KARACHI, Feb 8: Life in the city remained largely disturbed on Friday following a strike call given by nearly half a dozen Sunni organisations, including Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia, with key commercial districts being closed, road traffic remaining thin and fuel stations in most parts of the metropolis shut amid early morning arson attacks and violence.

In an advance warning given to the government, leaders of different religious parties said if the killers of religious leaders were not arrested within a week they would launch a second phase of their protest by staging sit-ins on main roads and at traffic intersections.

The strike call was supported by the Jamaat-i-Islami and also by the Shia Ulema Council that said they supported the call to show their resolve against every kind of terrorism in the city.

The city started returning to life in the evening after the parties gave the go-ahead to traders and transport bodies to resume their business. But road traffic remained thin in the evening as well due to the suspension of gas supply to CNG stations under a load-management programme of the Sui Southern Supply Company.

Most parts of the city remained peaceful during the strike though a couple of incidents of violence in the old city area and district west sowed fear among residents. In Kharadar, two vehicles were set on fire within a short span of time. An official at the central fire station said that a pick-up truck bearing registration number CL-4697 and a minibus (DE-066) were set on fire near Baghdadi Chowk close to Kakri Ground. By the time fire tenders reached the site, fire had already destroyed the vehicles, he added.

Charged youths blocked traffic on Abul Hasan Ispahani Road by placing burning tyres on it. Some violent scenes were witnessed at Guru Mandir, Patel Para, Lasbela, Sohrab Goth, Lea Market, Lyari and on Mauripur Road where stones were hurled at moving vehicles.

An ASWJ spokesman termed the strike a ‘success’ and a “message of peaceful protest from Karachiites, where people from all walks of life, sects and segments of society have become insecure”.

The traders’ body, which supported the strike, claimed that business in most parts of the city remained closed.

The transporters, who also assured the parties of their ‘cooperation’ for the strike, said that buses were not run on most routes in the city. Some buses were operated in industrial areas, they added.

“We voluntarily agreed to their appeal after some respected clerics approached us,” said Ateeq Meer of the Karachi Tajir Ittehad — a common platform of 350 wholesale and retail markets across the city. “The retail markets resumed their business in the evening as agreed with the parties but wholesale markets remained closed.”

Sit-ins planned

Meanwhile, addressing a joint conference, leaders of different religious parties warned the government that if the killers of religious leaders were not arrested within a week they would be compelled to launch a second phase of their protest by staging sit-ins on main roads and at traffic intersections.

The warning was given by chief of the Jamiatul Uloom Al-Islamia Binnori Town Shaikh-ul-Hadith Dr Abdul Razzaq Iskander, Jamiatul Uloom Education Director Maulana Imdadullah and JUI-F Karachi chief Qari Mohammad Usman. ASWJ leader Dr Mohammad Fayyaz was also present at the press conference.

Expressing gratitude to all religious and political parties, organisations, transporters, traders and all sections of society for their ‘cooperation’ to make the Friday strike a success, they urged the chief justice of Pakistan to have mercy on seminaries and students by taking suo motu notice of the killing of Mufti Mohammad Abdul Majeed Deenpuri, his colleagues, other Ulema and students and attacks on mosques and seminaries.

While the scenes of gun attacks on Raees-ul-Ufta Maulana Deenpuri, Mufti Saleh Mohammad Karori and Ahsan Ali Shah on Jan 31 were recorded by surveillance cameras, none of the attackers had been arrested so far, they said.

They claimed that students and teachers of seminaries had always restricted themselves to the teachings and learning but now terrorists had started targeting them as well.

Earlier, addressing a rally outside the Jamia Binnori town after Juma prayers, Small Traders’ Organisation Karachi chapter president Mehmood Hamid had announced that if the killers of the Ulema were not arrested and given exemplary punishment, the small traders would observe a three-day strike and stand by Ulema for elimination of terrorism.

Maulana Mohammad Ghayas of the JUI and Qari Muhammad Iqbal also spoke.