KARACHI: At least 35 people were injured, some of them receiving gunshot wounds, as violence erupted in Karachi on Saturday during protests mounted by activists of religious parties in solidarity with members and supporters of the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, officials and witnesses said.
At least two policemen were among those injured. All major shopping and commercial centres remained closed due to protests while public transport disappeared from the roads, causing immense suffering to the citizens.
Around 23 people, including two policemen, were hurt during clashes between the police and the protesters on main Sharea Faisal near Stargate while 12 people were injured during clashes between the protesters and shopkeepers over forcible closure of shops and markets in Saddar area.
Protesters belonging to different religious organisations came out and blocked major roads and areas at around 30 places in the city after learning of the law-enforcement agencies’ bid to disperse the Tehreek’s supporters and members taking part in a sit-in on the junction of the twin cities.
Superhighway, National Highway blocked
According to sources in police, the protesters blocked both the tracks near Al Asif Square; as a result traffic was suspended between Karachi and Hyderabad via the Superhighway.
The protesters also blocked both the tracks of the National Highway near Malir-15.
Activists of the religious party, many of them armed with sticks, blocked the University Road near Hassan Square and squatted on the road leading to National Stadium.
M.A. Jinnah Road was blocked at Numaish Chowrangi and near Merewether Tower, and the traffic was suspended on both of its tracks as a result.
Protesters block around 30 spots in metropolis
Protests erupted on the main Sharea Faisal at two points, near Stargate and Nursery, where violent clashes took place, resulting in injuries to several people.
Malir SSP Rao Anwar Ahmed told Dawn that “miscreants of one organisation” came from Shah Faisal Colony and allegedly “hijacked” the protest.
“One of the men from among the protesters was armed with an SMG rifle and he started firing on policemen. The SHO of the Memon Goth police station, Gulzar Tunio, and a constable, Sabir, sustained bullet wounds,” he said.
SSP Ahmed admitted that some protesters also got bullet injuries; however, he claimed that police had only resorted to firing in the air.
The officer said that about 10 protesters were detained while 20 motorbikes belonging to the protesters were impounded. He said that police were trying to obtain CCTV footage to identify the man armed with the SMG.
“We received 15 people who were brought with bullet wounds from the Stargate area,” said police surgeon Dr Aijaz Khokhar. They were admitted to the JPMC.
He said that all the wounded men were civilians. None of them sustained life-threatening injuries.
Two wounded policemen were shifted to the Aga Khan University Hospital where their condition was stated to be out of danger, said the Malir SSP.
He said the protest at Stargate, which started at 10am, was controlled at about 4pm, and both the tracks of Sharea Faisal were cleared for traffic.
Later, however, a clash between protesters and police erupted on main Sharea Faisal near Nursery.
Karachi East SSP Dr Samiullah Soomro told Dawn that the protesters wanted to block both the tracks of the road leading to the airport.
He accused the protesters of resorting to violence, which prompted the policemen to fire tear-gas shells to disperse them.
Dr Soomro said that some protesters tried to damage nearby banks and petrol pumps; however, police prevented the situation from deteriorating further. “Both tracks of Sharea Faisal remained closed for 45 minutes,” he said.
The officer said that no one was arrested.
Clash at market
A clash also erupted between protesters and shopkeepers as the former allegedly tried to forcibly close shops and other commercial activities in the Saddar area.
Saddar SP Tauqeer Mohammed Naeem said that some protesters armed with sticks tried to forcibly close shops at Empress Market. However, the shopkeepers put up resistance. Resultantly a clash erupted between them, causing injuries to some persons. The police controlled the situation later.
Additional police surgeon Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi said that 12 persons were brought with injuries for treatment at the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital from the Saddar area.
Violent protests were also reported from Al Asif Square and other areas where a few media persons also sustained minor wounds, according to witnesses.
Acts of arson
Acts of arson were also reported from certain areas.
According to a fire brigade official, one truck was set on fire by protesters on Sharea Faisal at Natha Khan Bridge. The firemen managed to control the blaze and save the truck from complete destruction.
Similar acts were reported from Shahrah-i-Quaideen where protesters allegedly tried to damage a foreign fast-food restaurant, said witnesses.
Karachi police chief Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar told Dawn on Saturday night that protests and sit-ins continued at around 25 to 30 roads/places in the city and representatives of the provincial govt and administration were engaged in talks with them for peaceful resolution of the situation.
However, the city police chief vowed that the police would be compelled to take action if the protesters tried to damage the life and property of citizens and the government.
At the time of our going to press sit-ins were continuing at several locations across Karachi.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2017