An uneasy calm prevailed in parts of Karachi on Friday after a call for protest and strikes was given by ethnic groups in the wake of the killing of 35-year-old Bilal Kaka in Hyderabad and a violent demonstration at Sohrab Goth yesterday that followed the incident.
On Tuesday, Kaka was killed and five of his companions were injured in a scuffle at a hotel in Hyderabad, drawing an angry reaction from nationalist parties who believed the attackers were Afghan nationals.
Yesterday, 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 Pakhtuns — the two groups at the heart of these tensions — to demonstrate restraint.
They also demanded the government take prompt action to defuse the tensions.
Today, commercial activities remained suspended in several localities of the metropolis where police and other law enforcers carried out flag marches to maintain law and order.
However, after Friday prayers, protests were reported in the Sohrab Goth area where the police detained some people.
City police chief Javed Akhtar Odho told Dawn.com that some people tried to torch an old vehicle near Sohrab Goth and damaged other property after zuhr prayers.
However, he said, the police took immediate action and detained around 10 to 15 people.
"Since Thursday evening, over 45 persons have been arrested over charges of rioting and arson," Odho said, adding that detainees had been identified with help of video clips obtained from the site.
Meanwhile, a traffic police spokesperson said that because of the protest, the both tracks of Superhighway were closed for traffic for some time.
"Vehicles coming from Hyderabad were diverted from Jamali Pull towards Safoora Goth while the vehicles going to Hyderabad were diverted towards Gulshan-i-Iqbal from Adil Shah Ramp," the spokesperson added.
An hour later, East-SSP, Syed Abdul Rahim Sherazi confirmed to Dawn.com that the protest had ended and "both the tracks of the highway have been cleared for traffic."
Eight persons shot at, hurt during protest: police surgeon
Police surgeon Dr Summaiya Syed, meanwhile, told Dawn.com that at least eight people, including a nine-year-old boy who suffered bullet injuries during the protest were brought for treatment to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.
"They suffered bullet wounds on the abdomen and chest and the condition of three of the injured is critical," she added.
‘Four identified suspects instigated 1,500-2,000 people for riots’
Separately, the Sohrab Goth police have registered first information reports (FIR) on behalf of the state through a police officer, Syed Ali Raza, against four identified suspects and 1,500 to 2,000 unidentified "miscreants" on charges of allegedly killing two people and injuring two others.
The complaint has been lodged under sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 324 (attempt to commit qatl-i-amd), 302 (punishment of qatl-i-amd), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 395 (punishment for dacoity), 109 (punishment of abetment if the act abetted committed In consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), and 337-H (punishment for hurt by rash or negligent act) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The complainant said that he along with other police officers, including SHO Sohrab Goth Zubair Nawaz, were patrolling in an official vehicle when they reached Malik Aga Hotel at around 4:30pm, where they allegedly saw four men, identified as Naimatullah alias Adil Shah, Shafiullah, Jamil Alkozai, and Riaz Khan, chanting "provocative" slogans drawing the attention of the people towards the incident that had happened in Hyderabad.
When the police saw that other people had also started gathering there, they immediately called for reinforcement and 140 tear gas shells to meet any eventuality.
Meanwhile, the emotionally charged crowd started gathering at the Afghan Cut near Superhighway and allegedly instigated others for riots.
They started pelting stones and erected temporary barriers put up on the main highway, resulting in a massive traffic jam. Some of the protesters were allegedly armed while others were carrying sticks, iron rods, and stones.
The FIR stated that the demonstrators started ransacking the Karachi bus terminal at around 4.45pm.
They overpowered two police officers deployed there for security and allegedly snatched an official pistol from ASI Mohammed Azam. An official SMG was also allegedly snatched from the police mobile patrol.
The miscreants then allegedly open fire at the police officers after which they responded with tear gas shelling in a bid to disperse the crowd.
The complaint also said that the miscreants allegedly snatched valuables from commuters and pedestrians and caused substantial damage to public and private property.
The FIR stated that when the police reached the Taj petrol pump, it received information that two people had been shot and two were wounded by gunfire carried out by the miscreants. All of them were shifted to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and DUHS respectively.
The police arrested 14 suspects and recovered iron rods and stones from their custody and dispersed the miscreants who fled towards different areas.
'No roads must be allowed to close'
On the other hand, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has ordered the police to ensure that no road will be closed in Karachi and "strict action" would be taken against anyone who harmed public or private property.
"If any miscreants tries to block any road, they should be dealt with severely," he was quoted as saying, adding that the government had discussed the ongoing tensions with the "concerned parties".
"All of them have expressed dissatisfaction with such a move, Shah said.
He further promised that "any mischief" or negligence on the part of the administration would not be tolerated.
'Won't let mischievous elements destroy land of peace'
Meanwhile, Sindh Minister for Information Sharjeel Memon on Friday warned that the government won't let "miscreants" and "mischievous elements" spoil the "land of peace", urging people not to support such groups.
"Pakistan is a bouquet and all the people living here are brothers except for some groups that are instigating hatred," he said at a press conference today.
"There are some mischievous elements that are trying to create division and hatred among people," Memon said, adding that a "political party, which has a government in only one province is further trying to instigate the violence".
"I have pictures and videos here with me to prove this," he said.
The minister said that anyone who wanted to "create a mess in Sindh" would be dealt with "with iron hands". "Sindh is the land of Sufis. It is the land of peace and we will make sure no one disrupts it."
He added that the government won't tolerate any "fake news" circulating on social media and advised people to refrain from believing "unverified news".
"We have noticed these groups are using the accounts of people who aren't even alive anymore just to mislead the people," Memon said, warning that the government would be launching a crackdown soon. He did not specify who he was referring to.
On the other hand, earlier in the day, Sindh Governor Agha Siraj Durrani met a 19-member delegation of the Pakhtun community.
He assured them that the government was taking all necessary measures to control the situation in the province.
"We won't allow any conspiracy sabotage the peace of the province," he said.