Manholes cover campaigner complains of police harassment

Published January 8, 2016
Alamgir Khan has insisted his project is just a campaign from a common Karachiite and not a political activity. —Photo courtesy: Facebook
Alamgir Khan has insisted his project is just a campaign from a common Karachiite and not a political activity. —Photo courtesy: Facebook

KARACHI: Alamgir Khan, whose self-initiated social media campaign “fix it” to get the open manholes covered recently got viral, said on Thursday that the authorities instead of paying heed to the problem being highlighted were harassing him, his family and his fellow volunteers apparently to “keep them silent”.

Mr Khan, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf activist and former office-bearer, rejected the impression that the campaign launched using social media as a platform had anything to do with his political ideology and insisted that it was a self-initiated campaign to find a solution to the problems faced by every single Karachiite.

“They have responded to the campaign in the wrong way,” he told Dawn while referring to some recent incidents of “harassment” by the police which he believed were being done at the behest of the higher authorities.

“My father got a call from an inspector of the Ferozabad police station who asked him to visit the police station as our car has been found involved in a hit-and-run on Sharea Faisal. The reason of all this is that I am using my father’s car for this campaign.”

The team uses stencils of Sindh CM's portrait to spray paint his face on roads.  —Photo courtesy: Facebook
The team uses stencils of Sindh CM's portrait to spray paint his face on roads. —Photo courtesy: Facebook

A marketing professional, Mr Khan decided a few days ago to spot open manholes, draw a sketch of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah around them with a request to “fix it” and upload the video of the entire process on the social media. His video went viral as thousands of people shared them.

The initiative did not go unheard as the authorities took a notice of the open manholes mentioned in the video and news channels reported that the chief minister had directed the Karachi administrator to fix the problem within two days.

However, after two days Mr Khan came up with a fresh video over social media complaining that he was being harassed for his campaign.

“I spotted around 40 such places where I put a sketch of the chief minister,” he said. “After learning through news channels that he [chief minister] has taken notice, I felt that things had started working. So I along with my volunteers slowed down the pace of our campaign to give them some time. But they started reacting in the wrong way. My family and my volunteers are now being harassed by the police.”

When asked why he chose to draw the sketch of the chief minister and not that of the local bodies minister or any other senior official of the municipal administration, Mr Khan said the Sindh government was delaying transfer of power to the elected representatives of the local bodies elections and he was left with no option.

“It’s just a campaign from a common Karachiite and not a political activity,” he said.

“I had no personal grudge against the chief minister or against the Pakistan Peoples Party. As a common Karachiite who has spent his entire life in the streets of Karachi I want to be heard for my problems. And let me tell them that they can’t stop me through such harassment. I initiated that on my own but now I am not alone as majority of the Karachiites along with civil society are standing by my side.”

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2016

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