Violating lockdown orders: Karachi traders sent on 14-day judicial remand

A judicial magistrate on Thursday rejected a bail plea by Karachi traders and sent them to prison on a 14-day judicial remand day for violating the government’s lockdown orders imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus in the metropolis.

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Earlier in the day, authorities had presented six traders before a judicial magistrate for Karachi’s South district who were taken into custody a day earlier.

Police had arrested Hammad Poonawala, Muhammad Ahsan, Muhammad Khalil, Javed Abdul Shakoor, Malik Aqeel and Faisal Hasan Zai when they gathered in Karachi’s Garden area on Tuesday to ‘reopen’ markets in defiance of Sindh government orders.

The authorities had charged the accused of violating Section 144 and creating unrest.

Speaking to the media outside the court, trade body leader Arif Jeeva said traders were being crushed in the fight between Centre and province.

“In our meeting with the Sindh governor, it was decided we would resume business activities after we had presented our arguments,” he said. “We had presented a demo keeping in mind the government’s orders.”

He added, “We wanted to see how the SOPs put in place would work.”

“Instead of facilitating us, we are being arrested. I appeal to the chief minister to stop this treatment of traders,” he added.

According to Atif Billu, the leader of a wholesale chemist organisation, All-City Traders Alliance President Hammad Poonawala was taken away by police as shop owners began a demonstration against the lockdown which has barred them from running their businesses.

Billu said that Poonawala was trying to have the markets reopened as the traders were under a tremendous financial crunch. He had urged the government to devise a strategy under which the business community could resume operations.

Dispelling the notion that the traders were arrested, police had said that Poonwala and four others voluntarily handed themselves over to the police after shops were shut down for violating the lockdown.

Assistant Commissioner Asma Batool had said that the timber market has not been allowed to open, and clarified that no one has been arrested as of yet. She had added that police and Rangers were called to disperse the group of people who had gathered to protest in the market.

SP City Sameer Noor had also backed AC Batool’s statement, saying that no one has been arrested and that the traders had offered their arrest as a symbolic gesture to protest the closure of markets.

The ‘arrest’

Timber market traders had opened three shops, prompting a police contingent of the Napier police station to arrive. The police demanded that they shut down their outlets and refrain from violating the lockdown restrictions, upon which the traders protested and voluntarily sat in the police vehicle, saying, “Lock us up or let us resume work.”

Some businessmen claimed that they have been allowed to resume their work, while the police refuted these claims saying that no such orders were issued for these markets.

The police officers then summoned reinforcements to disperse the traders.

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