KARACHI: Life in the city came to a standstill on Friday, with public transport remaining off the roads and businesses shut in the wake of a mourning call given by religious and political parties in protest against the bombings on the shrine of Syed Abdullah Shah Ghazi (RA) on Thursday evening.
While traders and transport associations had not supported the protest call, the fear sparked by scattered incidents of violence shortly after the twin blasts and some early morning arson activities kept the transport off the roads and businesses closed.
At least four more buses were set on fire in different parts of the city on early Friday morning, increasing the total number of buses torched in the two-day violence to eight.
“After the sunrise, four buses were set on fire in the Site, Landhi and Khudadad Colony areas,” said an official at the city’s central fire station.
He added that a minibus bearing registration number JE-2435 was set on fire in Landhi 36-B, followed by arson attacks on another bus (JE-6050) in Landhi 3½. Miscreants also set fire to a wagon (PE-4428) in Khudadad Colony and a minibus (JE-5950) in the SITE area, he said.
Police said that gunfire was heard in Shah Faisal Colony, New Karachi, Korangi, Lines Area and some other localities in the early morning, but no casualty was reported in any part of the city.
Most business centres and markets remained closed during the day though a mixed trend was witnessed at CNG stations and petrol pumps, which were found open at some prominent places.
Traders believed it was mainly because of fear that the city remained closed on the day of mourning.
“There are around 500 regularised markets in the city, according to a rough estimate, but I don’t think any of them was properly run today,” said Ateeq Meer, the chairman of the Alliance of Market Associations – a common platform for nearly 300 market and traders’ associations in the city.
“Traders who attempted to open their businesses in some markets were forced to pull down shutters by armed men riding motorbikes,” he said, adding that law-enforcers failed to prevent such incidents.
He said every Pakistani and Muslim was deeply grieved by the tragic incident but to turn the day of mourning into a strike under fear served no one.
“On an average, some four to five billion rupees change hands everyday at retail level. That provides bread to over two million daily wagers and labourers. With these figures in mind, one can easily assess the negative impact of a single day strike,” Mr Meer said.
Expressing similar concerns, transporters blamed police authorities for leaving the city abandoned despite repeated appeals of security to the transporters and their stakes.
“If armed men riding motorbikes intercept buses on main roads, beat drivers and set fire to the buses and a strike-like call is given by different parties, how can one expect normal operation of public transport,” said Irshad Bukhari of the Karachi Transport Ittehad.
He said the transporters had lost nearly a dozen vehicles in the spate of violence that erupted after the shrine bombings.
He also said that whenever transporters took up the issues of their losses with the authorities concerned, a fresh episode of arson attacks put the previous issue on the backburner.