Protests cripple life in Karachi
KARACHI, Feb 18: While a complete strike was observed on Monday in the city on a call given by the Shia Ulema Council and Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen in protest over the Quetta carnage, life may not return to normality even on Tuesday after the late night blast though a transporters’ association had earlier decided to resume business following the daylong protest.
Besides traders and transport bodies, several political parties, including the Sunni Ittehad Council and Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam (Fazlur Rahman), as well as the Sindh, Karachi and Malir bar associations had backed the protest call.
Over 80 people were killed and more than 150 others wounded in a bomb explosion — the second major terrorist attack on the Hazara community in Quetta this year — on Saturday.
Rail and air traffic was seriously affected owing to the sit-ins being staged at different places in the city to express solidarity with the Quetta blast victims.
Commercial and educational activities in Karachi were suspended and attendance at offices, courts and banks remained thin on Monday when at least six vehicles were set on fire in different localities. Major shopping centres such as Zamzama, Tariq Road, Saddar, Jama Cloth, Jodia Bazaar remained closed during the day though some commercial activities were witnessed at the Empress Market.
Also private schools stayed shut following a call for closure given by the private schools management association.
Karachi University rescheduled a paper of MBBS exam for Feb 28. Some private universities also postponed their exams planned for Monday. Both the KU and the neighbouring NED University remained deserted, while sit-ins were staged at Safoora Goth and near Metro off University Road.
Sit-ins were organised at 27 different places, including Numaish, Sharea Faisal, Malir 15 and Teen Talwar, in the city, blocking traffic on main roads during the day.
At Teen Talwar, residents of DHA, Clifton and adjoining areas began converging on Monday afternoon and by the evening a large number of them had joined in.
Roads leading to the Bilawal House had been blocked with containers as part of security arrangements by police.
When contacted, Karachi Transport Ittehad chief Irshad Ali Shah Bokhari told Dawn in the evening that public transport vehicles would be brought on the road on Tuesday after the daylong suspension of activities on Monday.
However, uncertainty prevails following the late night bomb blast near the FTC building where a sit-in had been organised earlier during the day.
The protesters had staged sit-ins on the Natha Khan bridge, near the FTC building and some other spots on Sharea Faisal, blocking the main route to the airport.
In front of the PIA head office and engineering department, police fired teargas shells to disperse the protesters.
In Gulistan-i-Jauhar, sit-ins were staged at the Jauhar Chowrangi and on Abul Asar Hafeez Jalandhari Road, blocking the routes to the airport leading from the town.
Similar protests erupted near the Expo Centre in Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Orangi Town, UP Morr in North Karachi and other parts of the city.
The schedule of over half a dozen flights was disturbed on Monday, said Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Abid Qaimkhani.
He added that in most of the cases flights crew could not make it to the airport owing to the disturbances on the roads.
He said that more than 300 passengers of a Jeddah-bound PIA flight had been stranded at the airport as the flight that was scheduled to depart in the evening was rescheduled and it was to leave later.
Responding to Dawn queries, PIA spokesperson Mashhood Tajwar said that three flights had been cancelled. The cancelled flights included Karachi-Kathmandu; Karachi-Sukkur and Karachi-Turbat-Sharjah. He said that some five to six other flights were delayed for some time, as the passengers could not reach the airport owing to road disturbances.
Regarding the Jeddah flight, he said it was scheduled to depart in the evening but it was rescheduled as the passengers could not arrive. However, he said, the plane would fly in the night so that by that time passengers could arrive at the airport.
He said that around 60 PIA flights came and left the Karachi airport and the cancellation of just three flights was not too much keeping in view the city situation.
Responding to Dawn queries, a Karachi Railways spokesperson said that the railway traffic remained seriously affected in the city on Monday.
“Most of the trains arriving from upcountry were behind schedule for hours and were terminated at Landhi,” he said, adding that only one train could leave the city on Monday.
He said that Peshawar-bound Khushhal Khan Khattak Express was operated from Landhi, whereas Bolan Mail, which goes from Karachi to Quetta, was operated from Kotri to Quetta. He said that 17 trains were operated from the city but all of them, except the two, were cancelled keeping in view the city situation.