KARACHI: Karachi Commissioner Roshan Ali Shaikh has given political parties in the city one more week to remove their flags from street light poles, windows and balconies in buildings and markets.
The extension comes after the end of a 24-hour deadline given by federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik after attending a meeting at Chief Minister House on April 1. Shaikh has faced a lot of criticism as Malik’s orders were largely ignored.
“Political parties are being contacted but if they don’t listen to us then SHOs, along with other officials, will get the job done,” said Shaikh on Tuesday. Political parties often use their flags to mark their jurisdictions. Malik had said party flags were the “biggest problem” when it came to maintaining law and order in the city.
However, this is not the first time that the authorities are encountering problems while resolving the issue. A code of conduct was agreed upon by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP) in June 2011 that had called for the removal of flags and ethnicist graffiti from the city.
These flags continue to fly in Sohrab Goth, Federal B Area, Gulistan-e-Johar, Saddar and Clifton, among other areas. Yet the political parties claim that they are in favour of removing them.
“We have not heard anything from the government so far,” said MQM leader Wasay Jalil, when asked about the new deadline. “We have started removing them ourselves, and I think the process has started in District East. Since we are removing the flags ourselves, we have no issue if the administration takes them off too.”
The ANP district east president Mohammad Younus said that his party is also willing to follow suit. “But even removing the flags can be a problem,” he added.
The ANP had put up its party flags when its senator-elect Shahi Syed came to visit Karachi. However, Younus said that his party will seek permission from authorities to hoist them on the eve of May 12.
PPP’s media cell in-charge Fahad Baloch said that the party’s flags could not be removed so far as it was mourning the target killing of its activists. However Baloch added that PPP Karachi division would soon implement the government’s orders.
PPP Karachi’s deputy general secretary Arshad Naqvi said that his party had made a comprehensive plan to remove party flags, but had to postpone it due to the law and order situation. He said that party members would be sent to different localities to remove the flags once calm is restored. ANP Sindh general secretary Bashir Jan said his party has no objection if flags of all parties are simultaneously removed.
JPMC guard beaten
The seriousness of the tall claims made by the parties, however, came into question when angry activists beat up a security guard and broke his hand on Monday, after he tried to remove flags and posters of a political party from the premises of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). After the assault on Akram Janjua, security guards and watchmen for all three shifts of JPMC went on strike. The hospital administration later assured them of taking action against the culprits, after which the staff resumed their duties.
However, Pakistan Student Federation’s JPMC president Mumtaz Umrani said that a taxi driver had fought the security guard while the latter was removing party posters.
with additional input by PPI
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.