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Legal Eye

December 31, 2007

City areas turn into war zones

Opinion

December 31, 2007

Karachi

Gulshan—e-Iqbal town which up till recently boasted of its peaceful living conditions suffered a shocking turn of events this Thursday when Benazir Bhutto’s untimely death sent the whole city whirling into chaos.

Where areas like 13/D/2 started suffering from riots right after maghrib prayers particularly at the Sehba Akhtar Road and Masjid-e-Ibrar intersection where eight young men carrying large sticks started halting cars in the middle of the road, not caring about passengers be they women or children forcing them out of their cars.

After forcing people to stop in the middle of the roads the hoodlums then torched a green Margalla in the middle of the Sehba Akhtar road, leaving residents scared and panicky.

People out side of the town jurisdiction where encouraged by residents to remain where they were as the miscreants could be seen roaming the streets and main roads waiting for cars to set fire on.

The situation became worse around midnight as one resident of Gulsahn-e-Iqbal relates that as he was on his way home, when an angry mob at the Nipa Chowrangi forced him to jump out of his car and started beating him with sticks and stones. As he ran for his life he was chased up to Crescent apartments near the Sehba Akhtar railway crossing, where he hid to save his life.

Civic centre and Hasan square and Rashid Minhas Road were the most turbulent areas where shootings could be heard well into the night and several cars and tires were burnt in the middle of the road to impede traffic. Malls like the mobile mall and Centrum plaza were ransacked and then burnt.

The next day as few brave grocers and bakers opened their shops with scarce amenities, however, shoppers were manhandled by thugs who demanded that all shops be closed in mourning “if they (people) want to stay alive.” The same night residents claim that an even larger group comprising of about 50 men claiming to be People’s Party workers

tried to enter into residential areas, however, they were blocked by brave residents who closed the street barriers in the nick of time holding off the rioters.

On Friday, shops in 13/D areas and 13/G areas remained closed thanks to the gruesome reminders of burnt car debris as residents and shopkeepers remained afraid for their lives and properties. However shops in 13-B area behind the Jilani Station appeared peaceful and shops had opened by Maghrib time on Saturday

north nazimabad: Soon after the news of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination on Thursday evening, the shops in North Karachi were shut down by the people themselves. They knew that if they don’t do so, the party workers or supporters might break the glass of their shops or torch it completely.

Within minutes, the area was completely empty, with not a single man seen on main road and even in streets. Several streets had even locked their barricades, so that no vehicle or stranger could come in. Asim, a shop-owner and resident of the area told The News, “My wife called on my mobile phone and gave me the news of Benazir’s death. I immediately closed my shop and told other shop-keepers also to do so and ran towards my home.” Many shop-keepers, coming from different areas of the city could not go their homes on knowing that several buses and cars have been set on fire. They took refuge at their fellow shop keepers’ homes. However, no vehicles or shops were burnt in the area from Nagan Chowrangi to Surjani Town.

Furthermore, on the said day, the area residents were deprived of weekly Thursday bazaar, that is setup opposite Siddiqui Market. The area people said that they wait for this bazaar every week, as they buy the weekly grocery and other household items from it. But due to the incident, the vendors wrapped up their business and left. One of the residents, Tajver Sultana said, “Since I used to buy the weekly vegetables from the bazaar, therefore, there is not much left to cook, except chicken and meat.” If the market remains close for another few days, I fear that we will then have to eat roti and daal, she added.

The area remained the same on Friday as well. Except few private cars, not a single public transport was seen on the road. People only came out of their homes to offer Friday prayers. However, later in the evening children were seen out on the streets playing cricket. Also, a medical store, two milk shops and one bakery was opened with half shutter down for few hours in the night.

On Saturday, the traffic was little better as few rickshaws and taxi were seen plying on the road along with several private cars. The shops still remained closed. However, a long queue of cars and motorcycles was seen on one of the petrol pump near Azam Town. Meanwhile, groups of older men were found sitting at the corner of the streets discussing the political scenario of the country. Saeed Lodhi, 57-year-old and hid his friends said, “ We are left with no option but to sit here and talk, as for the past two days we have been watching the television and doing nothing.”

Clifton: The area near Bilawal House, Clifton, is one of prime importance with regards to the situation at hand. On the day of Bhutto’s death, December 27, late at night the area was eerily silent. There were no vehicles or people in sight, save for a lone police patrolling van in front of the street that leads to Bilawal House.

After that day, many people did not brave the streets and there were hardly any known cases of severe violence. However a few minor incidents have been taking place on and off. On December 28, when a driver was sent to look for a newspaper, some people stoned the car and broke its glass, leaving the driver with minor injuries. On December 29, around mid-morning, tyres were burnt in protest around Ziauddin Hospital.

Most of the residents of the area, did nothing but watch TV, or spend their time online, trying to get as much information as possible. On the streets, however, people are cautious but a few groups of people are seen here and there playing cricket, trying to pass their time, one way or another.

There is a lot of talk on the streets and in homes regarding the tragedy. The topic of discussion is, of course, the untimely death of Benazir Bhutto and the future of Pakistan. People on the streets are too scared to voice their opinions and are living their lives in complete fear. However, when probed, they are a touch forthcoming and voice their anger. They are exceedingly wary of the situation of the city at the moment and can’t understand why they cannot be left in peace.

Essentials are just not available as there are no markets that are open or ready to stay open as there are strict restrictions on them. There is a severe shortage of basic commodities like bread, eggs and milk. Even drinking water is not available in these areas, not to mention tap water, which has always been a problem. There is also a particular danger to market owners’ safety as rioters are leaving no stone unturned in making life for these people miserable. However even in the midst of all of this, there are a few shop owners who are showing courage far beyond their capacities by opening their shops for brief periods of time in order to accommodate people in need.

There is no public transport – buses or taxis – available. In fact, there have been very few vehicles seen on the road.

However, things are getting slightly more relaxed and people are trying to get out on the streets, and spend their time out of the confinement of their homes; whether it is by involving themselves in sport activities or taking walks alongside the sea.

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