Protests and rallies against the anti-Islam film turned violent on Friday as 15 people, including activists of the Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat and three policemen were killed, while cinemas, banks, police posts, foreign fast food chains and several vehicles were torched by miscreants.
With public property being burnt to ashes and casualties increasing by the minute on the day declared Yaum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool by the government, the violence brought back the nightmarish memories of December 27, 2007, when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated.
The day started off on a quiet note; however, things turned violent just after Jumma prayers when rallies from various parts of the city started marching towards the Karachi Press Club and the US Consulate. The first signs of violence occurred at the Native Jetty Bridge and soon the trouble spread to other parts of the city including MA Jinnah Road, Sultanabad and PIDC, where events took an unpleasant turn as the police tear-gassed demonstrators heading towards the US Consulate.
The trouble at these rallies sparked off some of the worst violence in the city’s history as miscreants roamed the streets and apart from torching vehicles, these people looted and plundered at various areas.
Some of the major acts of arson were on the MA Jinnah Road, where armed men attacked the Capri, Prince, Nishat and Bambino cinemas and later torched the historic movie houses that had been showing films to the public for the last few decades. The witnesses of these scenes of devastation said that none of the law enforcement agencies dared to stop the criminals. The armed men later moved on to the Sindh Bank, which they looted and subsequently set ablaze.
Violence also erupted in the Kharadar where a Frontier Constabulary check post was torched. Over in the Quaidabad area, the Gulistan Cinema was set ablaze, while the the office of DC Malir was partially damaged. Two men, including a victim identified as Noor Mohammad, were shot dead in the area. Liaquatabad was not spared either with attacks on several vehicles. Also, a bank was torched in the PIB Colony area after it was robbed off its cash. Another two wine shops were burnt in the Zaman Town and Awami Colony police limits.
Meanwhile, a rally in the Shah Latif area was heading towards Sharea Faisal when it was tear-gassed by law enforcement officials. During the mayhem, armed gunmen managed to make their way into the rally and their firing resulted in injures to at least nine people. There were reports that an Inspector named Ali Hasan Sheikh was injured in the same attack.
The violent protests spread to Mauripur, Lea market, Tower, Sultanabad and PIDC where a number of public and private properties were damaged and the chaos in these area resulted in the death of two policemen.
Police sources said that another protest rally was on it way to the American Consulate where an officer of the Manghopir Traffic Station had been deployed for duty. Gunmen also managed to infiltrate their way into this rally and fired at Sub-Inspector Illyas, who was later shifted to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and pronounced dead.
The sources added that the police also battled with miscreants in the Sohrab Goth and Sachal areas which resulted in the death of Police Constable Amir Hussain of the Ayub Goth station. There were further reports that a man identified as Akber Ali was shot dead in the Sachal area.
Meanwhile, a protesting rally reached at Mauripur Road where there were further clashes between miscreants and law enforcers. The shootout resulted in injuries to several people, who were moved to the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), where two men identified as Sadaqatullah and Shakeel breathed their last.
In the Bolton Market area, miscreants torched an armoured personnel carrier (APC) and also burnt down an insurance company building near Tower. The violence reached the Governor House where gunmen attacked the police. The firing caused injuries to many people and the armed men torched three police vans parked outside the Governor House.
Criminal elements also entered the red zone and took the areas of Jackson, PIDC, Civil Lines and Artillery Maidan hostage and damaged property. The police were forced to control the situation by tear-gassing the miscreants.
These men tried to attack the Jackson police station and made an unsuccessful bid to snatch the official weapon of a policeman. However, there were other reports which suggested that the criminals did manage to snatch some sub-machine guns from police officials. The law enforcers said that firing resulted in the death of an unidentified man near the Keamari Post office.
Arsonists, meanwhile, torched the traffic section at the PIDC signal and later moved to the Sheraton Hotel, where they looted a carpet store and stole medicines from shops.
Not only did law enforcers fail to apprehend any of the fleeing troublemakers, but also saw the National Bank of Pakistan and Muslim Commercial Bank near PIDC looted of cash, computers and ATM machines under their noses. An international fast food restaurant in the area was torched after being robbed off its cash.
Further clashes at the Native Jetty Bridge saw several policemen and miscreants getting injured. Rescue teams were called in and they moved the injured to the CHK and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). The final battle of the day lasted till Friday evening near the PIDC and Natty Jetty Bridge as well as the Sultanabad area, where armed miscreants and law enforcers exchanged fire for several hours.
According to the CHK and private hospitals, the deceased were identified as PTI activists Abrar, Qari Khalid, Kashif from the Sultanabad area. Also, Rashid, Naveed, Mohammed Anees and Police Constable Tufail were brought dead from the Natty Jetty area, while Mohammed Samee, Saeed Akhtar, Sadaqatullah and Shakeel died in the Mauripur and Sultanabad areas.
Director JPMC Dr Seemi Jamali, while talking to media, confirmed that seven dead bodies were brought to the JPMC, while 83 injured people were being treatment at the hospital.
Dr Seemi said that some of the bodies were identified as Mohammed Arif, Mohammed Khan from Quaidabad, while Noor Rehman, Waseem Ahmed, Faiza Khatoon and one unidentified man were brought to the medical facility.
She added that a victim, Amjad, was brought to the hospital, but he died during treatment. Till going to press, the situated in various parts of the city remained tense. However, the police had yet to make a single arrest till the filing of this report.