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Random shooting terrorises Karachi
Publication Date : 08-03-2013
The people of Karachi and a number of other cities and towns in Pakistan's Sindh heaved a sigh of relief on Wednesday after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) withdrew a call for an indefinite strike it had given earlier in the afternoon.
The party had said the strike would continue till the arrest of those who had carried out the gruesome act of terror in Abbas Town three days ago.
The strike call, which was preceded by random incidents of firing in Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and other towns, caused panic and prompted people to rush to their homes. Shops and businesses closed down.
Private schools announced closure for an indefinite period and transporters also decided to keep vehicles off the road.
But within four hours, the MQM withdrew the strike call after industry and business leaders immediately reacted and issued an appeal for reconsideration for the sake of peace and consideration for national economy.
Although the party claimed that it had reversed its “appeal for voluntary closure of businesses and transport in the city”, many believed that the change of heart had come about after pressure from certain quarters rather than a sudden realisation of the suffering the people of Karachi were going through.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani got a briefing at the corps headquarters on the security situation in Karachi and Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry took up suo motu proceedings on the Abbas Town bomb blast. By that time the provincial metropolis had descended into chaos with gunmen emerging on thoroughfares, firing indiscriminately in the air and forcing shopkeepers and traders to close their businesses.
Police and Rangers acted like silent spectators as the gunmen held the city hostage. Within no time all, major markets, business centres, petrol pumps and gas stations were closed and massive traffic jams almost paralysed the city, causing hardship to hundreds of thousands of office-goers, including women, and school- and college-going students.
The ‘peaceful protest’, as announced by MQM leader Raza Haroon at his first press conference, had started taking its toll.
A 45-year-old tailor, Mohammad Ali Bhatti, was shot dead in his shop on the main University Road in what police described as an incident related to the forced closure. Police said the victim was associated with the Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party and a resident of Abdullah Shah Ghazi Goth.
Three buses were set on fire in Landhi and Federal B. Area.
The Rangers claimed that they had arrested several suspects who were trying to set on fire a bus in North Karachi.
There was almost a complete shutdown in the city when the MQM coordination committee held its first press conference of the day at 4.30 pm.
Raza Haroon criticised the government for failing to arrest the perpetrators of the Abbas Town bomb blast in which 48 people were killed, despite a demand made by his party chief Altaf Hussain that the terrorists be apprehended within three days.
He said the government was not sincere about providing justice to the people of Karachi and the MQM had no option but to appeal to transporters, businessmen and traders to suspend all commercial activities in the city for an indefinite period.
The announcement added to uncertainty in the city and representative associations of transporters and traders also announced that they would keep their businesses shut. Even the private schools management association announced that all institutions would remain closed indefinitely.
However, in less than four hours after the first press conference, the MQM’s coordination committee withdrew its call for an indefinite strike at an emergency press conference at the party’s headquarters, Nine Zero.
Haroon said the strike call had been taken back on the “appeal of members of the business community, industrialists, shopkeepers, transporters, associations of schools and people hailing from other walks of life”.
He said his party would continue to protest in the assemblies and at other forums till the arrest of the terrorists involved in the Abbas Town tragedy. Another announcement would be made in a day or two, he added.
After the announcement, life gradually returned to normality in the city, with shops, restaurants, eateries and fuel stations reopening in the evening.