KARACHI: Tension gripped the city on Monday as clashes erupted between the law enforcers and members of the Shia community who were protesting against the arrests of their leaders.
Following targeted attacks on members of the two sects, the police launched a crackdown against alleged miscreants believed to have been involved in sectarian violence. Besides a number of targeted attacks on members of the Shia community, four members of the outlawed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) and two men of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam - Fazl were shot dead by armed assailants on Friday. After this attack, law enforcers arrested former Pakistan Peoples Party senator Faisal Raza Abidi.
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Then, on Sunday, the police and Rangers arrested a senior leader of the Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM), Allama Mirza Yousuf Hussain, during a raid at his residence in Nazimabad. Similarly, the police and Rangers arrested the general secretary of ASWJ, Maulana Taj Hanfi, during a raid at the Siddiq-e-Akbar Masjid located at Nagan Chowrangi.
Following these arrests, a large number of protesters belonging to the Shia community took to the streets and stage sit-ins, blocking the National Highway in Malir. The protests turned violent when the protesters refused to clear the main arteries that had resulted in a severe traffic jam. The police personnel dispersed the protesters by employing tear gas shelling and rubber bullets at protesters in the city’s Malir and Model Colony areas. Amid the aerial firing and teargas shelling, the protesters continued to shout slogans such as ‘Stop genocide of Shias and release our innocent leaders’.
The situation spiralled out of control when the police and protesters clashed in Malir and on Numaish Chowrangi. During the clashes, over one dozen people sustained injuries and the law enforcers rounded up around 15 activists of the MWM. At least four policemen were also injured during the clashes. As a result, residents of the areas suffered. “We were confined to our homes for about four hours because the police and protesters were clashing,” shared a resident of Malir 15.
Why the violence?
Explaining why the protests turned violent, a Shia cleric requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune that the MWM and other organisations had ended their protest at Numaish and Malir 15 but the protesters at Malir 15, who belonged to the nearby Goth Muhammadi Dera, refused to listen to the call of the leadership and continued with the protest. He talked about how several community leaders went to the spot, asking the protesters to disperse peacefully. However, he added, the protesters misbehaved with the leaders and were, hence, left on their own.
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Site of protest
The spokesperson of Shia Ulema Council, Nayyar Ali, said that over 60 protesters have been arrested while seven others were injured by the tear gas shelling.
“This is not justified that victims of terrorism are being arrested while those involved are freely roaming in the city,” said an angry protester, Jaffar Ali. He added that we have faced the worst targeted killings and want an immediate solution to the issue from the government. According to SSP Malir Javed Akbar Riaz, the protesters demanded the release of three people who were arrested Sunday night. He claimed that though the three were released Monday afternoon, the protesters refused to leave and further demanded the release of Abidi and Hussain. He shared that the police has to use teargas to disperse the protesters as the traffic remained blocked for more than 10 hours. After the protesters were dispersed, both the tracks of National Highway were opened for traffic, he said, adding that 15 protesters along with 30 motorcycles were taken into custody.
Demanding release of leaders
At a press conference at Aza Khana Zehra near Numaish Chowrangi, the members of the Jaffariya Alliance Pakistan, MWM and Shia Ulema Council, Allama Hasan Zafar Naqvi demanded the release of Allama Hussain and Abidi within the next 24 hours. During a meeting between the CM and the Shia ulema late Monday evening, the CM ordered the police officials to withdraw the cases registered against protesters and release those who have been arrested.
Meanwhile, the police and Rangers conducted raids in the wee hours of Monday in Hussain Haraza Goth in Gulistan-e-Jauhar and Banghoria Goth in Azizabad and arrested 14 suspects. Meanwhile, the Sachal police have also arrested two activists of MWM, Ahmed Iqbal Rizvi and Ahmed Abbas, from New Rizvia Society. They were arrested for violating the ban on the use of loudspeakers during a protest against the arrest of Abidi. On the other hand, ASWJ’s Maulana Hanfi was sent to jail for one month under the Public Maintenance Ordinance (MPO).
Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2016.
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