Karachi, several Sindh towns shut amid fear, panic
KARACHI, Dec 15: Life came to a grinding halt in major Sindh cities as a wave of fear shot up from Karachi to Nawabshah on Friday night after a sudden business and transport closure and remained so till Saturday evening, when commercial and transport activities began resuming.
Earlier in the day, scattered protest demonstrations against the recent contempt notice by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain were held and an effigy of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was burnt in Hyderabad.
The day remained peaceful with no incident of violence and arson attack reported in any part of the city generally seen in such closures. Though business leaders called it a result of ‘people’s protest over the Supreme Court notice against the MQM chief,’ transporters expressed their inability to ascertain the motive for and people behind the closure and termed ‘fear’ the main reason that kept them away from work.
“It was, I believe, in protest that came from every walk of life,” said Jameel Paracha of the Sindh Tajir Ittehad.
“There was no violence or forcible closure of markets. But I can confirm that the city was completely closed and no market and commercial centre was open. The situation started normalising after sunset.”
He, however, did not explain the sudden and organised closure of the markets across the city on Friday night that remained out of operation till Saturday evening without a call from any group or individual. Mr Paracha said he hoped business would return to normality by Sunday morning. Though businessmen found no fear and forcible closure, the Sindh Rangers said they had spotted more than 25 ‘criminals’ for it.
“Rangers carried out action against criminals who tried to create a law and order situation by firing into the air and forcible closure of shops. In the process, the paramilitary force detained 28 criminals and also seized weapons from them,” said a Sindh Rangers spokesman.
The transporters, on the other hand, saw the fear factor behind it but remained unable to name any group for being behind the Saturday closure. They, however, said despite fear there was no incident of arson or armed attack in any area of the city.
“The buses on several routes started plying after sunset,” said Irshad Bukhari of the Karachi Transport Ittehad. “We don’t know what really happened that led to such a situation and obviously most transporters took precautionary measures and on their own decided not to bring their buses on roads on Saturday.”
Almost all fuel stations, which had started closing late on Friday night, kept their business suspended on Saturday with a small number of private vehicles on roads. Amid suspended life, a number of protest demonstrations were witnessed in every district of the city where hundreds of people, including women and children, denounced the recent Supreme Court contempt notice to MQM chief Altaf Hussain.Though MQM leaders did not own the demonstrations and showed unawareness about who was behind them, protesters were carrying placards expressing their support for Altaf Hussain and were also heard chanting slogans against the Supreme Court order.
Large protest gatherings were witnessed at Ayesha Manzil in Federal B Area, at Five-Star Chowrangi in North Nazimabad, UP Mor in North Karachi, Tibet Centre on M. A. Jinnah Road, at Dakkhana in Liaquatabad, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Korangi, Defence, Orangi Town, Qasba Colony, Landhi, PECHS and Malir, mainly in the second half of the day.