KARACHI: The Karachi Police had a rough night. They did not sleep well. Some of them did not sleep at all. They stood outside Chief Minister House so the aged chief could sleep in peace.
The police personnel? Well, who cares about them anyway? They stood guard, clad in riot gear since 9am on Monday morning until the same time the next day to protect the chief executive of the province. They did not complain – who would listen to them anyway.
No one listens to the lowly constables who stand in the streets whenever a sit-in is taking place. It is their job, they say. Hot or cold, day or night, they must finish their 24-hour shifts.
But it wasn’t so bad for the personnel at this particular sit-in. There were around four police personnel for every protester, around 150 personnel to keep check on the 30-odd civil activists who were adamant to seek justice for the victims of the Shikarpur tragedy. Plus, they had 25 police mobiles at their disposal, not to mention the monstrous water cannon if things got going.
The chief ‘miscreant’ – a well-known name by now when it comes to sit-ins of the sort – Jibran Nasir showed no signs of relenting. He had a list of demands for the provincial government and vowed to continue the sit-in until they were met. The protesters, a large majority of whom were barely in their 20s, agreed. They wanted the government to publicly name the banned religious outfits that were promoting sectarian violence, remove their graffiti and banners that were defacing the province, take away the security protocol allotted to them and provide relief and aid to the Shikarpur victims. In case of failure to meet these demands, Nasir obviously had his signature alternative — that the CM, police IG and Rangers DG resign. “If they cannot fulfill these completely legitimate demands, they have no right to stay in their posts,” Nasir justified to The Express Tribune.
But the government seemed unmoving. They were barricaded against the civil society, the double layers of containers painted with the emblem of the Sindh Police making sure the pitiful voices of these 30-odd disgruntled subjects did not bother their peace at night.
Nasir claimed DIG Khalique Shaikh and Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui had called him at around 3am, asking him to end the sit-in and meet them at their offices with their demands. When he conveyed this to the protesters, they replied in unison that they were unwilling to move until the government gave into their demands.
As the night progressed, the sit-in almost turned into an informal get-together. On the one end, the visibly exhausted police personnel built a bonfire to keep themselves warm. Soon enough, some of the protesters were making their way to huddle around the bonfire.
The personnel certainly did not mind. They almost believed in the cause. What had initially been stern looks as the protesters shouted slogans against terrorism and the government’s inaction had progressed into knowing smiles and friendly gestures. Everyone knew they were in for the long haul.
By the next day, the number of protesters had swelled to around 150. Sensing the situation going out of control, the government finally relented and at around 11am, Pakistan Peoples Party leader Sharmila Farooqi, visited the site and tried to negotiate with the protesters. She returned again at 3pm with DIG Khalique Shaikh and, due to reasons known only to them, invited a delegation of the protesters to the DIG South’s office where they would sit and discuss their grievances.
Subsequently, a five-member delegation from among the protesters, including Jibran Nasir, went to the office. Four hours later, when the delegation returned, they said the sit-in would continue.
Refusing to divulge the details of the discussion at the time, Nasir said they had presented their charter of demands and the government officials were deliberating on the issue, after which they will respond. “The sit-in will continue until we are satisfied that our legitimate demands are heard,” he said, stressing on the word, legitimate for added emphasis.