2007 Karachi riots
||The lead section of this article may need to be rewritten. (May 2013)|
On 12 May 2007, riots erupted across Karachi, capital of the province of Sindh and the most populous city in Pakistan. During the riots city roads were blocked, cars burned and hundreds of people were injured, killed and arrested, most of them political workers. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Awami National Party (ANP) members fought with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The most recent reports of the incident also included a death count that rose to as high as forty-three people. MQM, the coalition partner in the provincial government, announced a rally on the same day as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) announced a rally to welcome Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in Karachi. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was coming to address the city bar association on the 50th anniversary of establishment of the Sindh High Court Bar Association.
- 1 Tension between Chaudhry and Musharraf
- 2 Chaudhry Iftikhar's speaking tour across Pakistan
- 3 Jinnah International Airport
- 4 Aaj Television Network Attacked
- 5 Media ban
- 6 Sources of contention
- 7 General strike and national holiday
- 8 Shooting of Syed Hammad Raza
- 9 Uneasy peace
- 10 Kidnapping of Syed Mohammad Iqbal Kazmi
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Tension between Chaudhry and Musharraf
Chaudhry had been suspended from his post as Chief Justice by President Pervez Musharraf on 9 March 2007 for alleged misconduct. Musharraf's actions led to a degree of unrest in Pakistan — both with regards to the validity of the allegations, as well as doubt as to whether Musharraf actually had the power to suspend, the Chief Justice under the circumstances.
There had been previous conflict between Chaudhry and Musharraf, specifically with regard to the Pakistan Steel Mills case in which Chaudhry ruled against the sale of Pakistan's state-run steel mills at a "throw-away price".
During his time on the bench, Chaudhry also presided over the controversial "forced disappearance" cases. These were charges brought by families that believed their relatives to be taken by intelligence agencies without due process. Human rights groups say that at least 400 people are suspected to have been detained secretly by these agencies since 2001.
Chaudhry Iftikhar's speaking tour across Pakistan
Leading up to the freedom of Judiciary, Chaudhry had been speaking at cities across Pakistan, with his most recent visit being to the city of Lahore. During his final speech before riots, the major focus of his rhetoric was that the government had "no right" to impose laws violating "basic human rights".
In this speech he went on to say, "Those countries and nations who don’t learn from the past and repeat those mistakes [will be] destroyed," At the meeting, banners supporting the independence of the judiciary and denouncing Musharraf hung on boundary walls surrounding the compound. Chaudhry’s vehicle was showered with rose petals as he stopped to greet supporters, and people pushed close to get a glimpse of him. The authorities made no effort to stop the caravan, although opposition parties have since claimed that political workers were arrested during the procession.
The city as his plane landed at approximately midday at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. These fires later spread to the main Shahrah-e-Faisal Road connecting the airport with the Sindh High Court. Smoke arose from at least four areas of the city, as rioters burned cars, buses and trucks.' During the rampage, it was mostly the supporters of Chaudhry who lost their lives. 15 members of Awami National Party (ANP) were killed (Pashtuns make up second largest ethnic group in Karachi with 7.0 millions pashtuns live in karachi). 14 supporters of PPP were also left dead in the massacre.
More than 800 political workers were arrested, majority of whom were members of labor and student organizations that had been planning to greet Chaudhry on his arrival.
Jinnah International Airport
The Chief Justice was stationed at the Jinnah International Airport and had been unable to leave due to violence and road-blocks established around his location, as well as fears that his leaving may have precipitated further bloodshed. In accommodation, the government agreed to send a helicopter to transport him out of the airport, but Chaudhry refused, indicating that he wished to travel by ground. Ultimately, Chaudhry would not compromise on this issue and returned to Islamabad, stating that he was unwilling to leave the airport without sufficient security as well as his cadré of lawyers. According to Munir A. Malik, one of the chief justice's lawyers, Musharraf's offer to transport Chaudhry by helicopter was actually an attempt to "kidnap" him.
Aaj Television Network Attacked
Much of the violence centered around Aaj TV, A Pakistani news network that covered many of the recent disputes between Chief Justice Chaudhry and President Musharraf. According to reports, a huge mob of armed men surrounded the Aaj TV building as its parking lot was set ablaze and similar infernos raged throughout the city. The network was telecasting live footage of armed men brandishing guns in front of its offices and firing on rivals in an adjacent neighborhood. As the telecast continued, the armed men turned their guns on the Aaj TV building.
The chief executive of Aaj TV, Asif Zuberi, said in regard to the attacks, "Our cameramen were shooting the rally procession when the armed gunmen started to fire indiscriminately at our office. No security was sent to us though the firing went on for six hours.The Aaj TV building came under fire from armed men who wanted the airing of live footage of the unrest in the city stopped.
