Business activities in most parts of Karachi and Hyderabad remained as usual and vehicles plied on the streets as the cities observed a partial strike on Wednesday. The strike call came from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the wake of the raid carried out by the Rangers in the vicinity of the residence of the party’s senior leader, Farooq Sattar, in PIB Colony on Tuesday night. According to the party, the law enforcers banged on Sattar’s front door with their rifle butts. While the Rangers did not issue any statement, there were reports that the troops were there to pick up MQM MPA Kamran Farooqui.

Following the raid, MQM’s Rabita (Coordination) Committee requested the business community and transporters to keep their business closed and to keep vehicle off the streets in a bid to show solidarity with the party. Shortly after, Rangers assured the transporters and traders of providing protection. “There will be no strike,” said Sindh Rangers director-general Major General Bilal Akbar, while talking to a private news channel. “Action against criminals will continue in the metropolis.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the MQM took back its strike call, appealing for resumption of all commercial and transport activities and staged a protest outside Karachi Press Club and in Hyderabad.

Strike in Karachi

Most of the prominent bazaars and markets of the city such as Saddar, Kharadar, Mithadar and Tariq Road, remained open. Vehicular traffic was seen on the city’s roads as per routine and petrol pumps were also open. However, some areas, including New Karachi, Federal B Area, Korangi, North Karachi and Liaquatabad, were partially closed.

In some parts of the city, it was reported that some unidentified persons forced shopkeepers to close their businesses. “We received information [about forcible closure of shops] from at least 23 different spots,” said a Rangers spokesperson. “Rangers personnel reached the locations and business activities were resumed.”

Some traders complained of being caught in the crossfire. Shafiq, who owns a car repair shop in PIB Colony, said that some young men who claimed to be from a political party asked them to close their shop. “A few hours later, around noon, we were visited by officials of Sindh Rangers who asked us as to why we had kept our shops closed,” he said. “We are stuck in the middle. What are we supposed to do?”

Strike in Hyderabad

The MQM’s strike call drew insignificant support in Hyderabad where commercial and transport activities remained largely unaffected even in areas dominated by the party. Some commercial areas and shops in the City and Latifabad talukas remained shut but most of them resumed activities by noon.

“The use of the state’s power against MQM leadership and workers is a blatant conspiracy against the country,” said MQM Hyderabad zone’s acting incharge, Muhammad Zafar Khan in the statement.

Speaker says Rangers wrote letter

Meanwhile, Sindh Assembly speaker Agha Siraj Durrani said that Rangers had written a letter to him to take MPA Kamran Farooqui into custody for interrogation. Talking to the media on Wednesday, Durrani said he referred the Rangers’ letter to Farooqui last month who sought 10 days’ time and did not contact again.

Withdrawal of strike call

After ‘appealing’ to traders, transporters and the general public to shut down their activities, the MQM, through a press release, appealed on Wednesday afternoon to resume their activities. The move came after the Rangers and police vowed to take action against forcible shutdown of the city.

After the strike call was taken back, MQM parliamentarians gathered outside Karachi Press Club, wearing black armbands as a sign of protest. Sattarthat Rangers officials refused to share the details of who they were looking for. “If they were looking for MPA Kamran Farooqui, I have not met him for the last three months,” he said.

He questioned why the Rangers DG has been refusing to establish contact with him since last night to answer him about why he was harassed. He remarked that the ‘so-called fear of MQM is being replaced by a fear of Rangers’.  He said that such policies are testing the patience of MQM members and that those devising these policies must learn a lesson from history to avoid giving birth to any untoward situation as in the past.