Fear keeps city shut as ASWJ observes strike
KARACHI, Dec 26: Life in the city came to a halt on Wednesday as fear stayed after the Tuesday gun attacks and violence that had left more than a dozen people dead and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat observed a strike against an attack on its senior leader Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqui.
With thin traffic on roads and no business in commercial areas, residents mostly stayed indoors following the early morning gunfire that sowed fear in Korangi, Lasbela, Orangi Town, New Karachi and some other areas.
However, no major incident of violence was reported in any city district.
The Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat described the strike on its appeal ‘against the ongoing wave of its workers’ killings’ as successful.
“We believe that the people of this city have made their peaceful protest registered,” said ASWJ spokesman Maulana Akbar Saeed Farooqi.
“Now it’s up to the government and the security administration to come up with measures to address the reservations and demand of this city. For the past more than a year we are being targeted that forced us to give a call for the strike.”
Meanwhile, funeral prayers for three policemen killed in the gun attack on Maulana Farooqui were held at the Gardens headquarters, which was led by ASWJ leader Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhyanvi.
The brief statement, however, issued by the central police office only mentioned that funeral prayers for the ‘martyred policemen’ were offered without naming the prayer leader. “The prayers of police constables Imran, Waheed Khan and Saleem were held in Garden headquarters. It was also attended by senior police officials who paid rich tribute to the martyred policemen and offered condolences to the members of the bereaved families,” it said.
Earlier, Maulana Ludhyanvi had led funeral prayers for Maulana Farooqi’s driver Abdul Wakeel near Hospital Chowrangi in Landhi before his burial in the area graveyard. The funeral of Maulana Farooqi’s personal guard Obaidur Rahman was also held in Landhi’s New Muzaffarabad Colony. The body was later moved to the deceased’s native town in Rahimyar Khan.
In the city, major business and commercial centres remained closed during the day though retail markets in a few neighbourhoods stayed open.
This was the second time in less than two weeks that business activities were suspended as earlier on Dec 15 the Muttahida Qaumi Movement observed a day of protest against the contempt notice issued by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to its chief.
On Wednesday, traders kept shutters of business and shopping centres in Saddar, Jodia Bazaar, Electronics Market, Bolton Market and Bohri Bazaar down during the day. Major commercial areas in district east, central and west were also shut during the first half of the day.
In the afternoon, a delegation of traders met ASWJ leader Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqui at a hospital and sought his ‘support’ for resuming the business.
However, their leaders saw fear factor as the major reason behind the Wednesday shutdown instead of traders’ support to the strike call.
“The business was back after 4pm,” said Ateeq Meer of the Karachi Tajir Ittehad, who along with his association’s senior members met Maulana Farooqui at the Liaquat National Hospital to ‘inquire after his health’ and sought his ‘support’ for resuming business.
“Over the past few weeks, the business has suffered immense losses. We see no sustainable business amid persisting threat of extortion and frequent city closures,” Mr Meer said.
After a daylong closure, he announced, all markets would be open on Dec 27 which was declared a public holiday by the Sindh government to mark the fifth death anniversary of former prime minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Benazir Bhutto.
“The decision was made after due consultation with representative of all markets. We can’t afford any more closures and most probably we would also do business on Friday,” Mr Meer added.
Similarly, transporters justified their business closure citing safety fears and said that their Tuesday evening announcement was meant to inform people in advance to save them from inconvenience caused by unannounced suspension of transport services.
“But the buses of almost all routes started plying after sunset,” said Irshad Bukhari of the Karachi Transport Ittehad (KTI).
“Definitely there was a safety reason for making the announcement so that our members become aware of the decision. Similarly, it also helped preventing inconvenience caused by unannounced closures.”
Attendance in public and private organisations remained below average, as was the situation witnessed in several educational institutions.
The University of Karachi postponed the exams scheduled for the day, while the Karachi Electric Supply Company extended the last date for payment of utility bills.
The BA, BSc and BEd exams scheduled for Dec 26 would be held on Dec 30, while the postponed paper of BCom would be conducted on Jan 8, 2013, said a university statement. “The papers of BEd, MEd, BSc and BA scheduled for Dec 28 would now be held on Jan 4, 2013. Similarly, BCom papers scheduled for Dec 28 would now be held on Jan 2, 2013. The paper of B Com scheduled for Jan 3 would be held on Jan 4. The exam centres and the papers timing would remain unchanged.”
As the situation started turning normal in the second half of the day, it also lifted confidence of fuel station owners who resumed their business in the evening.
“There are around 170 CNG stations in the city and 350 petrol pumps,” said Abdul Sami Khan of the Pakistan Petroleum Dealers’ Association. “In such situation the owners decide on their own considering the security situation in their respective area.
Mostly the owners stayed away from regular business during the day and resumed it in the evening.”