Home Latest News One Protester Killed after Karachi Police Baton-Charge MQM Sit-in

One Protester Killed after Karachi Police Baton-Charge MQM Sit-in

by Newsweek Pakistan

Screengrab of footage showing police firing tear gas on MQM protesters

Several others injured in clashes between protesters and police, with MQM announcing it will observe ‘black day’ today (Thursday)

One worker of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) was killed and several others, including women, injured on Wednesday after police fired tear gas on them and baton-charged a sit-in outside the Chief Minister House.

Organized to protest a controversial local government law passed by Sindh’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, Wednesday’s demonstration commenced with a march that concluded with a sit-in at Chief Minister House. According to local media, police had met the MQM-P leadership and urged them to stage their sit-in at the Karachi Press Club rather than the C.M. House, as it was located in a “red zone” where gatherings are banned.

Police claim the MQM refused to leave, resulting in cops firing tear gas and using batons against the demonstrators to force them back. Footage from the protest shows police beating up protesters, dragging them on the roads by their clothes and firing tear gas on them in a bid to disperse them. Police have claimed that the protesters threw rocks at them, provoking the clashes, but this could not be independently verified.

The MQM has identified the slain worker as Muhammad Aslam, saying he died after reaching hospital for treatment of injuries. MQM leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said the party would register a criminal case against the Sindh chief minister for the murder.

In a press conference, the party leadership accused police of attacking women and parliamentarians, adding that the location of several individuals remained unclear.

Slamming the Sindh government as a “fascist” regime, it claimed police had deliberately targeted a “peaceful” protest under orders of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and the PPP’s leadership. “The chief minister of Sindh, Murad Ali Shah, should resign immediately,” said MQM-P leader Amir Khan, lamenting that he did not even allow the people of Karachi to fulfil their democratic right of holding a peaceful protest. The MQM-P has announced that it would observe a ‘black day’ today (Thursday).

Security concerns

In a separate press conference, Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani blamed the stringent response on heightened security due to the Pakistan Super League cricket tournament and a terror threat. Maintaining that the PPP supported peaceful protests, he noted that no action had been taken against the Jamaat-e-Islami, which has been staging a sit-in outside the Sindh Assembly for nearly a month, also against the controversial local government laws.

Ghani claimed the MQM had initially said it would end its protest at the Karachi Press Club and had abruptly altered its route and moved toward C.M. House. He said this was permissible in the past, but the situation was different right now, as the area had been declared a “high security” zone due to the presence of cricketers, including foreign players, at a nearby hotel. Fearing a situation that could impact the PSL, he said, police had acted against the protesters to remove them from the area.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed recently also announced that Karachi is among the cities facing a terror threat, he noted. However, he admitted, police should not have indiscriminately targeted women and lawmakers. He said an investigation was underway and anyone found guilty of acting disproportionately would face legal action.

Opposition condemnations

Sindh’s opposition parties condemned the police response to the MQM protest, with Governor Imran Ismail of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf—which rules at the center—describing it as “barbarism.” He said the government should engage with parties that are peacefully protesting instead of torturing them.

Jamaat-e-Islami’s Sindh chief also condemned the police violence, describing it is as violation of human rights and misuse of state authority.

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