KARACHI, Jan 18: Life in Karachi, Hyderabad and some other cities of Sindh on Friday came to a virtual standstill with public transport vehicles remaining off the road, fuel stations and business centres closed, educational activities suspended following the killing of a lawmaker along with his guards.
A mourning period of three days had been announced by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement after the killing of MQM lawmaker Syed Manzar Imam.
Karachi started limping back to normality in the evening after the burial of the slain legislator with no violence reported in any part of the city though arson attacks in Hyderabad that left two trucks burnt and random firing sowed fear among residents.
Business leaders and representatives of transport operators asserted that they voluntarily kept their businesses closed to condemn the ‘act of terrorism’ in Orangi Town, which led to the death of the lawmaker along with his three security guards.
However, they admitted that businesses were resumed in the evening only after getting a nod from the MQM leadership.
“Since the call for the day of mourning was from the MQM, it was not appropriate that we resume the business on our own,” said Ateeq Meer of Karachi Tajir Ittehad — a common platform of 350 wholesale and retail markets across the city.
“So after the burial of Mr Imam, we approached the MQM leadership that realising the hardship of citizens agreed that business could be resumed in the evening.”
While the MQM had announced three-day mourning, traders and transport bodies said there would be normal business on Saturday. Same was the thought of fuel station owners who said that unavailability of CNG due to load-shedding under a load-management programme of the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) till Sunday morning had already left the Karachiites with few options.
“Buses will be run on all the routes on Saturday,” said Irshad Bukhair of the Karachi Transport Ittehad. “We’ve decided to stay away from regular business only to condemn the act of terrorism. There was an element of fear as well among the transporters after some last night incidents of arson.”
The University of Karachi and the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast) postponed the scheduled exams and announced that the new dates would be fixed later. Other educational institutions both in the private and public sectors remained closed as announced by their managements and associations on Thursday.
In Hyderabad, a complete shutdown was witnessed with early morning incidents of firing and violence. Two trucks were set ablaze in separate incidents of arson attacks reported within the remit of the Sakhi Pir and Phulelli police stations.
In Sakhir Pir area, the truck bearing registration number JT-3892 was intercepted and set on fire when it was moving to Pinjra Pol. Another truck met the same fate near Guru Nagar Chowk in the Phulelli area.
Several city areas reverberated with gunfire compelling residents to stay indoors. Tyres were also seen burning on some roads with charged youths not allowing anyone to pass through the area. In the evening, road traffic was witnessed on some roads though fuel stations remained closed.
All markets and main commercial centres also stayed shut in Sukkur on the day of mourning announced by the MQM. A large number of MQM workers staged a protest demonstration and a sit-in on the Indus Highway condemning the killing of Mr Imam.
Local party leaders including Haresh Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Subhan Naseerani and Bashir Mirani addressed the workers and demanded action against terrorists.
The situation was not very different in Nawabshah where business activities remained almost completely closed with thin traffic on roads. Banners were seen hanging in different parts of the city condemning the killing of the MQM lawmaker. Party workers wore black armbands and special prayers were offered at MQM offices for the slain legislator.