Men armed with sticks roamed the city to ‘enforce’ a complete shutter-down strike on Saturday.
Called by a local traders group against increasing power outages, the strike resulted in all major markets in the cantonment areas, Saddar, Raja Bazaar, Benazir Bhutto Road and Commercial Market being closed.
The City District Government and City Police Officer (CPO) Azhar Hameed Khokher had announced that security would be provided to traders who did not want to close their shops. However the police took no action against the groups armed with bamboo sticks that thronged the markets and compelled the shopkeepers to close up for the day.
A group of enraged protesters attacked the residence of PML-N MPA Ziaullah Shah during a protest in the evening at Khayaban-e-Sir Syed. The enraged protesters pelted Shah’s house with stones and broke windows and doors of the first floor of the house. Police rushed to the scene and fired tear gas shells to disperse the angry mob.
Another group of protesters clashed with the Waris Khan Police, pelting them with stones. There were also reports of traffic signals, public property, public transport and private vehicles and hotels being vandalised.
Elsewhere in the city, a CNG filling station near Pirwadhai was attacked by a mob with sticks and stones. The attackers damaged filling equipment and smashed windows. Some members of the mob looted cash and other valuables from the pump, which is owned by a multinational company.
The police reached the spot “very late”, according to people at the scene, and fired teargas to break up the mob. Residents of nearby localities complained that teargas shells fired by the police landed in their gardens and caused panic.
Meanwhile, passengers and office workers also suffered as traffic flow remained slow on roads littered with sloganeering protesters and burning tyres.
The strike had been announced by the Markaz Anjuman-i-Tajran (MAT) against the daily power outages of more than 14 hours. At a rally, MAT office bearers said that unscheduled power outages had destroyed their business. They threatened to surround the Parliament House if the unscheduled power outages were not ended.
Sharjeel Mir, head of one faction of the MAT, claimed the traders remained peaceful during the protest and the shutter down strike showed the anger of the business community over unending power outages.
When his attention was brought towards the incident near Pirwadhai and a more violent recent protest, the trader said the mobs were not from the business community. He opined that city residents were coming on the roads against load shedding and were responsible for the violence.
The protest by traders on Saturday, however, was not as violent as it was on June 19, when young men went on rampage on Benazir Bhutto Road causing damage of over Rs5 million to various private and public properties.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2012.
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