KARACHI: A Sindh-wide lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus on Monday halted commercial and business activities in Karachi and other parts of the province and curtailed people’s movement as public transport remained off the roads while hundreds of people were briefly detained over a host of charges, including violation of the lockdown in the provincial capital and other major cities, officials and witnesses said.
Monday was the first day of the lockdown which coincided with the Pakistan Day holiday.
The Sindh government had on Sunday announced a 15-day lockdown across the province amid an increase in cases of Covid-19.
In Karachi, major commercial and business areas such as Saddar, Clifton and Tariq Road wore a deserted look. However, the lockdown measures were seen ineffective in certain low-income areas like Landhi, Lyari, Hijrat Colony, Sohrab Goth, etc.
A visit to different areas showed that general stores, medical stores, hospitals, fruit and vegetable vendors were open. Petrol pumps were also open but with thin attendance of staff and vehicles.
SHO suspended after a video went viral showing police forcing youths to frogmarch; IGP seeks people’s cooperation
From the night between Sunday and Monday, personnel of army, Rangers and police carried out a flag march in different parts of the metropolis. Soon after midnight, major thoroughfares like Sharea Faisal, Abdullah Haroon Road and others, where many vehicles were usually seen moving in weekends, looked deserted.
The police along with traffic police have set up lockdown checkpoints on major roads where vehicles and travellers were being checked before being allowed to proceed.
“Around 300 major markets, shopping centres and bazaars in the city remained completely shut on Monday,” said All Karachi Tajir Ittehad chairman Atiq Mir.
472 detained in Sindh
Police sources said that 472 persons were detained in Sindh and 222 of them were held in Karachi alone where police registered 33 cases.
Other arrests were made in Mirpurkhas, Sukkur and Larkana where police registered 72 FIRs.
The sources said that no one was arrested in Hyderabad and Shaheed Benazirabad ranges of police.
The cases pertained to hoarding and profiteering of safety masks and hand sanitizers, large gatherings, opening shops and restaurants and travelling in passenger buses.
Meanwhile, Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon said that overall the situation in the city was normal.
“Majority of population is cooperating,” he said, adding: “However, we have some teething problems since it is a highly sensitive job as we are encouraging people to stay at home and at the same time facilitating them to have access to food and medical emergencies.”
DIG-South Sharjeel Kharal told Dawn that the “people are being firmly told to ensure compliance on the conditions laid down by the government on lockdown”.
“The police are not keeping people in long detentions at all because keeping inmates together would defeat the very purpose for which the lockdown has been enforced,” he said.
“Most people found violating the lockdown are being warned and then released,” he added.
SHO suspended after youths forced to frogmarch
A video went viral on social media in which policemen were seen forcing some people to frogmarch as they violated the lockdown.
Police said the Civil Lines police detained some persons who were forced to frogmarch.
DIG Kharal took notice of the incident and suspended Civil Lines SHO Salahuddin.
He directed all officers to demonstrate respect to the people in these difficult times and warned that any disrespectful act towards the general public by the police would not be tolerated.
The Risala police arrested four persons. Police said they were provided with masks and hand sanitizers before being shifted to the lock-up.
The Napier police arrested eight persons from a restaurant on Napier Road and registered an FIR (102/2020) against them under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The police in Shah Faisal Colony did not allow boys to play cricket on street.
On main Sharea Faisal, lockdown checkpoints were set up at different places and at one place near the airport, long queues of vehicles were seen as they were being checked by the law enforcers before allowing them to move towards the city centre.
On main Dr Salimuzzaman Siddiqui Road, popularly known as Suparco Road, the police shut restaurants. However, a witness said a police mobile came and the cops ordered the restaurant staff to open the facility and make tea for them.
In Hijrat Colony, crowds of people were seen on roads/streets as they were living in small houses, said one resident. It did not appear that the lockdown was effective there, added the resident.
A resident of Sohrab Goth, who also wished not to be named, told Dawn that in the morning markets were closed but people were seen outside their houses and youths were playing cricket on the road.
He said some social activists called the helpline of both Rangers and police who came and detained some persons.
In Ibrahim Haideri near the beach, several people gathered for a picnic and some of them in groups of 20-25 ventured into the sea in boats, said a resident. Subsequently, a police mobile came and the people disappeared from the beach.
Police seek people’s cooperation
Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Ahmed Mahar told Dawn that the police wanted implementation of the lockdown by voluntary participation of the people and not by coercion.
The police were persuading the people to follow the Sindh government’s directions by staying at home and avoiding unnecessary social contact. However, at certain places in Karachi and other parts of the province, the police were compelled to take strict action against “habitual” violators and those who were seen unnecessarily mingling with each other, he added.
He urged the people to save their and their family members and friends’ lives by restricting their movement.
Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2020