Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) workers and leaders had gathered in large numbers during the afternoon hours of Wednesday to stage a protest against the controversial Sindh local government bill in Karachi.
Later on, the protesters attempted to reach the Chief Minister’s (CM) House for a sit-in.
The police, however, baton-charged the crowd and used teargas shells in an attempt to dissuade it from entering the red zone.
A worker of the MQM-P was killed and several others, including women, were injured when police fired tear gas and resorted to baton-charge on their sit-in outside CM House.
MQM party leaders, including lawmakers, women, and children, started their march from the FTC on Shahrah-e-Faisal, and passing through different routes, they managed to reach CM House where they staged a sit-in.
As per the police, the MQM-P leadership was asked to go back to the venue of the Karachi Press Club as this was the ‘Red Zone’ where all such political activities had been banned.
The officer claimed that the MQM leaders did not listen to them, which compelled the police to take action against them by resorting to baton-charge and tear gas shelling.
This is our Karachi — See the governance conditions, we have a right to protest: Wasim Akhtar
Speaking on Geo News programme, ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath’, MQM-P leader Wasim Akhtar said, “You [Pakistan People’s Party(PPP)] sitting in red-zone can do corruption but we cannot come there and protest? This is Karachi, these are our streets.”
Anchorperson Shahzeb Khanzada questioned Akhtar and said that the PPP government says that Jamat-e-Islami (JI) was also protesting in Karachi for the past 27 days, the government did not stop them, and that the MQM-P broke its commitment of a peaceful protest and took the law in its own hands, as the protest was supposed to be staged outside the Press Club but the party changed the route and came to CM House, which is near the hotel where Pakistan Super League (PSL) players were staying.
Responding to this, Akhtar said, “Shahzeb, look how they [PPP] have destroyed Sindh and Karachi. The public was charged, people are fed up with press conferences, rallies. The public said we will go and talk to CM Sahib, and request him to resolve our issues. We continued our protest in peace. I was in touch with the administration, I had assured them that nothing wrong will happen, we just need to sit and protest. We will talk with whoever comes out of the CM House and lay down our demands. Who started all this?”
“I told the administration, that we will take a left turn from Movenpick hotel, two to three women went ahead, Murtaza Wahab was on call with Amir [Amir Khan] Sahib. Murtaza said we will come to the gate [of CM house] and you [MQM-P] can tell us your demands. This discussion was going on when shelling, and baton-charge started on the main road,” said Akhtar.
“The police started this, people got injured, tear gas and shelling were thrown at people. We didn’t even know, we were busy with negotiations. Murtaza Wahab was still on call, we informed him that the police is taking tear gas towards the people.”
Akhtar said that he wasn’t informed that the PSL teams were staying in Movenpick. As per his talks with the administration, he was informed that the team was staying in Marriot, and their protest was not a hindrance in the way of security of PSL players.
MQM-P, PTI want to divert public’s attention from real issues: Saeed Ghani
Sindh Minister for Information Saeed Ghani, while speaking on ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath’, said that the situation led to the circumstances and the Sindh government had to take action.
He further said that MQM-P decided to change the location of the protest, as they had earlier announced the demonstration outside the Karachi Press Club but they started marching towards the CM House.
Negating Akhtar’s stance of not being aware of the situation, Ghani said they [MQM-P] were aware of the presence of the PSL teams.
“We are not against protests, even JI has been protesting in front of the Sindh Assembly for almost a month now,” he said.
Ghani further added that because of PSL, security is already on high alert and the protestors were warned not to move towards the CM House; however, they defied all requests and the police had to take action.
Blaming the MQM-P, the PPP minister said that if the party workers and leaders had protested outside the Press Club, the situation would have been different.
Criticising the party, he further added that MQM-P, along with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), wants to divert the public’s attention from the actual issues.
Giving an ultimatum of 24 hours, the MQM-P have three major demands.
The resignation of CM Sindh Murad Ali Shah. Second, Inspector General (IG) Sindh should resign immediately. The third demand is that the supporters of MQM should be released.
MQM-P leader Amir Khan said the CM did not allow the people of Karachi to fulfill their democratic right of holding a peaceful protest.
He urged the federal government to immediately intervene in the matter and seek an explanation from the police chief as to why women and children were subjected to brutal torture.
MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqi said democracy would be strengthened with their decisions.
He warned former president Asif Ali Zardari to rein in his chief minister and reminded him that Bilawal House was also located in Karachi.
“We don’t want to fight,” he said, adding that the MQM-P should not be compelled to take any ‘extreme’ measure.
Government and Opposition’s condemnation:
Prime Minister Imran Khan took notice of the incident and tweeted, “I have taken note of the violence used by Sindh police against MQM’s peaceful protest…Will take necessary action against those responsible after receiving these reports.”
Sharing a video statement, Governor Sindh Imran Ismail condemned the “police brutality”, adding that local government should resolve the issue with mutual understanding and dialogue.
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said that the Constitution of Pakistan allows its citizens to protest. “PPP’s approach to suppressing dissent by force is shameful.”
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry highlighted that there was no need for such “hooliganism” at a time when PSL is just around the corner.
Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi tweeted, “Sindh Police is responsible for the death of one peaceful protester & the injuries to members of Parliament.”
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, Miftah Ismail, said, “The democratic PPP in Islamabad is all too happy to be a feudal usurping political party in Karachi. PPP should do better than to beat peaceful protestors in the street.”
PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar also condemned police brutality. In a tweet, Khokhar said, “Death of MQM-P worker as a result of police high-handedness in Karachi is deplorable.”
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