KARACHI, Jan 13: Almost the entire city was paralysed on Sunday evening because of sit-ins and protests in many areas by people expressing solidarity with the Shia and Hazara communities in Quetta.
The sit-ins that began on Saturday evening at the Numaish intersection and on the National Highway near Malir-15 spread to different parts of the city on Sunday.
The most unexpected sit-in was staged on Sunday evening near the Bilawal House, where President Asif Ali Zardari has been staying for the last few days.
The protesters gathered at the Bilawal House traffic intersection where hundreds of people along with their families converged.
The sit-in participants came in their vehicles and later sheets and blankets were also arranged for the protesters as cold night approached. The protesters were holding placards and chanting slogans.
Since President Zardari was also present in the Bilawal House, the law-enforcement officials stopped the protesters near a popular restaurant close to the Bilawal House. Heavy police contingents and the water cannons were also called to the scene to control the situation.
The protesters, largely comprising Shia residents of the DHA and Clifton localities, chanted slogans in support for the Shia and Hazara communities in Quetta and recited elegies on the occasion.
The authorities asked the protesters to leave the place, but they refused and continued their peaceful protest.
Following the sit-in at the Bilawal House, the federal government suspended the cellular services in Clifton for three hours.
The sit-ins were also staged in Incholi on Shahrah-i-Pakistan, Rizvia Society at the Golimar intersection, Five-Star intersection in North Nazimabad and Gulshan-i-Maymar.
By late night, sit-ins had been staged in almost all neighbourhoods of the city where the Shia community members lived.
The sit-ins participants were calling for the removal of the chief minister of Balochistan and handing over of Quetta to the army.
The National Highway had also been blocked by protesters on Sunday.
The protest that was started on Saturday evening continued on Sunday while the number of protesters at the sit-in grew there into large numbers.
The protesters blocked the railway tracks as well suspending the railway traffic to and from upcountry areas.
Till late in the night, the railway traffic remained suspended.
Similarly, access to the Karachi airport was also blocked as protesters staged a protest on Sharea Faisal.
The sit-in staged on Saturday evening by different Shia organisations and spearheaded by the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen at the Numaish traffic intersection continued for the second day on Sunday.
A large number of people gathered at the venue to express solidarity with the Shia and Hazara communities who were sitting with 86 coffins since Friday afternoon in freezing temperatures on Alamdar Road in Quetta.
The MQM’s Dr Farooq Sattar, Dr Mairajul Huda Siddiqui of the Jamaat-i-Islami and Ghinwa Bhutto of the PPP-SB visited the sit-in at the Numaish intersection to express their solidarity with the protesters.
In the evening, youngsters blocked Rashid Minhas Road and set fire to tyres on the road blocking vehicular movement to Gulistan-i-Jauhar.
Similar sit-ins were also held on the Shahra-i-Pakistan and Nazimabad.
Hundreds of protesters took to streets and blocked the roads.
Because of the blockades on many roads in the city, commuters and travellers faced problems.