As the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) staged a series of protests in Karachi over the arrest of its workers a day before, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday directed the director general (DG) of Sindh Rangers to release all ‘innocent’ MQM workers to defuse tension in the metropolis, interior ministry officials said.
In his maiden meeting with newly-appointed Rangers DG Maj-Gen Bilal Akbar, the interior minister discussed the worsening law and order situation in the country’s economic hub, especially in light of the arrest of MQM workers. Some 23 MQM workers were arrested on Wednesday after the Rangers raided one of the party’s offices in Karachi on Wednesday.
“After being briefed by the DG Rangers, the interior minister directed him to release all innocent MQM workers to defuse tensions in Karachi and noted that such affairs should not be politicised,” an official familiar with the meeting told The Express Tribune.
At the same time, Nisar told the Rangers chief to probe Wednesday night’s incident ‘transparently, without any fear’, the officials added.
During the meeting, Maj-Gen Akbar – who took charge of the Sindh Rangers from newly appointed ISI chief Maj-Gen Rizwan Akhtar – briefed the interior minister on the ongoing operation in Karachi. He said Rangers were carrying out the operation without any discrimination and sought more support from the provincial government to rid the city of crime, officials said.
After the briefing, Nisar phoned Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah to exchange views over the tense situation in Karachi due to MQM protests at various spots in Karachi.
The party staged sit-ins in over 10 locations in the city, including outside the Chief Minister’s House, following a call by MQM chief Altaf Hussain. “If demonstrations can be held in Islamabad, the MQM can stage sit-ins in Karachi to protest against discrimination,” he said, adding that the Urdu-speaking community had ‘lost its patience’.
A large number of MQM supporters, both women and men, occupied the footpaths outside the Chief Minister’s House to demand the release of their loved ones.
As MQM supporters took to the streets, a partial strike was observed in Karachi on Thursday, adversely affecting routine life in the city. Although no incident of firing and rioting occurred during the sit-ins, the uncertain law and order situation caused panic and fear among the Karachi residents.
Public transport was thin on the main thoroughfares and the citizens encountered problems in reaching their workplaces due to the shortage of public transport and blockage of roads leading to the sit-ins.
Students and teachers turned up in low numbers at a majority of schools. As the protest sit-ins expanded across the city, the associations for private schools directed the school owners to self-determine about the closure of schools, keeping in view the situation in their areas. Most of the institutions decided to close after half-time.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2014.
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