KARACHI: Nine-Zero wore the look of a ghost town on Tuesday, a day after Pakistan Rangers sealed the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) headquarters there.
Torn-up pamphlets with tattered banners and posters of Altaf Hussain could be spotted lying around on the floors and footpaths or hanging from poles outside all the important but deserted MQM offices.
The gates to the Jinnah Ground and the MQM ‘martyrs monument’ there were left ajar and even with no one to guard the place no one seemed interested in entering it as there was business as usual with almost all shops in Azizabad, even the Bandhani Colony furniture market nearby, open.
It being Tuesday and a meatless day, the few shops that were closed, however, were the butcher shops. Meanwhile, children in uniforms with backpacks walked home after school as they eyed the roadside chaat, bun-kabab and fruit vendors.
The ‘Welcome to Azizabad’ gateway on Shahrah-i-Rashid Shami Shaheed was dug up here and there which had nothing to do with the chaos of the day before. And the MQM checkpoints everywhere were left vacant. The chairs near the no-go barriers that were always occupied looked worn when empty, a rusted board nearby read ‘Keep Quaid Avenue clean’.
The golden fist of Mukka Chowk seemed smaller in size next to the Pakistan flag flying from a bamboo that was tied to the fist with a galvanised wire. Since the monument was erected on Aug 14. 2009, the flag suited it better than the fist.
A little girl on her bicycle with training wheels pedals away, up and down the narrow lane outside the actual Nine-Zero residence. Two more skip past her, smiling at her as they invite her to join them in play as in the verandah floor of the sealed Altaf Hussain residence a disabled man watches.
Another Altaf poster hanging from a lamppost with a loudspeaker on top has been ripped but the green Pakistan flag bunting on windows only a few steps away are intact and fluttering in the gentle breeze.
All the lights, fans and air-conditioners of the Khursheed Begum Secretariat are on as the premises remains sealed with police personnel watching it from inside the scout checkpoints there. “The MQM scouts were pretty fierce, guarding the place with weapons. We are just keeping an eye until further orders,” a policeman posted there told Dawn.
Lying around were slippers and sandals of people who apparently fled the place in a rush. They had also left behind some reading material. A purple booklet titled India aur Dunya: Altaf Hussain ki Aham Taqarir was lying on the floor with six or seven other textbooks a half bundle of A4 size printer paper.
The Rangers personnel who patrolled by in their mobiles and motorbikes were alerted about the electricity being wasted due to the accessories and appliances still being on. “Good, let it be cool and bright,” chuckled a Ranger official on being informed.
Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2016