At least seven men were arrested by the police after a scuffle between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) workers on Friday night.
Those arrested were accused of attacking the PTI office in Karimabad and setting the party flag on fire. A case was registered against them on behalf of the state under Sections 147, 148, 149 and 337A of the Pakistan Penal Code as well as Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act at the Gulberg police station.
Five of the arrested men were identified as Mudassir, Asif, Naveed, Muzzamil and Matin. Their families, however, claimed that the police had apprehended innocent people. “The media was there and everything was recorded,” said Qasim, a relative of Naveed. “Those who were responsible managed to flee while the police arrested innocent bystanders as they always do.”
On Friday night, MQM supporters held a rally ahead of the upcoming NA-246 by-polls. The situation took a violent turn when they drew close to the PTI election camp in Karimabad. “Both the parties’ activists were initially shouting slogans in support of their parties but then they began shouting slogans against each other,” said Muhammad Rashid, who owns a shop in the area. “Hot words were exchanged and they started pelting stones at each other. Minutes later, the MQM activists attacked the PTI office, destroying the camp and setting the PTI flag on fire.”
According to witnesses, the police were already present at the site but failed to take action to prevent the clash. MQM leaders, including Haider Abbas Rizvi, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Kanwar Naveed and Farooq Sattar, rushed to disperse the crowd, after which the police charged those present with batons and arrested at least seven men.
Following the arrests, MQM representatives Kanwar Naveed, Rehan Hashmi, Rasheed Godial and Asif Hasnain arrived at the police station with the relatives of the detained men. Upon being denied entry into the station, they protested outside it. “The detainees were not MQM workers; they were residents, shopkeepers and passersby,” Godial told the media. “The police are taking sides in this matter.”
In the wake of the incident, the PTI election camp was removed from Karimabad. Gulberg SHO Akhtar Jawad claimed that the party leadership had decided not to re-establish it in the area.
We were attacked: Ismail
“What happened last night was not a clash. We were attacked by MQM supporters,” claimed Imran Ismail, PTI’s candidate for NA-246, during a press conference on Saturday. “The Rangers must be deployed at the polling stations on April 23. Otherwise, there is no need to have by-polls in this constituency.”
Alleging that MQM was not letting them run their campaign, party leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi said that they had written a letter to the NA-246 returning officer to take notice of the situation. Meanwhile, Arif Alvi declared that PTI will not attend any mediation meeting called by the governor.
Addressing a press conference at Jinnah Ground on Saturday, Kanwar Naveed alleged that PTI was using state machinery to contest the elections. “We don’t know what the PTI and the federal government came up with in the formation of the judicial commission but it seems that the state’s power is being used against us in full force.”
He added that Friday’s incident was the public’s response to the language PTI used against MQM chief Altaf Hussain. Asked about the chances of MQM boycotting the by-polls, he replied that they had no such plans.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2015.
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