QUETTA: The trader community observed a complete shutterdown strike in the provincial capital on Thursday against what they called customs staff’s misbehavior with traders, targeted killings and prolonged power cuts in Balochistan.
Irate protesters also blocked the national highway at different points on the periphery of Quetta to make the strike effective. The Zamindar Action Committee had also supported the strike call given by the Anjuman-i-Tajran. The protest came two days after a province-wide strike observed by the province’s farmers against prolonged power cuts. Commercial establishments, shopping and trading centres situated on the Jinnah Road, Liquat Bazar, Prince Road, Shahra-e-Iqbal, Mezan Chowk, Joint Road, Brewery Road, Abdul Sattar Road, Kandari Bazar, Sariab Road, Golimar Chowk remained closed for the day.
Most of the streets and roads wore a deserted look with very thin traffic. All the private schools were closed due to the strike. A traffic snarl-up was witnessed on the highway near Khuclak, Kulpur and Lakhpass area where protesters put up barricades to block traffic. People, particularly passengers, faced hardship as traffic was suspended for several hours. The Anjuman-i-Tajraan took out a procession and after passing through different parts of the city tried to proceed on Zargoon Road where they intended to organise a protest demonstration in front of the Balochistan Assembly.
But police stopped the protesters on JPO Chowk. Rahim Kakar, president of Anjuman-i-Tajraan demanded removal of customs collector, alleging that he had been causing trouble for traders without any rhyme or reason. Many loaded trucks were impounded in contravention of the law, Kakar alleged. The protestors carried placards and banners inscribed with different demands. Provincial ministers Tahir Mahmood, Ayenullah Shams and Asfandyar Kakar held talks with the traders’ representatives.
The protesters peacefully dispersed after they were promised a meeting with Balchistan chief minister. Some shops opened in the afternoon, including those of chemists, in the afternoon, but most remained shut. Even the bakeries and some eating houses were closed for the day.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 14th, 2010.