Calls for calm as ethnic strife threatens peace in Sindh

Published July 15, 2022
Demonstrators forcefully closed restaurants and threw their furniture outside during a protest at Jamshoro bridge.—Dawn
Demonstrators forcefully closed restaurants and threw their furniture outside during a protest at Jamshoro bridge.—Dawn

KARACHI: As ethnic tensions flared up in several Sindh districts following the killing of 35-year-old Bilal Kaka at a hotel in Hyderabad a couple of days ago, leaders from across the political spectrum unanimously called for calm, urging people not to let rogue elements disturb the social harmony of the province.

The calls came as several incidents of violence were reported in the province on Thursday, where shops and hotels owned by Pashtuns were attacked and forcefully closed, allegedly by Sindhi nationalists.

On Thursday, several political parties, including JI, MQM-Pakistan, Awami National Party, and nationalist leaders Jalal Mehmood Shah and Ayaz Latif Palijo issued statements, urging both Sindhis and Pashtuns — the two groups at the heart of these tensions — to demonstrate restraint. They also demanded the government take prompt action to defuse the tensions.

In a bid to prevent the law and order situation from deteriorating further, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon contacted Qaumi Awami Tehreek President Ayaz Latif Palijo and Sindh ANP President Shahi Syed, urging them to play a positive role to allay the ethnic strife.

Mr Memon said that an accused has been arrested in connection with the murder while the remaining will be arrested soon. He assured that those involved in ransacking of properties will also be brought to justice.

He urged the two leaders to issue a joint statement urging calm and requesting people to maintain harmony.

Following the contact, Mr Syed and Mr Palijo, issued a statement denouncing the elements disturbing the peace and harmony of the province.

Separately, Mr Syed also contacted Karachi police chief Javed Odho, expressing concerns over the law and order situation in the city.

Mr Odho assured that the life and property of every person will be protected and no one would be allowed to take law in their hands.

In a separate press conference, ANP Hyderabad district president Javed Khan, central vice president Anwar Zaib Khan, district general secretary Mohammad Amin and Kamal Khan expressed regret over Mr Kaka’s death. They expressed sympathy with bereaved family members and demanded a transparent inquiry.

They said that the killing has been portrayed as an incident of ethnic strife, while the issue has been blown out of proportion on social media.

MQM-Pakistan also expressed concerns over the tense law and order situation in the province.

In a statement, MQM-P’s coordination committee said the killing of a man has been used to instigate disharmony and pit two ethnicities against each other.

While condemning violence, the statement added that all ethnicities should be free to do business all over the country.

The targeting of people on the basis of language and ID cards will weaken the foundations of the country, reads the statement.

The Jamaat-i-Islami, while condemning the incident, demanded the provincial government to arrest the accused and bring the motives behind the killing to the light.

The Awami Workers Party (AWP) also condemned the murder and called for action against the police, who they claimed “stood idly while the man was brutally murdered”.

In a statement on Thursday, AWP federal president Yusuf Masti Khan, federal general secretary Bakhshal Thalho, Sindh president Zia Bhatti and Sindh general secretary Mir Hassan Sirewal demanded compensation and a formal apology to victim’s family.

Sindh United Party Chairman Jalal Mehmood Shah said Sindhis consider Pashtuns their brothers and they have no objection to their businesses in the province.

Later, Mr Shah also addressed a press conference at Buriro House in Bhan Syedabad area where he urged protesters to refrain from victimising the Pashtun population in the province.

He also urged the Pashtuns “to respect Sindhis and avoid amicably resolve the issues”.

Two injured in retaliatory attacks

Meanwhile, hotels and shops owned by Pashtuns were attacked and forcefully shut in Dadu, Sehwan, Khairpur Nathan Shah, Kotri and Jamshoro.

Armed men on motorbikes attacked three hotels in Kotri. In retaliation, the owners pelted stones leaving two men, identified as Uzair Soomro and Sadaqat Ali, injured. A heavy police contingent reached the spot and shifted the injured to Kotri’s District Headquarters Hospital.

Police have also claimed the arrest of seven activists of nationalist parties in Dadu who were forcefully closing the shops.

In the Sakrand area, activists of nationalist parties blocked a section of N5 National Highway at Noonari CNG station Thursday night following reports of disturbances and maltreatment of families by miscreants at Karachi’s Sohrab Goth area.

The protest led to long queues of vehicles including buses and heavy vehicles.

Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz-Bashir (JSQM-B) leader Dr Niaz Kalani told Dawn that such protests would also be held in Moro, Ubauro and other areas.

Pashtuns make up a large majority of drivers who drive trucks and goods carriers, moving cargo from ports in Karachi to other parts of the country. A large number of these trucks move on highways in Sindh to enter Punjab and travel further north towards Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Protesters also managed to block roads in Moro. However, a swift police action, led by Moro DSP, dispersed the protesters. Subsequently, traffic was also restored.

Minister visits victim’s family

Sindh Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro visited Kaka’s family in Matiari’s Faqir Mohammad Kaka village on Thursday and expressed grief over his death.

The minister assured the family of swift justice, adding that the culprits would be brought to justice.

Separately, Sindh Chief Murad Ali Shah also took notice of the killing and the tensions that followed it.

While ordering police to immediately arrest those involved in the killings, he sought detailed reports from Karachi and Hyderabad police over the incidents of violence.

Abdul Moiz Malik in Karachi, Qurban Ali Khushik in Dadu and Mohammad Hussain Khan in Hyderabad also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2022

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