KARACHI: As Karachi braced itself for a strike called by the Pakistan People's Party in protest against the Supreme Court verdict annulling the appointment of Justice (Retd) Deedar Shah as NAB chairman, tension gripped various parts of the city on Thursday night when armed men on motorbikes roamed the streets in different commercial areas, scattered incidents of arson were reported and gunfire claimed the life of a political worker and left several people injured.Armed men intercepted two buses near Bilawal Chowrangi, at a stone's throw from the Bilawal House, the camp office of President Asif Ali Zardari. They asked the passengers to get off and set the vehicles on fire.
“Two fire-tenders took nearly half an hour to put out the fire,” an official at the DHA fire station said. The Clifton police kept quiet about the identity of the perpetrators and reasons behind the incident that took place in the heavily-guarded locality and spread panic leading to a complete shutdown.
Within a couple of hours, four more vehicles were torched in different areas.
A bus was set ablaze in Ranchore Line area and another two buses met the same fate near Kakri Ground and Juna Masjid in Lyari. A truck was intercepted and set on fire on the ICI Bridge.
A local leader of the PPP was gunned down in Garden area. Tariq Lashkari, 52, was reportedly attacked when he was going home in Hasan Lashkari village.
Reports of gunfire were received from old city areas, including Lyari, Kharadar and Ranchore Line.
An official at the medico-legal section of the Civil Hospital said the emergency unit had received five people with bullet wounds from the areas.
A policeman and a 13-year-old boy were among them. Traders in commercial areas of Burns Road, old city, some blocks of Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Malir and Gulistan-e-Jauhar pulled the shutter down because of the movement of armed men on motor-bikes.
The sense of fear among the people deepened when the University of Karachi came up with a late-night announcement postponing all examinations scheduled for Friday.
The university administration gave no reason for the decision.
The Sindh education ministry later announced that all educational institutions of Karachi would remain closed because of 'unrest in the city and for the safety of the students'.
Earlier in the day the PPP appealed to transporters, traders and the business community to observe a peaceful protest on Friday to register anger against the Supreme Court's decision.
Talking to a TV channel, Sindh Government's Media Coordinator and Sindh PPP general secretary Taj Haider made a passionate appeal to traders and transporters to observe a peaceful protest.
Earlier, addressing a crowded press conference at the PPP Media Centre in Clifton, Sindh Assembly members Sherjeel Memon, Javed Shah, Imran Leghari and Imdad Pitafi announced that protest rallies would be held across the province.
They also appealed to transporters to observe a strike and traders to keep their businesses closed.
They said MPAs would wear black armbands, adopt a resolution against the verdict and hold a march from the Sindh Assembly building to the Sindh High Court.
The MPAs alleged that those who had attacked the Supreme Court in the past were getting decisions of their choice. They said Thursday's court decision had hurt the feelings of the people of Sindh and they would not accept such decisions.
However, the business community disassociated itself from the strike.
The chief of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, M. Saeed Shafiq, said: “We cannot support the strike or protest which is bound to cause a production and revenue loss of Rs4-5 billion a day.”
He said many traders had complained that some armed men had warned them to keep the shops and markets closed on Friday.
The chairman of the Alliance of Market Associations, Atiq Mir, said the strike call was tantamount to contempt of court and that all markets and shops would remain open.