohail Ahmed when he raised serious questions and even threatened him of dire consequences. Even on the occasion PPP leader Saeed Chawla seriously threatened Sohail Ahmed.”

Later, it said, Sohail Ahmed was picked up by plain-clothes policemen on Dec 15. The party with the victim’s family addressed several press conferences, appealed to the police and Sindh Rangers officials and held meetings with senior government people for his recovery but in vain, added the statement.

“For this brutal and cruel act, the coordination committee has decided to observe a peaceful shutter-down strike across Sindh on Thursday. The coordination committee also demanded that the chief justice of Pakistan take suo motu action on the extrajudicial killing of Sohail Ahmed.”

Before the MQM made formal appeal, business in part of the city began wrapping up much before the scheduled time of its closure as shopping centres and fuel stations in some of the districts suspended their operation hardly an hour after sunset. The traffic on some key routes also turned thin gradually and by night the city roads became deserted.

The city shutdown on Thursday was almost inevitable when the key business and transport bodies came up with announcements that they will keep their business closed following the MQM call and educational institutions announced postponing their scheduled activities.

The Karachi Transport Ittehad, Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association and Sindh Tajir Ittehad were the first to announce the closure of their businesses and then came statement from the All Pakistan Schools Management to keep educational activities suspended on Thursday.

“All private schools in Karachi would remain closed on account of the day of mourning announced by the MQM,” said Khalid Shah, chairman of All Private Schools Management Association Sindh, which was followed by Sharaf-uz-Zaman, chairman of All Private School Management Association.

However, the Sindh education ministry decided to keep government schools open. “We hope that political agitation wouldn’t result in hurting children’s education,” said a spokesman for the Sindh education department.

Hours after the MQM statement accusing a senior PPP worker of being part of a ‘conspiracy’ that led to ‘extrajudicial killing’ of its activist, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon rejected the opposition party allegations.

He said Saeed Chawla had history of political struggle and enjoyed respect from every democratic segment of society.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2015

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