As the families poured in to Civil and Lyari hospitals on Tuesday, the anger was palpable because many of the victims were simply people who had not gone to take part in the rally that was attacked.
The Awami Tehreek’s pro-Sindh rally to protest recent graffiti calling for a Mohajir province was attacked from the buildings above as it crossed the main Lea Market Chowk.
“They were at the rooftops from before,” said a witness. “Almost eight buildings had morchas and there were about three to four armed men in each building.”
After 15 minutes, the aerial firing converted into straight shots at the rally whose participants ducked for cover. Some people started running but fell down as they were shot. Several people burst into tears after finding shelter. “I was not expecting this situation,” said protester Haider. “One of my friends advised to remain in the back but I didn’t hear him. I lay down as the firing started. The bullets touched my shoulder and I recited the Kalima.” According to him, a policeman saved him and three other boys.
Pir Bux from Gulshan-e-Hadeed said he saw just three to four policemen. “They retaliated but their bullets ran out.”
The rally dispersed in two parts. A majority of people from Lyari and the AT workers escaped to Lea Market while hundreds of others with Ayaz Latif Palijo, the elderly Baloch leader Abdul Hayee Baloch and others reached Denso Hall. Confused workers blocked MA Jinnah road and the markets shut.
A crazed and weeping Dilshad Baloch, a mechanic, ran around near Denso Hall in anger. “Damage [their] homes and properties,” he cried. “If we can’t live with honour why should they? Allah help us!” he cried as two of his friends held him back.
“This is not our government. We Baloch will be killed one by one. First they killed us in our homes and now on the roads,” said Sakina Baloch who scuffled with police when the rally was stopped near Shaheen Complex.
Marvi Memon of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz joined the sit-in at Denso Hall. Hundreds of workers, especially young Baloch, wanted to retaliate and attempted to damage public property but their leaders stopped them. After the sit-in ended, a small rally marched towards the Karachi Press Club. Palijo held another sit-in near Shaheen Complex when the police blocked its way. An alternative route was provided under tighten security.
The bodies and the injured were taken to Civil Hospital, Karachi and Lyari General Hospital. CHK’s senior medico-legal officer Dr Qarar Abbasi told The Express Tribune that nine people, including three women, were killed and 29 others, including women, were wounded. Two bodies and six injured people were taken to LGH.
Dunya News reporter Aslam Khan and a cameraman, Khalil Adil, were also shot and injured. The victims were identified as Manzur Farid, 30, Mohammad Hanif, 43, Iqbal, 45, Babar, 20, Ajab Khan, 32, Mohammad Yousuf, 43, Ejaz Khan, 20, Ghulam Shabbir, 32, Ghazala Batool, 40, Amna, 15, Sharifa, 70. There was one unidentified body. Chakiwara SHO Idrees Alam was also among the injured.
Victim Ghulam Shabbir’s family felt the police had not made proper arrangements and didn’t react quickly enough. “The doctors said that if my nephew had been brought at the right time he could have been saved,” said Shabbir’s uncle Yousuf. Shabbir used to work at a towel factory in Lyari and was gunned down in Dhobi Ghat while on his way home.
“What did I do that they shot me,” lamented an injured Amjad Ali at CHK. “I wasn’t at the rally.” He said he was attacked near Dhobi Ghat when men on motorcycles opened fire on him.
The shooters escaped long before the Rangers arrived two hours afterwards when the South Zone SSP Nasir Aftab called them. No arrests were made. Witnesses said that the men were armed with sub-machine guns (SMGs) and pistols but didn’t use hand grenades because they just wanted to create panic.
The police confirmed the presence of men on the rooftops but said that this was unexpected which is why no building was searched before the arrival of the rally and no police snipers were deputed either. “We were not expecting this much to happen,” SSP Nasir Aftab told The Express Tribune. “Who could it be? There’s only one name but I can’t take it until the investigation is complete.” He claimed to have recovered bullets and two to three hand grenades from the rooftops. “After firing from the buildings, men on motorcycles opened indiscriminate fire as a result of which the killings and injuries took place,” maintained SSP Nasir Aftab. “Now we have to verify if the firing that took place afterwards was from the same group.”
At least seven more people were wounded in firing in Korangi, Hassan Square and Gulistan-e-Jauhar. There were reports that four Muttahida Qaumi Movement workers were detained in a raid on the Ranchore Line’s sector office but officials concerned denied it.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2012.