Thousands turn up at ‘Pakistan for Palestine’ demonstration in Karachi

Published May 19, 2021
Demonstrators take part in a protest rally against Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip in Karachi on Wednesday. — AFP
Demonstrators take part in a protest rally against Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip in Karachi on Wednesday. — AFP
Demonstrators take part in a protest rally against Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip in Karachi on Wednesday. — AFP
Demonstrators take part in a protest rally against Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip in Karachi on Wednesday. — AFP

In a massive show of solidarity with Palestinians, thousands of Karachiites turned up at the unprecedented ‘Pakistan for Palestine’ demonstration at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Wednesday, demanding an immediate ceasefire from Israel and an end to the bombing of Gaza.

The demonstrators, including representatives of the the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), National Trade Union Federation (NTBA), Home-Based Women Workers Association and the Karachi Tax Bar Association (KTBA) along with thousands of citizens, called for an immediate end to the occupation and demolition of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Palestinian settlements, including Sheikh Jarrah, and for an end to the forced eviction of local Palestinians.

The idea for the protest started from social media and ended up at the KPC, with a large number of citizens, mostly young college students, from across a cross-section of society condemning Israeli onslaught of violence. Holding placards condemning the genocide of Palestinians, the protesters chanted "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." The crowd was unprecedented and the numbers kept going up, as a result of which the areas around Zainab Market, Saddar and Shaheen Complex saw gridlocks for hours.

Neha Mohammad and her husband Abdul Kaleem Shiekh, a young Karachi couple, were accompanied by their children and family members at the protest. Talking to Dawn.com, Mohammad said she saw the call for protest on social media. Commenting on the situation in Palestine and the killing of innocent children, she said, “We were feeling helpless sitting at home. This is the least we can do to show support to the Palestinians.”

“We want an end to the occupation. We want the world to see and support innocent Palestinians,” said Murtaza, an engineering student.

“What is happening in Palestine is inhumane. This must be called out,” said Nafees, a student of Karachi University. “They can block social media posts but we need to continue to raise our voice against these atrocities,” said Sana Khan.

“The turnout was a lot more than we expected. Pakistan and Karachiites care about this humanitarian disaster,” said Filzah Asif, an organiser of the event.

A student at the Denning Law School, she said, “We saw that there were no protests in Karachi on the Palestine issue. Me and Namra Masood (another organiser) decided to use Instagram and that’s how @pakistanforpalestine was created.

“It’s a student and female-led initiative to raise awareness about the genocide, apartheid and ethnic cleansing in Palestine and all the terrorism being committed by Israel," said Asif. “We are very grateful and thankful to the citizens of Karachi for showing up,” she added.

“We call on the government of Pakistan and Pakistani citizens to join us in the campaign to spread awareness on the streets, media and social media about the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians in the Nakba from 1948 to date. We declare our full solidarity and support with the Palestinian resistance. We strongly condemn the Israeli bombing of the offices of independent media outlets,” a demand by the demonstrators read.

The protestors called for a “progressive and prosperous Palestine”.

“This is such a big show of solidarity,” said KUJ General Secretary and the Karachi bureau chief of Geo News Faheem Siddiqui. “In my professional career spanning over two decades, I have never seen such a massive non-political crowd at the KPC,” he said, while commending the spirit of Karachiites to stand up for Palestinians.

In pictures: Pakistanis rally in major cities against Israeli attacks on Gaza

Israeli attacks on media slammed

Students carry signs as they chant slogans to express solidarity with Palestinian people, during a protest organised by the Students Action Committee in Karachi on Wednesday. — Reuters
Students carry signs as they chant slogans to express solidarity with Palestinian people, during a protest organised by the Students Action Committee in Karachi on Wednesday. — Reuters

The KUJ called on the United Nations to immediately declare Israel a terrorist state for its atrocities in Palestine, especially for targeting media houses. “Make official arrangements for the repatriation of independent journalists from Pakistan to Palestine so that Israeli atrocities can be exposed to the world,” a statement issued by the union said.

The KUJ has appealed to the journalist community across the country, including Karachi, to realise their responsibilities in the wake of the Israeli attack on media houses and to maximise the news, videos and photos obtained from other sources of Israeli barbarism in Palestine.

Addressing the protest, PTI MNA Shehzad Qureshi urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to intensify his efforts to resolve the Palestinian issue. “The Israeli oppression of Palestine should be stopped. Muslim countries must work together to find a solution to the Palestinian problem.”

Speaking on the occasion, Shamshad Qureshi, a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Pak Sarzamin Party, slammed Muslim countries for their silence which boosted Israel's morale so much that it has now targeted media houses. “We stand with journalists from all over the world including Pakistan and will continue to highlight their voices.”

Addressing the protest, KUJ General Secretary Fahim Siddiqui said the "journalist community of the country is with the Palestinian media and the oppressed.” He urged the media houses to provide maximum coverage to the Israeli barbarism and aggression.

Addressing the demonstration, PMA Central General Secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad said that a humanitarian tragedy had arisen in Palestine, with Israeli bombings killing hundreds of civilians there, including journalists. “International organisations, including the Red Cross, have a role to play in providing medical treatment and medicine to the injured. Pakistani doctors are also ready to play their part,” he added.

PTBA President Zeeshan Merchant said that by targeting the media in Palestine, Israel has tried to prevent its atrocities from being exposed to the world, but its efforts will fail. NTUF General Secretary Nasir Mansour said that as long as Israel had the support of the United States, it would continue to target the media and civilians in Palestine. “Countries should form a bloc and boycott Israel and the United States," he added.

In his address, KUJ Acting President Ijaz Sheikh condemned the Israeli attacks on media houses in Palestine and said that in the current situation, the responsibilities of the Pakistani government have greatly increased to resolve the Palestinian issue and prevent Israeli attacks.

Home Based Women Workers Federation General Secretary Zahra Khan, Palestine Foundation leader Bashir Saduzai and others also addressed the demonstration.

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