Photo Credits: @PTIofficial (PTI official Twitter account)
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Friday succeeded in effecting a partial lockdown of the mega city as party’s activists blocked main arteries including Shahrah-e-Faisal, M.A. Jinnah road, Super Highway and National Highway by setting tyres on fire and placing various hurdles including containers. There was, however, no untoward incident.
According to reports, PTI workers came out early in the morning and started blocking main thoroughfare of the port city: Shahrah-e-Faisal at Nursery, Star Gate and Chhota Gate. Roads leading to Teen Talwar in Clifton, Kalapul, Qayyumabad in Defence, Power House Chowrangi, Nazimabad and SITE were blocked by burning tyres and erecting different types of hurdles. National Highway, Mehran Highway and Super Highway were also blocked.
M. A. Jinnah Road was blocked at Numaish Chowrangi, Jinnah bridge, University Road at Hassan Square; MT Khan Road at Sultanabad; Ghani Chowrangi, Habib Bank Chowrangi, Rasheedabad in SITE and Baldia Town. The road connecting Karachi with Balochistan was also blocked. Major shopping areas were closed and there was no public transport available.
“We decided not to bring public transport to roads after a senior PTI member threatened his party would not allow any public transport to come to roads,” city’s transport union president Irshad Bokhari claimed. But it was business as usual in certain areas including Azizabad and other strongholds of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). PTI leaders and supporters however claimed that the shutdown was a success. In a tweet, PTI leader Arif Alvi said, essential components of the city’s daily operations, such as transporters and traders, are supporting the party in its bid to hold the sit-ins and protests at various points of the city.
Dr Arif Alvi said “We have shown what we had been trying to show all along that our party can peacefully shut down any city and in fact the whole country.” Responding to a question, he said, “We are not only prepared to shut down Lahore next but the whole country. I will thank Nawaz Sharif for this.” President of PTI’s Sindh Chapter Nadir Leghari when asked about the financial loss incurred during the strike calls in Karachi, Leghari said, “As a party we have much bigger objective, i.e., to change the destiny of Pakistan.” Public transport was meagre while attendance at public and private schools and offices was next to none.
Police opened Shahrah-e-Faisal at Nursery and Rashid Minhas Road for traffic by summoning an additional force; and it formulated an alternative traffic plan. Police resorted to baton-charge to disperse PTI workers at Quaidabad. Reports said due to the Karachi shutdown, court activities were heavily affected and prisoners could not be presented before courts. Port operations were also adversely affected due to the closure of roads.
Earlier, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said that PTI backed down from its commitment of staging sit-ins at nine places and said police and law enforcement agencies would not react to lawlessness on the part of PTI. Karachi police chief, Abdul Qadir Thebo said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) wanted to make a ‘big news story’ in Karachi; however, police were vigilant and would not let it do so.
Speaking to media, Abdul Qadir Thebo said PTI’s leadership made efforts to shut emergency relief units. It also tried to prevent police and Rangers to perform their duties. He said police had not resorted to any baton-charge, adding that no one was booked or arrested and that the situation was under control. On the directives of higher officials, police were not taking “any action to a limit,” Thebo said and added that PTI had been given a free hand for democracy.”