KARACHI, Oct 15: A complete shutdown was observed in Karachi on Monday in protest against the government’s support for the Anglo-American air strikes on Afghanistan, especially against the visit of US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The Pak-Afghan Defence Council, a group of 35 religious parties and Jihadi organizations, gave the strike call.
The entire city remained closed to express anger over the indiscriminate bombing of Afghanistan in which many innocent civilians have been killed.
It was the common perception of the people in the city that the air strikes on Afghanistan was an act to counter terrorism with terrorism, which was not a commendable approach. A young man, Farhan Ahmed, said: “I am against all forms of terrorism, but the US has adopted an inhuman and self-righteous approach. It is an attack not merely on the Taliban but on a Muslim country.”
Another man said: “It was the US which supported Osama bin Laden in the past, and it is the US which actually courted and promoted him, not the Afghan people.”
Police and rangers in their mobile vans patrolled the city roads throughout the day to maintain law and order and to keep a watch on mischievous elements. Personnel of law-enforcement agencies were also deployed at the US and British consulates, residences of foreign dignitaries, offices of US-based multinationals and fast food restaurants.
The city administration took extra security measures and made heavy deployment of personnel of law-enforcement agencies to deal with any eventuality. The government had asked the people not to support the strike call.
However, the people ignored the government’s appeal, and a complete strike was observed in the city as all commercial areas and markets such as Boulton Market, Saddar, Jodia Bazaar, Hyderi Market, and markets in Liaquatabad, Nazimabad, Korangi, Lyari, Tariq Road, Clifton, Malir and other areas were closed.
The transporters had already announced that they would keep their vehicles off the roads fearing attack on their vehicles. However, the Metrobus service, run by the Karachi Public Transport Society, plied the road from Malir Cantt to Saddar and Tower, with at least two rangers personnel travelling in each bus.
Mostly people stayed indoors. Many office-goers and workers returned home due to absence of public transport.
Several private firms, including some of the multinationals, had called their staff to duty on Sunday and declared Monday a holiday. Several shops in Tariq Road and Bahadurabad were open on Sunday.
Attendance in government and private offices was thin due to non- availability of public transport. Most of the banks and filling stations were also closed.
Late in the afternoon a few public buses were seen on roads, but there was very little public transport throughout the day. Few private vehicles were on the roads.
Attendance of teachers, staff and students in colleges and other educational institutions was thin.
Protesters, mainly comprising youths, put up road barricades and burnt old tyres and pelted moving vehicles with stones on main thoroughfares in Lyari.
In the morning protesters had blocked Lea Market, Asht Chowk, Mauripur Road, Chakiwara Road, Mewa Shah Road and Shah Latif Bhitai Road.
The most-affected area was Lea Market where police had to fire teargas to disperse the protesters in the afternoon. But police failed to control the protesters as they took shelter in the nearby narrow lanes where they had put up barricades to stop the entry of police and other law-enforcement personnel.
Lyari observed a complete strike. Transporters did not bring their vehicles on the roads. Road traffic between Karachi and upcountry via Lea Market remained suspended till evening.