KARACHI, Feb 28: Police and Rangers resorted to a baton charge and fired teargas shells and warning shots to disperse dozens of protesters, who took to the roads in different parts of the city on Monday when they were denied petrol at fuel stations due to a petroleum dealers’ strike, police and witnesses said.
The violent episodes on Sharea Faisal, the Rashid Minhas Road intersection with Stadium Road and Nazimabad forced the political leadership to intervene, causing petroleum dealers to call off the strike.
Earlier, the hour-long standoff between the police, along with the paramilitary Rangers, and charged protesters caused traffic jams on major roads and panic in the neighbouring residential areas amid frequent gunshots and teargas shelling.
The protest emerged as a spontaneous reaction by the drivers of private and public transport against the closure of petrol stations, as several drivers despite their desperate attempts could not fuel their vehicles and had to abandon the vehicles on roads.
Quite a few of them were heard chanting pro-revolution slogans at almost all the demonstration sites.
“There must be hundreds of vehicles which piled up in less than an hour outside petrol pumps on Sharea Faisal between Colony Gate and Natha Khan bus stops,” said Asad Masood, a motorcyclist who was stranded along with many others on the thoroughfare after running short of fuel.
“A few ambulances were also seen stuck, which provoked some charged youngsters into chanting slogans against the government and petroleum dealers and blockade the road.”
Almost the same scene was witnessed outside the fuel stations along Rashid Minhas Road, M.A. Jinnah Road, Sharea Pakistan and in Golimar areas.
The situation turned ugly on Sharea Faisal and at the Rashid Minhas Road intersection with Stadium Road where the protesters refused to leave their positions even after almost an hour.
The police claimed they moved in only when some ‘miscreants’ fired shots to keep the law enforcers at distance.
“We first tried our level’s best to show restraint so that they could lodge their protest in a peaceful way, but they did not leave the place despite our repeated requests for more than an hour, which caused inconvenience to thousands of others on the roads and living nearby,” said SSP Javed Mehar of the Shah Faisal Town.
“A few miscreants hurled stones at policemen and fired multiple shots that led to police action.”
The police force backed by Rangers personnel fired teargas shells and resorted to a baton charge to break up the crowd on Sharea Faisal and at the Rashid Minhas Road intersection with Stadium Road.
The police said there was no serious damage to any property or individual nor had they arrested anyone for the breakdown of law and order.
“No one sustained injury during the police action. We have identified a few miscreants who ran away from the scene when the police moved in,” said SSP Mehar.
“No arrest has been made yet but an FIR would be registered against the miscreants who attempted to disturb the situation in the garb of protesters.”