Opening a vein: ‘One Shia after another is killed and you want us to stay silent?’

Shahrah-e-Pakistan was blocked for hours as a protest erupted amid the funeral for two men, leading to baton charge and tear gas shelling by the police on Monday. At least 25 men have lost their lives this month. PHOTO: RASHID AJMERI/EXPRESS

Protesters blocked Sharah-e-Pakistan for more than six hours on Monday, causing a massive traffic jam during and after the funeral procession of the two Ahle Tasheeh activists murdered earlier o.n. One of them, Jaffar Mohsin Rizvi, was killed on Saturday while the other one, Syed Taseer Abbas Zaidi, was gunned down on Monday morning.

Some men among the mourners forming the funeral procession also gave vent to their anger with volleys of aerial firing, which sent the message to shopkeepers in Ancholi and its surrounding areas that they had better go home.

Police and Rangers had to work hard to avert a clash between the protesters, who were returning from the burial, and the Pakhtun residents at Sohrab Goth. As the protesters set fire to road-side stalls and set ablaze a bus, police baton-charged the crowd.

With Monday’s victims, the toll in sectarian and political violence for the first month of 2012 stood at 25. The Sindh police chief held a meeting in the evening which was also reportedly attended by representatives from both sects.

Zaidi was gunned down near his home in Samanabad police limits. He was an employee of the Karachi Electricity Supply Company and was also a member of the Anjuman Tanzim-e-Hussaini. His elder brother, Raza Abbas, is a nauha khawan, one who recites elegies at mourning sessions.

According to witnesses, Taseer was waiting for company transport near his residence when men shot and killed him. “Hardly five minutes after Zaidi’s car came on the road, he was shot dead,” said a shopkeeper, Usman, not his real name. “The killers did not leave the spot, till they were sure that he was dead,” he added. He was shot thrice in the face, chest and abdomen and died on the spot. His body was taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital.

The combined funeral of Zaidi and a 59-year-old Rizvi, who was gunned down on Saturday in Gulberg in the same manner, were offered at Imambargah Khairul Amal in Ancholi after Zohr prayers.

As their bodies were being taken to Wadi-e-Hussain graveyard, scores of protesters gathered on main Shahrah-e-Pakistan, blocking the traffic for hours. They also set tyres on fire. They attacked media personnel and damaged their cameras to prevent them from covering the violence, which spread after the participants of the funeral procession returned from the graveyard. They fired in the air and set a passenger bus on fire. “One Shia after another is being killed and we are not allowed even to protest,” lamented an angry young man. “If we decide to retaliate, nobody would be able to stop us,” he warned.

The scuffle between the police and protesters also took place when the law enforcers tried to disperse them. The law enforcers, however, charged at them with batons and fired tear gas at the mob and detained about one dozen men.

DSP Nasir Bukhari confirmed that Monday’s incident was an act of targeted killing. “But it is fallacious to assume that there is a sectarian motive behind the killing of every Shia and Sunni,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2012.