KARACHI: Clifton’s Gulf Shopping Mall will stay shut on Monday unless the shopkeepers who got into a fight over the weekend kiss and make up, town police officials have warned.
A spat between two traders snowballed into a full-blown fight, causing all of the customers to rush out in a panic on Saturday. Tear gas shelling came close on the heels of the shouting match as Rangers boots hit the ground. Members of the shopping mall union and representatives from the rival Pakhtoon and Mohajir groups met at the TPO’s office but nothing came of it.
“It is taking more time than usual just because the fight has an ethnic touch. Outsiders are involved in the issue,” said Saleem Qureshi, who is the president of the Gulf Traders Association. “We hope to resolve the matter by [Sunday night].”
Witnesses said that the fight started when Hameed, who runs a cloth shop, swore at Jamal, a carpenter, who didn’t make a stool he had ordered.
“Jamal answered back and then both of them started abusing each other’s ethnic background,” said Muhammad Ali, a shoe shop owner. Backup arrived in the form of overly indignant friends and the pushing and shoving spilled out into the service lane. A few blocks down, 16-yearold Namrah was at Uzma centre and getting into her car to drive down to Gulf when she saw two panicked women come running from that direction. “They looked like they were being chased,” she told The Express Tribune. “We thought there was a bomb scare.”
According to Clifton resident Urooj, who was coming home from work at 5:30 pm, all the shops had closed down. “There were men standing outside, holding wooden sticks,” she said. “The traffic was moving in a single file.”
The two groups have refused to register FIRs against one another even though the police have urged them to take this line of action. TPO Asghar Ali Shah told The Express Tribune on Sunday that they have asked Hameed and Jamal to come to the police station and sign an affidavit promising to never fight again or pay a fine.
But both men are missing. For its part, the union said that the police had asked it to hand the men over but Hameed and Jamal were unwilling to cooperate. According to the Alliance of Markets Association, the Gulf Shopping Mall’s union is spineless and different groups are in the driver’s seat. “All I can say is that a weak association is responsible for this fight,” said Attique Meer, chairman of the alliance, when asked to comment on the incident.
Meanwhile, two police mobile units are parked at the market. Peace is likely to prevail given that so much business is at stake. “We will try to open our shops, we cannot keep them closed any longer,” concluded the union’s Qureshi.
A businessman said that shops like his near Teen Talwar, that were not part of the market, would open on Monday. The police presence has had some effect. “I hope the markets open on Monday,” said a resident of DHA whose daughter is getting married and has several orders to follow up at the market. “If they open up, I’ll definitely go.”
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