The rally for the “love and sanctity of Sindh Dharti” began with a lot of fanfare from Lyari’s Aath Chowk on Tuesday, but ended on a bloody note by the time it reached the Karachi Press Club.
As soon as the rally reached Paan Mandi near Denso Hall, intense firing started in the area, instantly killing seven people. Within minutes, the unrest spread to other areas of Lea Market as well, in which further deaths and injuries were reported. Till the filing of this report, 12 people were killed and 30 injured in the violence.
The rally was staged by the Awami Tehreek (AT) to protest the proposed Mohajir province and the recent operation in Lyari. Other nationalist parties as well as members of the People’s Aman Committee also participated in it.
Around eight buses, 30 motorcycles and a truck full of people from Gadap, Malir and Lyari, gathered at the Football House at Aath Chowk, but dispersed before reaching the press club, where AT President Ayaz Latif Palijo was due to address them.
“We want to tell people that Sindh cannot be distributed on the basis of ethnicity. We are Sufis by nature and we consider everyone our brother,” said a man named Shahid “Footballer”, while taking a seat atop an overcrowded bus.
Many people in the Old City areas were unable to leave their office buildings until the firing and arson attacks subsided, and commuters were stuck for hours in massive traffic gridlocks. Panicked citizens tried to rush home in a bid to escape the chaos that gripped these areas.
Banned Aman Committee chief Uzair Baloch and leader Zafar Baloch, also a part of the rally, were sent back when the shooting did not stop for over an hour.
“We sent back some men, women and children as we couldn’t understand where the bullets were coming from,” said Abdul Razzaq, a man from Lyari, while standing onII Chundrigar Road, where a heavy contingent of police was deputed to resist any attempt by protesters to head for the Red Zone.
A crowd of angry men tried arguing with the police, who did not move until they had to be deputed to other areas as violence spread to several parts of the city. “If you want to be a leader in Pakistan, you need to be a criminal first,” said a man named Abdul Moiz, infuriated over the scattered bodies he saw at Denso Hall.
“As for honesty and leading a simple life, that’s not possible here at all. Inequality, injustice and barbarism is the only rule left, as we are done with humanity,” he added.
On reaching the press club and amid slogans of ‘dehshatgardi bund karo’, Ayaz Latif Palijo was flanked by members of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, Awami National Party’s Abdul Bari Kakar and Sidique Baloch of the Aman Committee, along with a horde of AT supporters.
Outwardly looking calm and starting off politely, Palijo went on to give a fiery speech in which he said the blood of those killed “will be avenged”, not by punishing innocent Urdu-speaking people, but terrorists.
“Unarmed innocent women were attacked, and as I speak here, I received a message that two of the women succumbed to their injuries at the hospital just now. This is quite a reward given to the people, who gave food and shelter to migrants,” he sarcastically remarked.
He warned that the People’s Party may choose to be a silent spectator and continue appeasing its coalition partner, but if they are pushed any further, the consequences will be dire for every terrorist involved.
Taking his speech a notch higher, Palijo said he does not understand where the demand of a separate province is emanating from.
“Sindhis are not hired in the Karachi Port Trust or as judges of the Sindh High Court and there has been no Sindhi army general either. Yet some people get insecure even though they are a part of government, the governor is of their choice and everything happens the way they want, without anyone ever questioning them,” he said.
Thanking the Pakistan Muslim League and the Jamaat-e-Islami, Palijo said these parties have supported them every step of the way.
The jam-packed hall at he press club grew silent, as Palijo, pointing towards “three closed cameras at the back” asked as to why the media is scared to name “certain people,” and reminded reporters of the times when under the rule of military dictator Ziaul Haq, they were supported by the AT.
Similarly, he asked the chief justice ofPakistanwhether or not he will take suo moto notice of “the women who were killed today?”
He also added that a night before the rally, he received a text message on his cell phone “from a particular party” that a May 12-like situation will be repeated tomorrow. “And they proved it today. The point is, does anyone have the answer as to when these barbaric acts will stop?”
Presenting a solution, he said Karachi should be de-weaponised and those “who are playing a game fromLondon”, need to stop soon, as “we will not allow the division of our land”.
Awami Tehreek (AT) on Tuesday called for a general strike today (Wednesday) throughout Sindh in protest against firing on its rally against the campaign of Muhajir province, killing of over 11 people during the rally and Lyari operation. He appealed to all the political parties to support the strike call and hold peaceful protests.