• PTI workers tear-gassed, rounded up
• Gridlock on main arteries across city
KARACHI: Dozens of workers of the opposition Pakistan Tehreeki-i-Insaf were rounded up amid tear gas shelling and baton charge during a sit-in at Five Star traffic intersection in North Nazimabad where, like 14 other places in the metropolis, dozens of activists and supporters of the party gathered on the call of protest against the siege of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Lahore residence by the police.
Late in the evening, PTI’s Karachi chapter president Aftab Siddiqi announced suspending all the sit-ins and demanded the release of over 20 held workers of the party.
The protests broke out across Karachi and some other parts of the province when PTI workers and supporters took to streets, blocked major road links, set old used tyres on fire demanding end to the siege of party chairman’s residence.
A large number of workers and sympathisers, including women and children, staged sit-ins on main roads and lodged their protest.
Although the sit-ins largely remained peaceful, the situation turned ugly at some places, where police resorted to using tear gas and baton charge against protesters and arrested several party activists.
First it was the Five Star traffic intersection in North Nazimabad, where PTI workers ‘insisted’ on staging a sit-in on the main road and blocked the traffic upon which the police reacted to clear the busy thoroughfare.
“The police only reacted after the PTI local leaders defied all agreed terms,” said a police official, on the condition of anonymity. “They had assured the police authorities that they would stage a protest on [traffic] island along the main Sher Shah Suri Road. But they came on the main road and blocked it. The police tried several times to convince them, but they remained unmoved. The police were unarmed and they only removed the protesters from the main road.”
However, footage going viral on social media from the site showed the police firing tear gas and running after protesters, including women, while the people were running for safety from the tear gas shells.
Scuffles between PTI workers and policemen were also witnessed on the Star Gate intersection where demonstrators were staging a sit-in on main Sharea Faisal.
The police were seen removing PTI workers forcefully from the road.
Dozens of workers also staged sit-ins Orangi Town No10, 4-K Chowrangi, Dawood Chowrangi, Mauripur Road, Hub River Road, Teen Talwar, Qayyumabad, Shaheen Complex, Sohrab Goth, Hasan Square, Landhi, Korangi, Teen Hatti Bridge and New Karachi.
A PTI-Karachi spokesperson claimed hat over a dozen PTI workers, including elderly ones were injured in police action and around 20 people were picked up by the law enforcement agencies and moved away to ‘undisclosed place’.
However, the police authorities remained tight-lipped about the arrests of PTI workers.
Traffic jams in city
The multiple sit-ins on main roads led to severe traffic jams in many areas in the city.
In most of the areas, the traffic flow started to slow down at around 5pm and become worse by sunset on main roads which took hours to clear.
In Baldia Town and SITE areas hundreds of vehicles were stuck in traffic jams while there was gridlock on Hasrat Mohani Road, Burns Road, Shahrah-i-Liaquat and in Saddar areas.
The traffic on Sharea Faisal was badly affected due to the protest near Star Gate, though the situation normalised after more policemen were deployed.
Vehicular traffic in Liaquatabad, Nazimabad, Pak Colony and North Karachi and on Shahrah-i-Pakistan remained heavy and was diverted onto alternative routes.
In East district, University Road was also hit by a traffic jam where hundreds of vehicles were bumper to bumper due to protest near Hsasn Square.
Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2023