The agitated traders of the city have announced keeping their shops shut on Wednesday (today) following the murder of yet another colleague, who was targeted at the Shershah Kabari Market in Pak Colony on Tuesday.
Two traders, 35-year-old Syed Iqrar Ali and Syed Qadir Ali were attacked in the afternoon at a warehouse located in Shershah’s scrap market, falling within the Jahanabad Police Post area of the Pak Colony police station remit.
District West SSP Amir Farooqi told The News that the police rushed to the crime scene, cordoned off the area to preserve evidence and shifted the two traders to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH), where Iqrar succumbed to his injuries, while Qadir managed to survive.
Initial investigations revealed that Iqrar, the brother of former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MPA Syed Shakir Ali, was the owner of the warehouse - Allah Malik Godown – where he was attacked. Two men riding a motorcycle arrived there, opened fire on the two men and escaped.
The SSP said the police found seven empty shells of 9mm pistol at the crime scene and sent them to the Sindh Police Laboratory for forensic tests.
Iqrar suffered four bullet wounds on different parts of his body, while Qadir was hit by a single bullet.
The police spoke to witnesses and were trying to prepare a sketch of the attackers. Investigators believed that Iqrar’s murder could be another case of target killing.
To a query, the SSP said as the lives of traders were in danger, he had strictly directed his officers to protect them. “Special instructions were issued to the Jahanabad Police Post In-charge Mukhtiar Mangi to ensure that he and his staff remain vigil to avert any untoward incident.” Policemen were also deployed at the entry and exit points of the scrap market to provide complete security to traders.
The SSP blamed the “complete negligence” of the policemen deployed at the scrap market for the killing of the trader, noting that “they did not even try to take action against the fleeing murderers”.
The police official said he has suspended the Jahanabad Police Post in-charge and also ordered registration of a case against the policemen deployed at the market for being negligent while performing their duties.
After Iqrar’s death, MQM leaders and activists reached the ASH, where they staged a protest and demanded the immediate arrest of the killers.
MQM Rabita Committee member Wasay Jalil told The News that besides being the brother of their senior activist and former MPA, Iqrar was also a party supporter. He resided in Block-11 of Federal B Area.
The MQM leader said more than 600 activists and supporters of his party have been murdered during the current year, including 10 in the present month.
Iqrar’s funeral prayer was offered at Shahab Masjid in Block-11 of Federal B Area, participated by a large number of MQM leaders and activists. He was later buried at the Mohammed Shah Graveyard in New Karachi.
Iqrar’s murder further invoked the ire of the city’s traders and shops were closed at the scrap market in protest.
Some men fired gunshots in the air in the Old City areas forcing closure of shops. The traders’ community also staged a protest demonstration on MA Jinnah Road.
Another 72-hour deadline
The city’s traders decided to go ahead with the strike after their 72-hour deadline - given to the government for taking action against the people responsible for the recent murders of traders - expired and the killing spree claimed its latest victim.
They also warned that they might go on an indefinite strike if the situation did not improve in another 72 hours.
The decision to observe the strike was made at a meeting of traders on Tuesday, chaired by All Karachi Tajir Ittehad (AKTI) Chairman Atiq Mir. It was attended by representatives of over 300 markets of the city.
Mir said acting Commissioner South Jamal Mustafa Qazi tried to convince AKTI office-bearers to call off the strike, but they refused.
AKTI Vice-Chairman Jamal Parach said that the MQM, the Mohajir Rabita Council of Dr Saleem Haider, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Sunni Tehreek have also supported the strike call.
All Karachi Tajir Ittehad General Secretary Sharjeel Goplani told The News that four traders have been killed during the past week, including the one in Shershah.
“The markets and trade centres of the city will stay closed on Wednesday and another 72-hour deadline will be given to the government for bringing the situation under control. If the government still fails to protect traders, there will be a strike for an indefinite period.”
Addressing a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday, representatives of 450 trader associations of the city announced that they would observe a peaceful shutter-down strike on Wednesday to protest the murder of traders and extortion.
They included Zahid Malik and Jamil Ahmed of the Shershah Kabari Market, Small Traders Organisation head Mahboob Azam and Haji Haroon Rasheed of the Karachi Anjuman-e-Tajran. They pointed out that they had conveyed their reservations to the chief minister on Friday and demanded protection, but three more traders have murdered since then.
Observing that the government had failed to provide protection to residents of Karachi, Mahboob Azam demanded that the city be handed over to the army.
“Today, we are announcing a single day strike, but if the government still does not provide us with security, the city’s traders will take to the streets.”
Jamil Ahmed said if the criminals involved in the killing of 13 traders of Shershah scrap market in the year 2010 had been punished, the latest incident there would not have occurred.
Late on Tuesday night, Chairman Karachi Transport Ittehad also announced support for the strike call, Geo News reported.