KARACHI: Karachi shut down on Friday after a senior politician belonging to the city’s dominant Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was stabbed to death in London.
Imran Farooq, a founding member of the MQM, the most influential party in the country’s commercial capital, was killed on Thursday but it was not clear if it was politically motivated. Even though he was not an influential MQM figure, the killing could trigger more ethnic and political violence in Karachi.
Birthday celebrations for MQM chief Altaf Hussain, who is also based in Britain, were scrapped.
Party faithful have been gathering outside Farooq’s home in Karachi, consoling each other. Many had tears in their eyes.
Most shops and schools were closed and no public transport was available after the MQM announced 10 days of mourning. At least a dozen vehicles were torched and four people were injured in violence, police said. As the news of the killing spread, around angry protesters took to the streets. There were reports that shops were set on fire in Gulistan-e-Jauhar and North Karachi. Violence was reported from Orangi as well.
A Khan Coach was attacked by arsonists in the limits of Aram Bagh police station. In Jumman Shah, two trucks were burnt. A vehicle was torched on Sunset Boulevard as well. A truck, a minibus, water tanker and two cars were set ablaze at Punjab Chowrangi. The Garden police reported similar incidents.
“The city’s traders have decided to close markets today to express our sorrow over the death. We’ll meet later in the evening to decide about the future,” the chairman of the All Karachi Traders Unity, Ateeq Mir, told AFP.
As the news of Farooq’s murder came late Thursday night, by early morning there was no public transport.
The Karachi Transport Ittehad’s chairman announced they would be on strike. “We condemn the death of the respected MQM leader,” said Irshad Hussain Bokhari. He told AFP that public transport had ground to a halt owing to fears of “possible violence” in which vehicles could be damaged.
Newly appointed chief of police Fayyaz Leghari said that the situation was under control. “Heavy contingents of police have been deployed,” he said. “We have taken precautionary measures to ensure that no elements take advantage of the situation and create violence. At present the city is calm and peaceful.”
DIG West Sultan Khwaja also said that the police were in control.
CNG stations and petrol pumps across the city were closed too. Most offices, bank branches and industrial units stayed shut. Except for University of Karachi, all exams scheduled for the day were postponed by public and private sector educational institutions.
Bus transport between Karachi and Hyderabad and other upcountry destinations was also affected. Passengers stood around exasperated at Sohrab Goth, a bus terminal and entry point to the city, PPI reported.
The MQM said no rallies or protests had been planned yet. Its coordination committee condemned the murder and asked party members and sympathisers to show tolerance.
The chance of Farooq’s death sparking factional violence in Karachi would appear to depend on whether British police establish any link to the MQM’s rivals in Pakistan, Reuters reported. Up to 100 people were killed and hundreds wounded in several days of clashes in Karachi last month after MQM member Raza Haider, who was a Shia, was gunned down along with his bodyguard while attending a funeral.
The city is plagued by ethnic and sectarian killings, crime and kidnappings, exacerbating woes in a country battling with unprecedented flooding that has killed more than 1,780 people and affected up to 21 million.
Relief work suffers
Relief work suffered Friday as the city shut down. “There was no milk supply to the SITE relief camp because no transport was available,” said DDO Revenue Rafaqat Ali, who is in charge. They do not have stocks of food because the supply was daily. “Cooked meals are supplied thrice daily and we fear if the situation remains like this then we could be looking at a problem.”
Philanthropist and businessman Aqeel Karim Dhedhi has been running a relief camp in Razzaqabad. “Today we had a problem supplying stuff to the adopted camps but based on the good connections with the administration and the MQM we will be able to carry on from tomorrow,” said his manager.
Transporters refused, however, to risk their vehicles. “How could I take a risk in such a situation?” asked Asghar of Chawla transporters. “It would not only be risky for our lives but if the relief goods were set on fire it would be a waste. Who would pay for it?”
A group of activists from Karachi working in Thatta couldn’t work because they ran out of fuel. “Not even a single vehicle left for Thatta today,” said Kaiser Khan Nizamani of Umeed Foundation, adding that four were scheduled to leave. CCPO Leghari said relief work would continue from Saturday. “No party would want to disrupt relief work,” he said. “The situation will be normal [today]. If transporters don’t want to work, that’s their choice.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2010.
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