- PTI confident of complete support from Karachi for party’s shutdown call, as Imran Khan vows peaceful protest
- MQM chief Altaf Hussain says PTI has right to peaceful protest, hopes citizens would not be troubled
- Transporters, traders remain sceptical over PTI’s protest, plead case for country’s economy
As Karachiites breathe heavily having their fingers crossed, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain has offered his arms wide open all the way from London to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which is set for its scheduled anti-government protest in MQM’s home ground Karachi today (Friday).
While the Sindh government has also given a go-ahead to the cricketer-turned-politician’s party for a “non-violent protest”, the MQM chief Thursday said that his party respected PTI’s democratic right to protest but hoped the party would remain peaceful and not cause any inconvenience to citizens of the city.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan, in the meanwhile, has said that his party would not force people to close down their businesses.
“Tomorrow, I will personally lead the Karachi shutdown from the front, but not at the cost of peace. The PTI is only appealing for one business day’s sacrifice from Karachiites. Trust me we have no intention of twisting anyone’s arm into doing it,” the PTI chief said while speaking to the participants of Islamabad sit-in.
Putting his address in top gear, Khan pressed residents of Karachi to stand by his party. “If you are satisfied with the incumbent government’s policies then do as you please, but if not then help me bring about a change to build a ‘New Pakistan’ for all of you,” the PTI leader said.
For today’s show in Karachi, PTI has identified Teen Talwar, National Highway, Sohrab Goth, Native Jetty Bridge, Shershah, Numaish Chowrangi, Shahrah-e-Faisal, Kala Pul Road, Hassan Square, Star Gate, Gurumandir and Five Star Chowrangi as prime protesting spots.
According to reports, roads would be blocked at more than 15 places including Super Highway, National Highway and Hub River Road. According to sources, PTI will also protest in Maripur and Sultanabad areas.
Small sit-ins will be staged on seven locations, including Qayyumabad Flyover, Korangi Road, Submarine Chowk, Boat Basin, Tin Hatti, Ziauddin Hospital Chowk and Teen Talwar.
A protest rally is also planned in NA-250 constituency, which will begin at 5pm from McDonald’s Sea View all the way till Saddar, passing through Gizri, Submarine Chowk, Korangi Road, Boat Basin and Shahrah-e-Faisal. It will culminate at Teen Talwar, Clifton.
The Sindh government has approved of PTI’s protest while Sindh Chief Minister Syed Ali Qaim Shah has promised that hurdles will not be created for PTI provided the protesters remained peaceful.
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon has also warned that the state machinery will swing into action if PTI workers try to shut down the city by force, while Karachi Additional Inspector General Police (IGP) Ghulam Qadir Thebo said that the protesters will be provided foolproof security but violent protesters will be taken to task. Thebo said cases will be registered against those who try to forcibly shut down businesses.
The Traffic Police has also prepared an alternative route plan to control traffic in addition to deploying 500 officers whereas security has been beefed up at routes leading to Sharah-e-Faisal, Drig Road, Nazimabad and airport.
Pillion riding on motorbikes will also remain suspended until Dec 13, while an advisory for schools and colleges to remain closed has been issued by the protesting party. However, Sindh Education Minister Nisar Khoro said all educational institutions will remain open.
PTI CONFIDENT OF COMPLETE SHUTDOWN:
In the meanwhile, canvassing for the protest, PTI volunteers have reportedly distributed flyers trying to convince shopkeepers and businesses to voluntarily keep their businesses closed on December 12. The party leaders also say it has been successful in motivating some associations to “voluntarily” join its appeal for the Karachi shutdown.
PTI leader Arif Alvi tweeted, “Karachi shutdown starts at 6am on December 12. Karachi will make sure it happens. It will be a total shutdown. Transporters and traders have responded favourably,” Alvi reportedly said.
With PTI Chairman Imran Khan expected to arrive in the city at 12pm, Alvi said, “Peoples’ sentiments are in our favour because Karachi is looking for change.”
When asked if the party has engaged MQM in talks to support Friday’s strike, Alvi said, “We have not approached them but we welcome everyone’s support.”
Moreover, Alvi told Pakistan Today that while letting the shutters to remain open, his side would not allow any vehicle to ply on the road.
In the meanwhile, PTI Sindh President Nadir Leghari said the strike will be a “peaceful protest”. “The Karachi community will come out and support PTI, there will be no armed goons or thugs and we are not forcing anyone to join. People will participate if they want change.”
When asked about the financial loss incurred during strike calls in Karachi, Leghari said, “Our party has the larger objective of changing the destiny of Pakistan.”
APOLITICAL TRADERS SUPPORT COUNTRY’S ECONOMY:
Despite PTI’s canvassing, a large number of traders are still unconvinced and believe that the PTI’s protests are detrimental to the country’s economy.
Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) President Iftikhar Ahmed Vohra distanced himself from PTI’s strike call saying, “We are not linked to any political party. We will not support any activity having an adverse effect on the economy. We appeal to the government to solve political issues so that the restlessness in the country comes to an end.”
“Karachi contributes around Rs 1.4 trillion (revenue) in the national exchequer and an estimated loss of a day’s closure here ranges from Rs 2 to Rs 3 billion,” he added.
Moreover, Tajir Ittehad Chairman Atiq Mir said that his organisation is apolitical and does not support the strike call. “Even if one party is backed then it will create complications in the current political crisis.”
Concerned about the uncertain political conditions being created, traders, Mir said, would follow the routine on Friday. However, he said that it will be very difficult to run business in given conditions.
Calculating business losses of one-day closure at Rs 4 billion, the AKTI chief said PTI must not revive the tradition of strikes in the city. “The political parties here have just rid this city of strikes,” he reminded the PTI leadership. He said five days back the PTI officials had contacted him but were told that traders could not become party to any political dispute.
TRANSPORTERS ARE NOT SURE:
In the meanwhile, transporters in Pakistan’s business hub are yet undecided to keep their vehicles off the roads over PTI’s call for protest.
Karachi Transport Ittehad’s Irshad Bukhari said, “We will decide when we see the situation on Friday (today).”
Bukhari appeared annoyed over the PTI leadership which, he claimed, had taken his association for granted.
“When MQM calls a strike, party members approach us on behalf of MQM Chairman Altaf Hussain to observe a strike. On the other hand, a low-level PTI official Naeem Shaikh had contacted me three days ago,” he said. While the day of protest was hours away, PTI’s Sindh MPA Khurram Sher Zaman called him up to ask for his support. “No decision can be taken on such a short notice,” he replied to PTI’s call.
However, All Pakistan Goods Transporters’ Welfare Association Chairman Dil Khan Niazi said that operations will be halted for Friday “for the protection and safety of their vehicles”.
“We are not linked with any political party but in case of arson or stone pelting, we will not bring our buses on the roads,” said Niazi.