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Legal Eye

December 30, 2007

Opportunists rule while city mourns

Opinion

December 30, 2007

Karachi

Riots rocked the city for a third consecutive day on Saturday which saw up to 14 deaths. Seven people were killed on Friday, including a policeman who was shot dead in Lyari. Moreover, 21 people (including three policemen) were reportedly injured as a result of aerial firing in various areas of the city, while police sources claim to have arrested at least 40 arsonists.

One more body was recovered from the factory situated in Ibrahim Hyderi and the death toll rose to eight on Saturday. The factory was torched by the mob twice and most of the bodies are unidentifiable so far. However, one body was claimed by the relatives of deceased and they took it for burial.

Meanwhile, as the rest of the city was mourning Benazir Bhutto’s death, some opportunist elements apparently took advantage of the tense situation, and reportedly held up people who were on their way home. They also plundered several shops and offices.

Residents of Nazimabad Block 4 complained of several such incidents and said that these “unknown people” had taken control of neighbourhoods and inner streets.

“We were right in front of our house, when a mob came with rods and started throwing stones at us. We were only saved by an eyelash because one of the people recognised us as residents of the area and let us go,” one family said, adding that the miscreants had half of their faces covered with black cloth.

Other areas in the city were not spared either. The Pakistan International Airline (PIA) booking office on Strachen Road was targeted by a mob Thursday night. Six gunshots were fired at its windows, and according to the staff on duty, at least 15 people (including customers) were inside the office when the incident occurred.

The PIA staff said that the only reason they were saved was because their main gate was closed “otherwise the attackers would have entered the office premises.” Although no one was injured, people were however

badly shaken by the attack. One of the senior staff members told The News that a patrolling party of Rangers had told them not to open for business on Friday.

An apparent repercussion of the lawlessness was that all major educational and financial institutions remained closed on Friday. Employees of factories situated in Landhi, Korangi, KITE, New Karachi, SITE, and Karachi Port and Bin Qasim Port stayed at home, mostly out of fear for their safety.

Residents of several other localities including Lyari, Hasan Square, NIPA, Times Square, Disco Bakery, Safari Park, Safoora Goth and Pehelwan Goth, Dalmyia, Shah Faisal Town, Malir 15, Jamshed Town, Gadap Town, Baldia Town, Orangi Town, Old Golimar, Korangi Industrial Area, Landhi, Gulshan-e-Hadeed, Pak Colony, and SITE witnessed massive amounts of aerial firing, which continued at intervals.

Gulshan-e-Hadeed and Gulistan-e-Jauhar have been particularly hard-hit since news of Benazir’s assassination became public. The telephone exchange and the power station were sent on fire in Gulshan-e-Hadeed. A mob later set several containers ablaze in the locality, and also set fire to police stations, both in Gulshan-e-Hadeed and Gulistan-e-Jauhar.

In another incident, a Habib Bank Limited branch at Safoora Goth was first looted and then severely damaged. A paint shop, along with a food supplying and catering shop, was also looted and burned down by “unknown people.”

Shopping markets near Safari Mor, University Road, were completely destroyed by these crowds who have also been accused of torching dozens of vehicles on the same road. According to eyewitnesses, those markets were ransacked by the mob before being set ablaze. A number of passing vehicles were also torched. Fire was also reported in Memon Goth, where at least four shops were targeted and torched.

According to some reports, people on Nishtar Road, Garden, burned down two vehicles, while one car was set on fire in Qasba Colony in Orangi Town. These incidents were reported early Friday morning.

It has been observed that most of these plunderers comprised youth between the ages of 13 to 17. These young men were apparently apolitical, but took advantage of the situation and further increased tension in the city. They broke the windscreens of several vehicles parked at different places in PECHS Block 6 and stole music systems.

The Lunda-Bazaar (the market which deals in second-hand clothes) located adjacent to Light House on M A Jinnah Road was torched at 7:45am while the factory near Saba Cinema was burnt down by the activists. The Askari Park situated at the main University Road was attacked by an angry mob and they totally destroyed it and the booking office, main entrance, security cameras, blocks of waterfall, lights and electric swings and other park property was demolished by them.

According to some officials, over 700 vehicles, at least 13 banks, seven bank branches, five traffic sections and several police stations and kiosk were set ablaze by unidentified people on Friday only. —ZA

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