KARACHI: Civil society protesters’ sit-in over the Shikarpur Imambargah attack continued at the PIDC traffic intersection on Tuesday.
The protesters, though not more than two dozen, seemed determined to have their demands accepted. Jibran Nasir, who has been leading the protest since Monday, looked exhausted and disappointed at the small turnout but he was unshaken in his resolve. “What I have realised in the past couple of hours is the pain that the Baloch feel when they protest for missing persons and their voice goes unheard. No one is ready to come out and stand up for the cause,” said Nasir.
The sit-in participants, chanting slogans against banned outfits, were mainly youth and student activists, who claimed to have no political or religious affiliation or motive. “A few parties showed interest in joining our protest. They will be allowed here only if they keep aside their party flags and political motives,” he said.
The protesters demanded the removal of graffiti, flags and posters of banned organisations from the city. “The government needs to recognise and openly state that these religious organisations are banned and list them publicly,” said Nasir. “People like Aurangzaib Farooqui [of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat] need to be arrested immediately. He is under police protection even after his hate speech against the Shia community.”
Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sharmila Farooqui and DIG-South Barrister Abdul Khaliq Shaikh approached the protesters to negotiate over their demands. “We are not here to make arrests but are present for the protection of these civil society members. However, if they try to enter the red zone, they will be stopped,” said Hajra Usman, a south zone police officer.
“The Sindh government is waging war against terrorists and they will be held accountable,” said Ms Farooqui. “As for the demands, we have already passed a bill against wall-chalking and have published the list of banned outfits on our website. Some 15 injured victims of the Shikarpur tragedy are being treated at the Aga Khan Hospital and those under treatment back in Shikarpur are being regularly inquired after by the health minister.”
The road leading to CM House was cordoned off with cargo containers and a heavy police contingent, which included women police, was deployed at the sit-in venue equipped with a water cannon, batons and tear-gas shells. The security personnel far outnumbered the protesters.
Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2015