Police released 19 activists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Peoples Party on Sunday, hours after the two feuding parties’ supporters were arrested following a scuffle outside Bilawal House.
Eight PTI activists and 11 PPP supporters were freed upon assurances that both sides would refrain from violating the law. The supporters were “taken into custody to maintain law and order and to avoid confrontation between them,” according to SSP South Nasir Aftab.
The party workers were arrested following a PTI-led protest against the wall along Bilawal House. The incident took a turn for the worst when PPP workers demanded an end to the demonstration. The altercation became violent as party workers used sticks and hurled stones at each other as well as vehicles on the road, dispersing only when the police baton-charged the crowd and used teargas.
While PPP supporters, led by former parliamentarian Abdul Qadir Patel and PPP Karachi division general secretary Najmi Alam, regrouped at the Park Towers mall with party flags, sticks and banners, PTI supporters headed to Boat Basin, led by MPA Khurram Sher Zaman of PS-112. By noon, all roads leading to Bilawal Chowrangi in Clifton were barricaded by freight containers and trucks.
“When the former president is no longer in his office, the wall should be removed and the road opened to the public,” said Zaman, addressing the media at Bilawal House.
Just as Zaman concluded his statements, PPP supporters called for an end to the protest, resorting to blows and tearing PTI banners and flags when their demands were not met. Later, PTI MNA Arif Alvi reached the site and criticised the police for not taking action against PPP supporters. A fight ensued between the police and PTI supporters, who dispersed as the police led a baton-charge, arresting some protesters.
In the evening, PTI leaders held a press conference outside Frere Hall police station and demanded the immediate release of their arrested supporters. “PPP goons attacked our peaceful protesters and the shameful thing was the silence of the police and Rangers who were watching them and then beat our workers,” said Alvi. “The Sindh High Court has called this wall illegal and has asked for its removal but the government has not acted on this order,” Alvi said.
Deputy Commissioner South Mustafa Jamal Qazi told the media that police officials asked PTI leader Arif Alvi to cancel the protest as one side of the road was opened. “Bilawal House is a high-value target and its protection is our responsibility,” he said.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan said he was shocked by the PPP supporters attack on his party’s protest in Karachi. “It is shameful how the feudal mindset of dynastic-controlled political parties allows their leaders to usurp public property for its personal needs,” he said. “When PTI peacefully protests to challenge illegal behaviour and non-compliance of court orders, it is physically attacked,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2013.