They ransacked, plundered, set fires and left behind a heap of debris to be cleaned up.
The movie theatres gutted by the “Shar Pasand Anaser” during Sunday’s protests were all destroyed beyond repair.
As Sadiq Ahmed, a real estate developer, put it, “By the look of it, the damages are irreparable. The buildings have to be demolished because they seem unfit for use.”
The gutted cinema houses were a depressing sight a day after the violent protests. Wires wriggled out of the walls; leather seats, in rows, lay exposed and bereft of their covers. The roof-ceilings, which braved hours of unattended fire, hung precariously.
But interestingly enough, at the Capri Cinema, spilt air-conditioners were “neatly unscrewed and taken away”, as one of the workers there noted.
The arson at the five theatres has left an indelible mark on the cinema business in the city.
Some members of the movie theatres’ managements chose not to comment on the incident out of fear.
“I have no comments to make because we don’t want any more trouble,” said the operations manager of one of the theatres with a rueful smile.
The burnt down theatres became a spectacle for the public on Saturday, as the ashen buildings gloomily stood on MA Jinnah Road, which had practically became a war zone on Sunday.
People flocking to the theatres, what now look like haunted houses, also maintained a hushed tone, as the protests that began with an upright intention, turned violent in no time, leaving people agape in shock.
A trend marred
It has hardly been a few years that the trend of going to the theatres for movies had revived in the city after decades of hiatus. One of the major motivations was the influx of Indian movies in the domestic market.
But Sunday’s incident has, beyond doubt, marred the fledgling trend. “The arsonists came with the clear intent to set the cinema houses on fire,” Nadeem Mandviwalla, the owner of Nishat Cinema, told a private channel. “The gas stations were closed, but the mob had bottles full of petrol, so the intentions were clear.”
A security guard at one of the gutted theatres believes it is all “Taliban mentality” that has crept into the city. “They ruined peoples’ livelihoods under the garb of the love for the Holy Prophet (PBUH).” The security guard was lucky enough not to be present at the theatre, when it was ransacked by masked protesters. “I come in the evening; the guard who was present during the attack was badly beaten.”