Violent protests by Pakistan’s religious parties spread to Karachi

Violent protests in Pakistan spilt over to the country’s financial hub Karachi after authorities cracked down on protesters belonging to hardline religious parties in the national capital, Islamabad, injuring at least 15 people.

Karachi police fired in the air and baton-charged protesters in several areas of the country’s biggest city.

The protesters had been staging sit-ins in parts of Karachi, demanding law minister Zahid Hamid’s resignation for changes made to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, or the finality of the prophethood oath in the Elections Act 2017, in September.

A bigger protest was underway in Islamabad over the same issue.

The protests in Karachi turned violent after reports came in of a crackdown by authorities on protesters in Islamabad, where nearly 200 people, almost half of them security personnel, were injured. The authorities suspended the operation to disperse the protesters in Islamabad after the activists took over the streets in the national capital.

In Karachi, the police cracked down on the protesters on M.A. Jinnah Road, where they had been protesting for eight days. This led to clashes between the protesters and the police, triggering panic among the residents and leading to forcible shutdowns of shops, petrol pumps, and entire markets.

A group of protesters belonging to the newly-formed Tehreek-e-Labaik converged near the upmarket Clifton area in Karachi and disrupted the movement of traffic and threatened owners to shut their businesses to show their solidarity with those protesting in Islamabad-Rawalpindi twin cities.

The protesters also pelted stones at the police.

Reports also trickled in of clashes between police and protesters from other parts of the Sindh province, including Umerkot, Mithi, Sujawal, Badin and other towns.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has ordered several private news channels “offair” in Pakistan, including in Karachi.

The tensed situation forced vehicles off roads in Karachi. The protesters had also attempted to block roads leading to Hyderabad, according to traffic police officials.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has assured people that no one would be allowed to paralyse Karachi city. He asked the DIG (Traffic) to ensure smooth traffic in the city.