Chanting anti-government slogans, political party workers from Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Tehreek, Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party, Sindh National Front, Awami Tehreek and Sindh United Party staged protests, sit-ins and organised rallies throughout rural Sindh on Monday.
The government has gone back on their word to appease their collation partner, they said.
For many people in the province, the reinstatement of the local government system is being looked upon as a conspiracy to divide Sindh. A complete shutter-down strike was observed in parts of upper Sindh, including Sukkur, Rohri, Pannu Aqil, Ghotki and Kandhkot.
The police arrested more than 150 political workers on Monday, 10 of them were detained for further questioning.
In Sukkur, traffic was thin as most business centres were shut. Political workers spoke out against the government and marched through the city, carrying wooden sticks. Witnesses claim that they forced shops to shut. They added that some protesters injured a policeman in a fight and were arrested.
The situation in Thul was similar, where political workers marched through the city and staged a protest outside the press club. An effigy of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader and the former federal law minister Babar Awan was also burnt. Protesters in Mirpur Mathelo led by Jeay Sindh Tehreek leaders Fakir Ramzan Kalwar and Syed Lal Shah burnt tyres along Bhittai Chowk. They also burnt an effigy of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain. Nationalist leaders accused the PPP of implementing the local government system in order to stay in power.
In Kashmore, activists marched through the town and staged a sit-in for more than an hour. Their protest caused a massive inter-province traffic jam.
A shutter-down strike was held in Tando Adam. Business centres, including Shahi Bazaar, Mumbai Bazaar, Jinnah Chowk, Chatri Chowk, Bairani Road, Shahdadpur Road, Latif Gate, Kali Road, Joharabad, Juman Shah and Lohar Gali were closed.
Protests seep into urban Sindh
The decision to remove the commissionerate system in Hyderabad and Karachi and to reinstate the local government system all over Sindh was met with as much hostility as the decision to revive the system less than a month ago.
Sindhi-dominated areas of Karachi observed a complete shutter-down strike.
After their decision to revive the local government system in Karachi in Hyderabad was seen as a ruse to divide and conquer, the government decided to place the whole province under the old local government system on Sunday night. However, their justifications fell on deaf ears.
Bin Qasim Town, Pipri, Steel Town, Ittehad Town, Khadda Market, Agra Taj Colony, Maripur, Bihar Colony and Gulistan-e-Jauhar remained tense as a passenger bus was set on fire in Mobina Town and series of gun shots were exchanged between unidentified men on Sunday. People even went as far as hoisting black flags on their houses.
The police claim that the strike was made successful by unidentified armed men who indulged in intense rounds of aerial firing. Two passenger buses were set on fire in the Mauripur area by unidentified men while another was burnt in Gulistan-e-Jauhar on Monday. The protesters burnt tyres and blocked traffic for several hours. The National Highway reopened after successful negotiations between the authorities and protesters.
This was first such reaction by the people of Sindh against the Pakistan People Party (PPP) and the leadership’s decision.
In many towns, enraged people set effigies of PPP ministers and elected representatives on fire and held demonstrations in front of their houses. There were reports that elected representatives fled their areas, given the reaction of people in their constituencies.
“The decision of government to have a separate system in Karachi and Hyderabad from the rest of the province is not tolerable,” declared Sindh Tarraqi Passand Party Vice-President Ali Hassan Chandio.
The uprising does not appear to be a short disgruntlement - nationalist leaders appear ready to continue the campaign till the government restores the old local government system along with commissionerate system. “The Sindh Assembly has passed two bills to restore the system,” said Chandio, “but some government ministers want to appease the MQM by implementing separate systems in both the cities.”
In Hyderabad, Awami Tehreek workers carried effigies of the PPP leaders on funeral pyres in a symbolic gesture of the death of their obedience. “It symbolises the end of the silent acceptance of PPP decisions on behalf of the people,” said a protester.
With additional reporting by Faraz Khan, Z Ali, Hafeez Tunio and ppi
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.