SUKKUR/ HYDERABAD/ KARACHI: A few days after the smell of fresh earth brought a smile to residents’ faces, the city once again smelt of burnt tyres on Monday.
Several sits-in were staged in nearly 28 spots of Karachi, while the central protest took place at Numaish Chowrangi to condemn the horrific bomb blast in Quetta that claimed more than 80 lives on Saturday. All highways out of the city and all routes to the airport were also inaccessible as the police threw teargas shells to disperse the protesters in Malir, Natha Khan Goth, Drigh Road, Patel Para and Pehlwan Goth.
In Clifton, a group of residents also gathered to show solidarity with members of the Hazara community. Anticipating that the protesters will move towards Bilawal House, the law enforcers moved in huge containers and blocked all roads leading to the president’s house.
The protesters, who were determined to show their support to the members of the Hazara community, gathered at Teen Talwar instead. They comprised people of all ages, who brought their floor mats and edibles in what appeared to be a sit-in that would last days.
Initially, a minor scuffle broke out between the protesters and the policemen when the former tried to stage a sit-in on Bilawal House Chowrangi. “Be it Bilawal House or Teen Talwar, we will protest at any cost,” said Syed Asad Abbas Jafri.
Most of them learned about the protest through text messages and the social media and decided to take to the streets. “It is not just about the Shia community but about all of humanity,” said the president of Pakistan Women Foundation for Peace, Nargis Rahman.
They were determined to protest until the government fulfils their demands. “Eighty-six people died there, so what if 86 die here as well? We will not move,” said Nayyar Abbas. “They [the law enforcers] are telling us to move, there is a female suicide bomber coming from Neelum Colony.”
Even comedian Ali Gul Pir arrived at the site to show his solidarity. “I don’t believe in any sect, ethnicity or anything else other than humanity,” he told The Express Tribune. “I decided to join the protest so maybe others can join in too.”
Meanwhile, the policemen insisted that they have deployed more personnel for the protection of the protesters and they don’t plan on taking action against them. “If they had tried to go to Bilawal House or become violent, then we would have taken action,” said a policeman, Muhammad Muslim.
The rest of the city also wore a look of mourning as various political and religious parties, transporters and business associations supported the strike call. The police have arrested more than three dozen suspects who torched vehicles, public property and fired at law enforcers.
Sindh police’s spokesperson SSP Imran Shaukat said that the police have been in touch with Shia leaders and scholars and are hoping that the sits-in will end by Monday night. He admitted that they have no strategy to deal with the protests if they continue for days.
Meanwhile, supporters also took to the streets in Thatta, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Matiari, Benazirabad, Pannu Aqil, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Kandhkot, Khairpur and Larkana districts. Hyderabad bypass was blocked after hundreds of men, women and children staged a demonstration. However, routine activities in Hyderabad were not hampered, as markets and schools remained open.
Business centres and markets remained deserted in Sukkur, after the Sukkur Organisation of Small Traders supported the strike call.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2013.
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