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‘They threatened to break our legs’

‘They threatened to break our legs’

By Urooj Zia (Pakistan Today; 01 January 2011)

KARACHI: If the city appeared unusually deserted on Friday, it wasn’t necessarily because everyone concerned was protesting blasphemy law amendments tabled in the National Assembly by former federal information minister Sherry Rehman.

When shopkeepers tried to open for business and pushcart vendors set out their wares in the morning, they were visited by young men who told them to shut everything down, and for good measure, also threatened to “break [their] legs” if they tried to reopen after the men had left. “We don’t really care about these issues – blasphemy or not, it is up to those in power to decide. But we like our legs unbroken,” one pushcart vendor told Pakistan Today.

Many others, including rickshaw and taxi drivers, had similar stories. They started coming back to their regular stands only after Friday prayers when Rangers personnel were posted nearby. “I’d like to see who breaks whose legs now,” Rehman, a taxi driver, said with a grin.

“We’d heard about these threats, but they’re nothing new,” Rangers personnel posted near Lalukhet said. “Everyone who announces a strike does it. Every political party in Karachi is armed. At the end of the day, people are forced to follow their diktats whether they want to or not. We try to provide protection, but we can’t be everywhere, in every nook and cranny of the city, can we?”

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