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Tear gas keeps rally away from red zone

January 06, 2012

A police officer holds pistol chasing a crowd in business hub of Karachi, Jan 6, 2012. — Photo by AP

KARACHI, Jan 6: The city’s financial and media hub on Friday remained disturbed for hours leaving a large number of people stranded in offices and numerous motorists stuck in gridlock as an attempt by the banned People’s Amn Committee to lead a rally into the ‘red zone’ was foiled by police who used tear gas and fired into air to disperse the protesters near Shaheen Complex.

The committee had earlier announced that its supporters would march up to Bilawal House to present a memorandum seeking arrest of those involved in the killing of Lyari residents and to protest against “certain quarters attempting to tarnish the image of Lyari”.

However, the police on Tuesday night had declared that no rally would be allowed to enter the red zone. The decision was made following a 10-hour sit-in at the Governor’s House by people protesting against the killing of a leader of Pasban-i-Jafria, and a threat by another group to do so on Friday.

The police had blocked all entry points to the red zone by placing containers and water tankers to disperse the rally. The road barriers caused severe traffic jam on I.I. Chundrigar Road, M.A. Jinnah Road and roads in Saddar.

Although the participants in the Amn committee rally, including women and children, remained peaceful, the police took the stern action when some of them tried to scale the containers placed near the Shaheen Complex to stop them from entering the red zone.

The police used tear gas and also fired into the air to disperse the protesters.

While the crowd retreated, some of the protesters turned violent and smashed the windowpanes of vehicles parked on I.I. Chundrigar Road.

The condition of some protesters, particularly women and children, deteriorated after inhaling tear gas. Tear gas also wafted into different offices near the Shaheen Complex, making it difficult for people to breathe.

Many policemen also felt the effects of tear gas.

Sindh police chief Mushtaq Shah told media that the police had already made it clear that no rally would be allowed to enter the red zone.

“The police acted accordingly.”

The police chief added that around 150 participants in the rally had been detained.

Asked whether police over-reacted in the face of unarmed protesting women and children, he accused the organisers of using women and children to circumvent the restriction on rallies.

“No rally will be allowed to enter the red zone,” he reiterated.

Following the retreat, the protesters led by Amn Committee leader and a former district south president of the Pakistan People’s Party, Zafar Baloch, staged a sit-in on I.I. Chundrigar Road in front of the Jang building.

Speaking to media, Mr Baloch said he was determined to go ahead with the rally and reach Bilawal House to present the memorandum.

He said more people from Lyari were arriving to join them. After talks, the district management persuaded Mr Baloch to end the sit-in. Finally, Deputy Commissioner (south) Mustafa Jamal Qazi took Mr Baloch, along with some representatives of the protesters, in his vehicle to the Bilawal House. For the purpose, a container at the Shaheen Complex was removed and then placed back to restrict entry into the red zone by others.

However, some participants riding motorcycles did manage to reach the Boat Basin area through Mai Kolachi Road.