KARACHI: A worker of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan was killed and several others, including women, were injured when police fired tear gas and resorted to baton-charge on their sit-in outside Chief Minister House against the recently passed controversial local government law on Wednesday evening.
The MQM-P announced that it would observe a ‘black day’ on Thursday (today).
The party leaders, including lawmakers, women and children, started their march from the FTC on Sharea Faisal and passing through different routes they managed to reach CM House where they staged a sit-in.
A senior police officer, who wished not to be named, told Dawn that the police held talks with the MQM-P leadership and asked them to go back to the venue of the Karachi Press Club as this was the so-called ‘Red Zone’ where all such political activities had been banned.
The officer claimed that the MQM leaders did not listen to them, which compelled the police to take action against them by resorting to baton charge and tear gas shelling.
Siddiqui announces ‘black day’ today; governor, opposition condemn provincial govt for police action
The officer said several people were detained whose exact number was not known at this stage because they were taken to different police stations.
However, three persons, including MQM-P MPA Sadaqat Husain and a policeman, were brought to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for treatment.
The MQM-P said that its activist Muhammad Aslam died during treatment at the hospital.
The MQM-P said the police fired tear gas shells and baton-charged their women and parliamentarians. “Several lawmakers belonging to the MQM-P and workers have been taken to undisclosed locations,” it said.
The party described the Sindh government as a ‘fascist’ regime and claimed that under the orders of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and the PPP’s ‘biased’ leadership, the police attacked their peaceful protest.
MQM-P demands CM’s resignation
“The chief minister of Sindh, Murad Ali Shah, should resign immediately,” demanded senior MQM-P leader Amir Khan.
He said the CM did not allow the people of Karachi to fulfil their democratic right of holding a peaceful protest.
He urged the federal government to immediately intervene in the matter and seek explanation from the police chief as to why women and children were subjected to brutal torture.
MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqi said democracy would be strengthened with their decisions.
He warned former president Asif Ali Zardari to rein in his chief minister and reminded him that Bilawal House was also located in Karachi.
“We don’t want to fight,” he said, adding that the MQM-P should not be compelled to take any ‘extreme’ measure.
Sindh govt’s rejoinder
Speaking to journalists, Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani said they always supported peaceful protests and provided space to rival parties for protest.
He pointed out that the Jamaat-i-Islami was staging a sit-in outside the Sindh Assembly for the last 25-26 days and that showed the PPP’s ‘democratic’ approach that they did not want any restriction on political meetings.
He added that the MQM-P had announced that it would take out a rally from Sharea Faisal to the KPC but suddenly, they changed its route and moved towards CM House.
He recalled that in recent past the rallies and sit-ins also took place outside CM House but the government did not take any action.
However, Wednesday’s situation was different because cricket teams playing PSL were staying at hotels nearby the protest venue and this had been declared as ‘high security zone’ where all such activities had been banned, he added.
He said law enforcers feared that any untoward incident could occur resulting in adverse effects on the PSL matches and therefore, they took the action to disperse the protesters.
The minister admitted certain actions should not have taken place like the beating of women and one lawmaker of the MQM-P.
Meanwhile, South Zone DIG Sharjeel Kharal told Dawn that the MQM-P protesters allegedly attacked the police with stones when the police tried to prevent them from holding a rally in ‘Red Zone’ near Hotel Metropol. However, the protesters moved towards CM House in small groups and staged a sit-in for one and half hour there.
“Finally, the police moved in to clear the road as there were apprehensions of security breach of chief minister secretariat,” he said, adding: “The police resorted to tear gas shelling and detained eight persons.”
Governor, opposition condemn police action
Many opposition parties on Wednesday condemned the police action against MQM-P while Sindh Governor Imran Ismail termed it “barbarism”.
Governor Ismail said: “Today the MQM-P was subjected to barbarianism, which was extremely regrettable. The Sindh government should have demonstrated large-heartedness.
“The parties holding peaceful protests should be engaged in talks to sort out issues. It was extremely regrettable that police subjected even women to the torture,” he observed.
Urging the Sindh chief minister to hold talks with all parties, he said use of force by the state was not advisable.
Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Shaikh also condemned the police action.
Sindh chief of Jamaat-i-Islami Muhammad Hussain Mehanti strongly condemned the police violence, baton charge and teargas shelling and termed it a violation of human rights and a cruel act.
He said in a statement that peaceful protests in support of their legitimate demands were constitutional and legal right of every citizen, but the worst form of violence, teargas shelling and misuse of force indicated fascism and authoritarian rule.
Mohajir Qaumi Movement (Pakistan) chairman Afaq Ahmed strongly criticised the teargas shelling and violence by police on the protesters at the CM House.
He said that protests and sit-ins were part of a democratic system and it was against the political principles to crush the protesters in such a brutal manner.
The MQM chief demanded that the perpetrators of violence against the protesters, including women, should be arrested immediately. The ruling party should apologise to the nation or else the party would announce its strict action plan, he warned the Sindh government.
Provincial PTI president and Federal Minister Ali Zaidi called MQM-P convener Dr Siddiqui and vehemently condemned the police action against the participants of the MQM-P rally at the CM House.
He demanded that the provincial government immediately release all the arrested leaders and workers of the party.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2022