An unidentified group of people stopped and pelted stones on the convoy of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari as it passed through Karachi's Lyari neighbourhood during an election campaign rally on Sunday, DawnNewsTV reported.

The convoy was going from Baghdadi area to Juna Masjid when around 100 residents of the area began pelting stones in protest and raised slogans of "Go Bilawal go!". The windshield of a truck that was a part of the convoy was shattered during the violence.

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PPP leader Saeed Ghani, who was a part of the procession along with other senior leaders, said at least two party workers were injured when the rally was pelted with stones near Juna Masjid, Hangoorabad. A man identified as a rickshaw driver was also injured during the violence, DawnNewsTV reported.

Bilawal's driver escaped the scene by reversing the vehicle from the area and turning towards Kalri. The PPP chairman remained unhurt during the episode.

TV footage showed a group of supporters shouting pro-PPP slogans, and chants of "have some shame!"

PPP leaders said the rally had not abandoned after the incident, and that it was proceeding through an alternative route. Bilawal later addressed Lyari residents at Cheel Chowk and other stops.

Nabeel Gabol, another PPP leader said, "20 to 25 extremists" had attacked the rally with stones and suggested that the protesters had been sent by PPP's political opponents. He alleged that administration officials did not make efforts to stop the agitators from resorting to violence.

"It has always been a trend in Lyari, that 20-30 'planted' activists are sent by opponents [to create chaos]," Gabol said while speaking to DawnNewsTV.

The situation was controlled after a contingent of police that was deployed in the area dispersed the protesters.

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari waves to supporters during the rally in Lyari. — AP
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari waves to supporters during the rally in Lyari. — AP

Meanwhile, DawnNewsTV reported that some residents later raised slogans of "Go Bilawal go" and "No more gang war!" as Bilawal's convoy passed through the Kalakot area.

Lyari is considered a traditional stronghold of the PPP and its chairman Bilawal is set to contest the July 25 general elections from the area's NA-246 constituency.

There is resentment among Lyari residents over the poor state of affairs in the area. They accuse the PPP of failing to solve their issues, such as that of water shortage, and completing infrastructure projects that were promised by the party, despite its candidates' election from the constituency since 2008. They are also reportedly unhappy over the award of party tickets by the PPP.

'I will not be scared into submission'

A statement issued in the evening quoted Bilawal as saying that he will not be deterred by the violence.

"Lyari is in my blood. I will go to every nook and corner of the country with my party manifesto. We have to defeat these violent elements; not give in to them. I will not be scared into submission by such forces," the PPP chairman said, according to his spokesman.

The statement accused the caretaker set-up of failing in its responsibility to protect electoral candidates, saying law-enforcement personnel present at the scene had "refused to act and stood as mere bystanders while this stone pelting continued".

"The media wrongly reported it as a protest against the PPP while we believe that it was done deliberately to create an atmosphere of fear creating hurdles for a peaceful election."

PTI, MQM-P react

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Faisal Vawda termed as "filmy" talk the suggestion by PPP leaders that his party may have egged the protesters on, saying any party, including the PTI, should have to face such a reaction if it hasn't worked for people's welfare.

Vawda said while he does not support the use of violence, he strongly appreciates citizens voicing their grievances through protests.

Meanwhile, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan's Mehfooz Yar Khan, who is a candidate from NA-246 Lyari, said he "strongly condemns" the suggestion that his party could have been behind the violence.

Case registered against unidentified persons

Later on Sunday evening, Kalri police registered a case against several unidentified persons who attacked the cavalcade led by Bilawal during his election campaign in Lyari with stones and sticks, said Karachi South Zone DIG, Javed Alam Odho.

The senior officer said the case was registered on behalf of the state through a police officer over charges of injuring some people, including policemen, and damaging property.

DIG Odho added that they have obtained video footage of the incident and everything has been documented. However, no arrests have been made so far.

“We have decided to take strict action against those people who resort to taking the law into their hands, in order to prevent such incidents during the election campaign [in future],” the DIG said.

With additional reporting by Imtiaz Ali.



Updated 19 May, 2022

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