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Uncertainty, fear hit life in Karachi as another citywide shutdown looms

Updated November 02, 2018


THE arterial M.A. Jinnah Road wears a deserted look on Thursday. —White Star / Online
THE arterial M.A. Jinnah Road wears a deserted look on Thursday. —White Star / Online

KARACHI: Normal life in the metropolis was adversely affected for a second consecutive day on Thursday as business centres and educational institutions remained closed and thin traffic was seen on roads as sit-ins at over a dozen main traffic intersections continued against the Supreme Court’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi.

The protesters, mostly belonging to certain religious parties, continued their sit-ins at main roundabouts. Resultantly, traffic was diverted onto alternative routes. Most of the fuel stations were either closed or did not have fuel. No untoward incident was reported from any area.

“Protesters did not resort to damaging public property on Thursday, therefore, law enforcers preferred the policy of containing them,” said Amir Farooqi, deputy inspector general of East zone, where most of the sit-ins took place.

Twice, the protesters tried to stage a sit-in on the railway tracks in Malir, but the police prevented them from doing so, said the DIG. However, the protest disrupted the schedule of trains.

Public, private schools to stay closed today

Three major sit-ins were held — on the Superhighway near Sohrab Goth, at Numaish Chowrangi on main M.A. Jinnah Road and at Stargate on Sharea Faisal, where a few hundred people continued the sit-in, forcing traffic suspension.

A Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) spokesperson, Ali, said that their party workers continued protest at around 15 spots in the metropolis. He added that the same would continue till “further orders” by their party leadership.

According to the office of the commissioner Karachi, protest sit-ins took place at at least 23 spots across the metropolis on Thursday, attended by a few hundred people.

In South district, sit-ins took place at Natives Jetty bridge/Tower, Teen Talwar, Garden and Boat Basin while protest was also held outside Karachi Press Club.

In East district, sit-ins took place at Numaish Chowrangi, Baloch Colony Expressway, Sohrab Goth, Teen Hatti and Lasbela Chowk while Jamaat-i-Islami held a rally at mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam.

In Central district sit-ins were held at Power House Chowrangi, Sindhi Hotel, Liaquatabad No. 10, Nazimabad No. 2, 4K Chowrangi, Masjid-i-Shuhada New Karachi Industrial Area. Three sit-ins were held in district West at Orangi Town No. 5, Bara Board and Baldia No. 4, four sit-ins in Korangi district took place at Landhi Nos. 6 and 4, Korangi No. 2 1/2 and Korangi No. 5 while a sit-in was held in Malir district at Stargate.

All major shopping centres remained closed owing to fear and uncertainty.

As there were some reports of riots while one shop at Burnes Centre was “ransacked”, most shopkeepers dealing in essential goods chose to close their businesses.

On Wednesday morning, soon after the Supreme Court judgement acquitting Aasia Bibi, protesters belonging to religious parties staged sit-ins at over a dozen major spots on main roads and highways.

As uncertainty gripped the metropolis, traders and shopkeepers also closed their markets, particularly in Saddar and Old City areas.

As protests created disturbances, the Sindh government imposed Section 144, banning rallies and motorcycle pillion riding from Oct 31 to Nov 10.

Furthermore, the Sindh home department also established a control room to maintain a liaison with law enforcers and to monitor the prevailing law and order situation, according to a notification.

Law enforcers patrol a market.—White Star / Online
Law enforcers patrol a market.—White Star / Online

A senior member of the Karachi Transport Ittehad sounded unsure about the smooth operation of buses on Friday fearing the situation would not remain normal even on the third day. He said that several organisations had called for protests in different parts of the city.

“We have not yet decided or announced officially about Friday’s operation, but have left it to the transporters to decide on their own. But I think as a precautionary measure, a large number of transporters would not go for normal business,” he added.

Schools’ situation in city

Late on Thursday evening the Sindh government announced that all public schools would be closed on Friday, but only in Karachi. The private school associations had already decided not to risk opening schools for yet another day, making it a four-day long weekend for the students and staff of their schools.

The private school associations include the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, All Sindh Private Schools Association and All Private Schools Management Association Sindh. The convent schools of the Catholic Board and other schools which come under the Church of Pakistan had already decided to keep their schools closed on Friday too.

Meanwhile, in view of the prevalent situation of uncertainty, NED University postponed its tests for its masters and PhD students, which were to take place on Friday. The Institute of Business Administration also postponed the launch of its job portal scheduled for the same day.

Medical institutions

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation has declared ‘high alert’ in all its medical institutions and hospitals citing the current law and order situation in the metropolis.

It said on Thursday the mayor had directed all heads of the KMC-run hospitals to make arrangements to deal with emergencies in the respective hospitals ensuring the presence of staff.

Leave of staffers has been cancelled and those who are on leave had been directed to report to their respective department, officials said.

Two killed in ‘straight fire’

Two young men were shot dead while 12 others, including two teenagers, wounded during a “clash” in New Karachi late on Wednesday night, officials said.

The clash erupted between workers of the TLP, who had staged a sit-in in the Bilal Colony police limits against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, and participants in a Chehlum procession.

A police official said that when the procession arrived there, the TLP workers had already blocked the passage. A clash erupted between them. Initially, they pelted stones and then “aerial firing” was also resorted to, resulting in the killing of two men and injuries to 12 others, said the official. The police also resorted to tear-gas shelling to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

“Two men, Mohammad Shahid, 30, and Mohammad Shahbaz, 26, were brought dead with bullet wounds,” said additional police surgeon of the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital Dr Saleem Shaikh.

The hospital official added that two teenagers among 12 persons were also brought with various injuries mostly caused by gunshot. However, among the injured persons, one was “suffocated due to shelling”.

None of them sustained life-threatening wounds, said Dr Shaikh.

The injured were identified as Ahmed Raza, Afsar Ibrahim, Mohammad Zubair, Mohammad Bilal, Yasin, Abdul Wahab, Riasat Ali, Naveed, Akram, Kamran, Ihsan and Mohammad Iqbal.

However, TLP spokesperson Ali told Dawn that both the dead and injured belonged to their party.

The TLP official alleged that their workers were shot dead and injured by police who resorted to “straight firing” on them following the clash.

New Karachi SP Shabbir Baloch told Dawn that a case would be registered about the incident but added that so far no one had approached the police for lodging an FIR.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2018