KARACHI, Dec 1: Life remained paralysed in Orangi Town on Monday as fears of widespread and organised ethnic violence forced the eviction of families from certain blocks and the closure of mainly small businesses. Most of these businesses are owned by immigrants to Karachi from upcountry.

Areas along Shahrah-i-Orangi in Sector 11½ emerged as the worst affected as continuing violence saw unknown miscreants attempt to set nearly a dozen houses and a shop on fire. The attacks in the small hours of Monday morning triggered the midnight departure of several families from the Raees Amrohvi colony.

“More than 30 people, mostly armed, stormed into three streets of the locality and threw stones at the houses before trying to set some of them on fire,” said Tariq Hussain, an areas resident whose family has now moved to nearby Chisti Nagar after the violence.

Witnesses say the late-night episode triggered panic in the area. Later, heavy gunfire was heard across the locality for several hours. Areas residents watched as posts were set up in Raees Amrohvi and half a kilometre away, in Ittehad town, by armed gunmen. These gunmen are now manning the said posts round the clock.

“You would not find a single policeman in the area,” said Shahid Amin, another resident, whose 120-yard house in Chisti Nagar has been a home for four families of relatives who fled Raees Amrohvi Colony for a safer place over the last two days.Earlier in the day, when the guns fell silent, residents of Chisti Nagar, Raees Amrohvi Colony and Mansoor Nagar took to the streets to protest against the police and Rangers, who they believed are “facilitating miscreants.”

Hundreds of men, women and children staged a sit in on main Shahrah-i-Orangi for more than two hours, before the rattle of heavy gunfire forced them to return home. The protest turned violent when a large number of people chased a car belonging to the town Nazim, carrying some officials who came to appeal for calm.

“The whole administration is involved in this drama, which is only benefiting the miscreants and not a single offender has been arrested. Neither is there a report of any arrest, despite the fact that there are clear orders from the government to shoot such criminals,” said Hameedullah Sheikh, a resident of Mansoor Nagar.

The tense situation in Orangi Town later forced the authorities to intervene as Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad personally called prominent people of the area before issuing orders for setting up pickets of Rangers.

“The governor approached us over the phone after reports of non-stop violence. For the last two hours, the situation has been getting better and a Rangers picket has been set up in Raees Amrohvi Colony,” said Salim Shahid, a prominent social activist of the locality.

As the local population of the area continues to move to safer places, businesses owned by the people from upcountry in Karachi’s other districts have almost completely shut down. Under severe threat, these business owners and residents are either moving back to their hometowns or to localities dominated by their relatives.

“For more than the last week, people from different parts of the city have been pouring into neighbourhoods like Sohrab Goth, Shireen Jinnah Colony, Banaras Chowk and others,” said Samiullah, a resident and social figure of Shireen Jinnah Colony.

“Our people feel that their lives are threatened and they have reason to believe that. In district east and central you will hardly find a single business of our people, as they all have been closed after threats from an armed group,” he said.

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