No one was hurt during the attacks, and the network remained on the air.
As inquiries on 12th may could not proceed further, which were tabled in the Sindh High Court, and was to be probed by the seven-member bench, the MQM was left free of any accusition. The chief executive of Aaj TV, say that “The Aaj TV building came under fire from armed man who wanted the airing of live footage of the unrest in the city stopped,”.
On 9 May 2007, the Pakistani government issued a media ban on discussion of the suspension of Chaudhry by Musharraf. Journalist organizations protested the ban, responding that the goal of the media was to cover, not contribute, to the current controversy. The government in response agreed to issue special passes for reporters and lawyers to attend the presidential reference filed against the Chief Justice.
Sources of contention
. Human Rights Watch, a non-government affiliated human rights watch dog based in New York City, recently issued a statement indicating that "This [violence] can either be due to the incompetence of the government, or its complicity." Their statement went on, "The sequence of events leading up to this violence, including statements from the provincial authorities and the arrest of hundreds of opposition activists in the last few days, indicates that the government, acting through its coalition partners, has deliberately sought to foment violence in Karachi." 
According to documents obtained by the BBC after the event, government security measures on the day of the planned demonstrations included the instruction that "no police personnel should carry any kind of weapon during the law and order duty with the rally".
Of note, among police officials were deployed for security duties in Karachi, only 21 in the entire city were armed. BBC analysts have indicated that the way police were deployed indicates that they were meant to prevent people from gaining access to the airport or to the Sindh High Court.
General strike and national holiday
On 14 May 2007, opposition parties called for a general strike in Lahore, paralyzing the city and protesting the government response to the riots. 8,000 people, including lawyers and human rights activists, chanted "Out with Musharraf!" and "Death to Altaf Hussain!" In addition, protestors burned effigies of Musharraf and hundreds forced their way through a police barricade.
Authorities responded by banning demonstrations and declaring a national holiday. Shops were closed and public transportation was shut down in the country’s major cities. It is the largest strike in Pakistan since Musharraf assumed his presidency in 1999, with much of the unrest stemming from news reports that government troops were in Karachi,
Shooting of Syed Hammad Raza
During the early evening of 13 May, Syed Hammad Raza, a senior official in Pakistan's Supreme Court, was shot dead at approximately 4:30 p.m. near his home in Islamabad. Mr. Raza was a close associate of Chaudhry. Chaudhry visited Shabana Raza, Syed Raza's widow, in condolence that night. According to Reuters, Mrs. Raza told Chaudhry: "You called him to Islamabad — you should have protected him, and now my children need protection as well.”
According to one of Chaudhry's lawyers, Tariq Mehmood, "[Raza] was witness to many things. [For example] the chief justice said in his petition that some files were removed from his chamber on the day he was suspended.... He was under pressure." Mehmood declined further comment.
An editorial in The Daily Times, a leading newspaper in Lahore, wrote “The possibility of any compromise to correct the original mistake of Musharraf removing the C.J.P. has vanished now.... The ante has been upped by the government.”
On the evening of 14 May 2007, Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim said at a press conference that the situation in Karachi city was under control and no serious incidents of violence had taken place that day despite fears to the contrary. During a press conference, the Chief Minister indicated that the opposition parties had not sought permission from the provincial government for holding the 12 May 2007 rallies in Karachi, but that general elections would still be held in Pakistani as scheduled in a few months. At the same press conference, Rahim also indicated that Salimullah Khan of Jamia Farooqia University had recently been arrested, although he declined to state why.
The city had been calmer the day following the riots, with security forces in armored personnel carriers and pickup trucks with mounted machine guns patrolling mostly peaceful and deserted streets. Tensions were still high, however, with the government authorizing paramilitary troops to shoot anyone involved in 'serious' violence.
Kidnapping of Syed Mohammad Iqbal Kazmi
Civil Rights activist Iqbal Kazmi was kidnapped by some unknown person but was later freed on the condition that he and his family would leave Karachi. Kazmi had filed petitions in the Sindh High Court on 12 May violence and the new Pemra ordinance in which major political and government figures were named as respondents.
The list include Sindh Chief Minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim, federal Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah, MQM chief Altaf Hussain, the Sindh CM’s Adviser on Home Affairs Waseem Akhtar, Chief Secretary Shakeel Durrani, Home Secretary Ghulam M. Muhtaram Naqvi, Provincial Police Officer Niaz A. Siddiqui, CCPO Azhar A. Farooqui, the SHO City Courts police station, SHO Jamshed Quarters, and others.
- Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
- Awami National Party
- Muttahida Qaumi Movement
- Pervez Musharraf
- Altaf Hussain
- Jinnah International Airport
- Aaj Television Network
- Pakistan Peoples Party
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