KARACHI: Police on Wednesday resorted to baton charge and fired into the air to disperse a group of people protesting against an anti-encroachment drive in Mohammadi Colony, better known as Machhar Colony. The protesters set two vehicles of the Anti-Encroachment Cell on fire and injured five AEC personnel, officials and witnesses said.
As the AEC and the District West administration backed by the district police started demolishing homes in Machhar Colony, area residents came out in protest. They threw stones at the AEC and police personnel in the congested lanes. The police resorted to baton charge and fired into the air, forcing them to retreat.
In the meantime, the angry mob spotted the mobile van of the AEC in which women police officials were travelling. They got hold of the vehicle, compelling the women officials to abandon it. They set the vehicle on fire, which was badly burnt, said City SSP Adeel Hussain Chandio.
The angry mob also set a power shovel being used to demolish the houses on fire.
A fire brigade official told Dawn that after receiving information about the arson acts, they sent fire tenders but the police prevented them from moving further than the ICI bridge saying that a violent protest was under way ahead. Therefore, the firemen returned to their station. Later on, scores of people came out on Mauripur Road and burnt old tyres to block traffic.
The traffic jams witnessed on main Mauripur Road spread up to Shershah and Mai Kolachi Road. People on the roads remained stuck in traffic jams for a long time.
The protesters dispersed when the anti-encroachment drive was stopped.
Witnesses said that five personnel of the AEC were injured when the mob pelted them with stones. However, SSP Chandio said that they had no report of injuries caused to any person.
Protesters booked under terror charges
Later in the evening, the Docks police registered a case against 200 to 250 unknown protesters under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, said an officer, Abid.
The protesters were also booked on charges of rioting, resorting to firing, torching official vehicle and damaging government property, added the officer.
The FIR was registered on a complaint of Harbour mukhtiarkar Mohammed Wasim.
SHC declines to stay drive
The Sindh High Court on Wednesday turned down a request of residents of Machhar Colony, a densely populated shantytown off Mauripur Road, seeking a restraining order against the ongoing anti-encroachment drive to vacate the Circular Railway land, adds Tahir Siddiqui.
A division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Junaid Ghaffar also directed the respondent provincial and civic authorities to file their respective comments on the matter.
The bench issued a notice to the provincial law officer and put off the matter to April 19.
The petitioner residents had moved the SHC through a constitutional petition against the anti-encroachment drive in the area to vacate the land.
They asked the court to restrain the respondent authorities from demolishing their homes and issue a stay order against the drive.
The bench, however, rejected their request observing that it could not issue any stay order against the anti-encroachment operation as the land on which the houses of the petitioners were built belonged to the Pakistan Railways.
Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2017