‘They were locked in and burnt alive!’
Text by Faraz Khan and Photo by Athar Hussain
KARACHI: At about 4:00 p.m. Tahir Plaza, which houses lawyers offices near the City Courts, was also subjected to arson and up to six bodies, including that of two woman, had to be taken out. There were conflicting reports on what happened.
“The media is witness to everything,” said the Karachi Bar Association’s Naeem Qureshi. “The mob threw petrol into the office on the sixth floor of Tahir Plaza and later they locked the gate from the outside.”
According to some reports, its main entrance was accessible and young men went in and set it on fire. The watchman switched the electricity off after there were reports that they tried to create the fire with a short circuit. No one standing outside on the street or at nearby buildings at first understood there was a fire because they were in their own panic. People were mostly in their offices as well. The police and rangers passed by and did not notice either. There was no smoke and only if one looked closely could one see flames from the windows.
Eventually, Karachi Police Chief Niaz Ahmed Siddiqui reached the scene along with the fire brigade, but the damage had been done.
The Malir Bar Association’s building was also set on fire along with Jehangir Kothari building off M.A. Jinnah Road. SHO Saddar Naeem Khan reached the scene and commented on how the people inside had not called the police first but fought with them after they arrived. No fatalities were reported from them and there were reports that the people extinguished the fires themselves as the fire brigade did not reach even three hours after. The main wooden gate was first set on fire. The people inside the building fought with the Rangers for not calling the fire brigade.
As aerial firing erupted, shops closed down across the city. All trade centers also shut down. The centre of the city was clamped down in a massive gridlock as traffic from II Chundrigar Road, MA Jinnah Road, Saddar and Clifton intersected near the defunct Hotel Metropole roundabout.
Lawyers were not violent: KBA president: KBA president Mehmoodul Hasan told Daily Times that the KBA was taking cognizance of the incident in Lahore and what happened to the former Sindh chief minister. “We are not responsible for any act of violence today,” he said. “We have done nothing.”
The attacks appeared to be coordinated and according to witnesses, as soon as the meeting ended a scuffle erupted between two groups of lawyers. Within minutes, the City Court premises was cordoned off by armed young men who took to main M.A. Jinnah Road as they pelted vehicles with stones and set others on fire.
Malir Bar Association’s Honorary Secretary Ashraf Samoon advocate said that up to 25 miscreants came to the building and started firing at members and the president. As the lawyers ran for shelter, the men torched the office and library. While fleeing the scene they also damaged parked cars and set a vehicle on fire.
The KBA’s Naeem Qureshi has claimed that his house in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, vehicle and 40 offices at Tahir Plaza were torched by activists from a political party during the riots.
The Fire brigade’s Abdul Waheed said that they did not have any information about Qureshi’s house being set on fire. Another man was killed in a shoot-out at Khudadad Colony within the jurisdiction of Brigade police station. He was taken to Civil hospital where he was identified as Nadeem Shah, 28. He was the driver of a passenger bus and had been trying to resist a mob that wanted to set his vehicle on fire.