—Religious party workers protest against Aasiya Bibi’s acquittal as security beefed up
—Life paralysed across country as traffic disrupted, roads blocked in various cities
—Section 144 imposed in Punjab, Sindh, Islamabad
LAHORE: The protests by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) workers against the acquittal of Christian blasphemy convict Aasiya Bibi on Wednesday paralysed daily life in various cities of the country and led to massive traffic jams and serious inconvenience to the passengers.
On October 13, TLP chief Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi had threatened to “paralyse the country within hours if the Supreme Court set Aasiya Bibi free”.
To ensure security, cellphone service was made unavailable in certain parts of the country. Section 144 was imposed across Punjab, Sindh and the federal capital. Moreover, pillion riding has been banned in Sindh for 10 days.
The protesters burnt tires and stopped commuters at various places, besides shutting down some markets.
No serious incidents of violence were reported as security was beefed up at important places. Moreover, hospitals were put on high-alert to deal with any untoward situation arising out of the protests.
Intra and inter-city travelling was seriously disrupted as protesters blocked key roads and highways, stranding the passengers for long durations.
In Lahore, TLP workers have been holding a sit-in at Charing Cross in Lahore, causing the traffic to halt. The workers of the far-right party have also been holding a sit-in at Data Darbar since Tuesday night.
According to the Punjab Safe Cities Authority, protests were being carried out at 25 different locations, effectively blocking roads and paralysing vehicular traffic across the city.
Affected areas included Ferozpur Road, Ghazi Chowk, Ravi Road, Kahna Kachha, Chungi Amar Sadhu, Shahdara Chowk, Data Darbar, Boota Mahal Chowk, Raiwind Road, Babu Sabu Interchange and several other areas.
The Lahore-Islamabad Motorway was blocked at Sheikhupura, besides the GT Road.
Lahore DIG Operations Waqas Nazir ordered to beef up security in the provincial capital and asked all the divisional SPs to visit sensitive places and installations of their respective areas and review the security arrangements.
He directed the officials of Dolphin and Police Response Unit (PRU) to ensure patrolling on important roads of the city.
The DIG said that strict action would be taken against those who take law in their hands. “No one will be allowed to disturb the law and order situation,” he added.
He also directed the officials of Anti-riot Unit to remain high alert on important roads of the city.
The federal government sent Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri along with Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Muhammad Mehboob Sultan to Lahore by a special helicopter to negotiate with Khadim Rizvi to end his protest.
Furthermore, the flight schedule at Allama Iqbal International Airport was affected due to protests in the city as flights were delayed and passengers were finding it difficult to reach the airport due to roads being blocked.
According to airport management, flights to Karachi, Jeddah and Dammam were delayed.
Hundreds of protestors hailing from TLP, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) and Sunni Tehreek gathered at Aabpara Market, Faizabad Interchange, Blue Area, IJP Road, Kashmir Highway, National Press Club, Shakrial, Bara Kahu and other areas.
The roads from Dhokri Chowk towards Constitution Avenue and Old Parade ground were also blocked while heavy deployment was made around Faizabad. The protestors also blocked roads from Rawat to Faizabad at various points and those commuting between twin cities on daily basis faced tough situation and heavy traffic blockage to reach their destinations.
Rawalpindi-Islamabad Metro Bus connecting the twin cities was closed in the wake of protests. Diplomatic Zone and Red Zone were sealed by police and additional forces of Rangers were deputed at entry/exit points of capital.
Security in the federal capital Wednesday had put on high-alert to thwart any untoward incident, a police source said.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Syed Muhammad Amin Bukhari, he said, had directed senior officials to ensure elaborate security arrangements in their respective jurisdictions to avoid any untoward incident.
Traffic had been blocked at 14 points across the metropolis as protests were being staged. Traffic had been blocked at Do Talwar, Korangi, on two points at Shahrah-e-Faisal, Shahrah-e-Pakistan, Orangi Town, Numaish and Liaquatabad.
According to Karachi traffic police, traffic was blocked at both sides of the road on Lyari Expressway from Karachi to Hyderabad and at Shahra-e-Faisal near Star Gate.
Tower road was closed for traffic with diversions from Jinnah Bridge towards MT Khan Road, MA Jinnah Road towards Baba-e-Urdu Chowk and II Chundrigar Road towards University Centre.
Both sides of the road on Numaish Chowk were also closed for traffic.
In Peshawar, protests were being staged at the Ring Road, GT Road, Jamil Chowk, and outside the Peshawar Press Club (PPC).
Moreover, the Sindh government issued a high-security alert notification directing the security troops to protect areas that are under threat and “to avoid any untoward incident or law and order situation in all districts of Sindh”.
Protesters in Sargodha forced people to close shops and businesses before holding a protest sit-in at 12 Block Chowk. Sheikhupura, Kamonki, Kasur and other districts were shut down completely.
Protests were also staged in Gujranwala, Layyah, Chishtian, Mansehra, Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, and other cities across the country.
SCHOOLS TO REMAIN CLOSED:
In wake of the situation arising out of the protests, the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) governments have decided to keep the schools closed on Thursday.
All Pakistan Private Schools and Colleges Association (APPSCA) has also decided that all the private institutions across the country would remain closed.
“Keeping in view law and order situation in Pakistan, APPSCA has announced that all private institutions in Pakistan will remain closed on Thursday,” said APPSCA Central President Malik Abrar Hussain.
The association also called on the Sindh Education Department to announce the closure of schools.
However, the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training decided that the educational institutes will remain open on Thursday.
The spokesperson of the education ministry said that all the educational activities will continue as usual and no educational institutes running under Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) will be closed on Thursday.