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Shutdown, normality within 24 hours in Karachi

July 14, 2011

A Pakistani policeman walks past firefighters working to extinguish a fire in a shop set on fire during a fresh wave of violence in the port city of Karachi on July 14, 2011. – Photo by AFP

KARACHI: The wave of violence that claimed more than a dozen lives and reduced a number of vehicles and some shops to ashes in the city in less than 24 hours following the remarks of a senior minister aired by TV channels ended by Thursday evening on an appeal of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief.

This was a second complete shutdown the city witnessed within a week that caused traders, transporters and owners of fuel stations to keep their businesses closed and compelled residents to stay indoors amid fears of violence.

However, normality returned to the city soon after the MQM chief Altaf Hussain appealed to the people to ‘end their peaceful protest over the senior minister’s statement’, which encouraged traders to resume businesses and some fuel stations to reopen.

“It’s really unfortunate that the violence is organised in such a disciplined manner that it destroys city life within a few minutes and brings it back to normality after a few hours,” said Ateeq Meer of the All-Karachi Tajir Ittehad — a recently-formed association that represents more than 500 retail and wholesale markets.

“In the late hours of Wednesday, it was clear that what’s going to happen on Thursday. So we decided to keep our business closed only for security reasons and our fears matched the reality. Since senior political leaders and the security administration seemed to be active to stem the violence we expect a better day on Friday,” he added.

He said that business activities in major commercial areas remained suspended for at least five days in the two weeks of July due to the repeated breakdown of law and order.


Transporters sceptical

Transporters were sceptical about Friday’s operation saying that heavy losses during the Thursday violence made it difficult for them to resume normal business. However, they said, a final decision would only be taken on Friday morning.

“We lost more than 20 vehicles in less than 24 hours,” said Irshad Bukhari, president of the Karachi Transport Ittehad.

“Being representative of the transporters’ body, it’s almost impossible for me to convince my members for normal operation. We are, however, monitoring the situation and will decide on Friday morning whether to bring buses on the road or not.”


Flights delayed

More than a dozen domestic flights of local airlines were delayed for hours as crew of most flights failed to reach the airport on time, according to an official of the Civil Aviation Authority.

The flight schedule was badly affected, the official said, adding that the departure of almost all flights was delayed due to various reasons caused by violence in the city.

“Crew members of the most of the flights failed to reach the airport timely due to violence while some operators deliberately rescheduled their departure when they saw that most passengers were unable to reach the airport. For instance, a domestic flight scheduled to leave at 3:15pm took off at 8pm.”


Stock exchange

The violence also hit the trading at the shares market, where the management of the Karachi Stock Exchange administration was forced to suspend all activities more than an hour before schedule.

“Members of the exchange are hereby informed that due to prevailing situation in the city, the governing board of the KSE has decided to suspend all activities at 1:45pm and window for trade rectification will remain available up to 2pm,” said a KSE notification issued after the trading started in the morning.