KARACHI: Three persons were shot dead during a protest by transporters on the Link Road near Superhighway, now called M-9 Motorway, on Wednesday afternoon when they clashed with personnel of the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) who allegedly resorted to firing, police and witnesses said.

The drivers of cargo vehicles parked their trucks on the Link Road adjacent to Superhighway near Kathore in protest against the FWO’s decision to implement a recent judgement of the Supreme Court with regard to the ‘axle load regime’ — meaning the heavy vehicles could not carry load beyond a sanctioned weight in order to save highways from destruction and prevent fatal accidents.

DIG East Amir Farooqi told Dawn that there was an issue of “axle load regime” and the FWO was trying to implement the SC verdict in this regard.

In protest against the move, the drivers of loaded vehicles started parking heavy vehicles on the road. Reportedly, when the FWO personnel tried to prevent them from doing so, the transporters allegedly pelted them with stones. Upon which, the FWO personnel resorted to firing ostensibly to disperse them. As a result, some protesters were shot at and wounded, said the DIG.

Traffic remains suspended on Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway due to protest sit-in

The wounded persons were taken to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, where doctors pronounced three of them dead on arrival, said Dr Seemin Jamali, the executive director of the hospital.

The victims, said to be drivers, were identified as Saad Ayub, 25, Niaz Ali, 30 and Rasool Khan, 29.

Police Surgeon Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi told Dawn that the post-mortem examination of the three victims revealed that all the three suffered one bullet each. A wounded person, identified as Syed Wali Shah, 40, was shifted to another hospital for further treatment, he added.

Motorway closed due to sit-in

A heavy contingent of police rushed to the scene to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.

The DIG said that at present, the police were trying to get the Motorway and adjoining Link Road opened for the traffic as the M-9, which links Karachi with other parts of the country, was closed.

A spokesperson for the Motorway police said in a statement that due to a protest sit-in, “Motorway-9 has been blocked near Kathore”.

He said that the tragic incident did not occur on the Motorway, but afterwards the transporters blocked both tracks of M-9 in the evening, causing a severe traffic jam.

The official urged the public coming from Hyderabad to Karachi to proceed towards the National Highway from Nooriabad to reach the city. Similarly, the people travelling from Karachi to Hyderabad had been advised to take U-turn from Toll Plaza Karachi towards Malir-Quaidabad leading to National Highway to avoid traffic jams.

The Motorway police also urged the citizens to avoid unnecessary travel.

No arrest made so far

DIG Farooqi said a legal course would be adopted and identity of the suspects would be ascertained. He said so far no one had been arrested.

Inspector General of Police Syed Kaleem Imam took notice of the killings and sought an immediate report from the Malir SSP. “Legal action should be ensured against the suspects involved in the incident,” he told the SSP.

The Motorway spokesperson said that the Motorway police, district Malir administration and Rangers were trying to persuade the protesting transporters to vacate the highway for traffic.

Sources said that the FWO was given a contract of collecting toll tax on Motorway from Karachi to Hyderabad for 25 years by the National Highway Authority.

They added that the FWO personnel were implementing the SC verdict in addition to collection of toll tax as the apex court had directed all authorities concerned to comply with its order.

The Motorway was still closed for traffic when our pages went to press around midnight.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2019