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NAWABSHAH: Activists of the proscribed Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) took out a rally in the city on Sunday and turned violent when they came across a police barricade raising slogans against China, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Zulfikarabad project and religious extremism.

They caught hold of a policeman and sprayed black paint on his face prompting the police force to break up the rally and carry out a crackdown. The incident led to closure of most areas of the city in panic. About 50 of the protesting activists were said to be rounded up during the rally and ensuing raids carried out in different localities.

A large number of JSMM activists, many of them wearing a shroud, took out a rally from the Naya Naka area along Sakrand Road against CPEC, Zulfikarabad and religious extremism.

Dr Zain Bhutto and Asif Juno, who were leading the protesters, spoke to them at some points on the route of the rally. They said CPEC was designed to benefit Punjab alone at the cost of the interests of all other provinces.

They also condemned intermittent incidents of religious extremism taking place in Sindh for several years and claimed that the forces behind them wanted to divide Sindhis on communal and sectarian grounds under a conspiracy to destroy peace and harmony in the province.

They also demanded shelving of the Zulfikarabad and other such projects claiming that they were aimed at reducing Sindhis into a minority within their own province. When the rally reached on Kutchery Road after passing through various areas of the city, a police contingent tried to stop it but the participants posed a stiff resistance which triggered a clash. Some protesters grabbed a policeman, ASI Lal Imtiaz, and sprayed his face with black paint.

The clash caused panic in the area and traders and shopkeepers started pulling down the shutters. Eventually, markets, bazaars, commercial outlets and shops in most areas in the city were shut.

A crackdown on JSMM activists was launched soon after the clash and it was reported that about 50 of them were rounded up at the scene of the clash and in a series of raids carried out in the surrounding localities.

An unspecified number of vehicles belonging to the protesters were also detained by police.

No FIR was registered till the filing of the report late in the evening.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2016