Traffic chaos as capital’s main highway blocked for sixth day | Pakistan Today

Traffic chaos as capital’s main highway blocked for sixth day

  • No police official in uniform deployed visible in, around TLYR sit-in

ISLAMABAD: With nothing new, the Islamabad administration has abandoned the clerics to continue their protest without any hindrances as per their will, no matter what it cost to the citizens, it has been learnt.

With no police official in uniform deployed visible in and around the sit-in of Tehreek Labbaik Ya RasoolAllah (TLYR) rally protesters, and realising the inaction on the part of the government, the protesters have setup tents at Faizabad junction in an apparent move to further prolong their sit-in, which is resulting in immense sufferings of the people.

In a wait-and-see approach by the government, capital’s administration and police added misery to the commuters due to blockage of main roads for the sixth consecutive day and the protestors have now established their camps, pickets and starting policing at Faizabad interchange.

The capital administration had also blocked the mobile phone service in a 5-kilometres radiator from the Faizabad interchange. During his speech on Monday, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, cleric who is leading TLYR, said that the government landed in trouble the very same day they hanged Mumtaz Qadri – who murdered Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.

Since the government is busy in dealing with political developments, centralised in Lahore, the protesters continued blocking two highways and linked roads since weeks, literally paralysing routine life of the twin cities. Different pickets have been set up around the venue, which are being manned by the protesters to search and guide the in-comers.

It seems like the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration and the Islamabad police are trying to catch a black cat in a dark room as the TLYR rally leaders remain unconvinced last night to shift their protest to the parade ground. ICT official on the condition of anonymity said that the TLYR leaders were not demanding anything from the capital administration but from the government, so, the federal government should have to do something to reach to an understanding.

Ghulam Muhamamd, a commuter, said that he was unable to reach his office since one week. “Mobile service is also blocked in I-8 Markaz which left my family paralysed,” he said. It is noted that due to a few thousand protestors, traffic of twin cities was badly affected as both the sides of the Islamabad Expressway, Seventh Avenue, Murree Road, Kashmir Highway, Jinnah Avenue, State Bank Road towards Radio Pakistan roads were blocked for commuters.

The rally was held to protest a lack of punishment for those involved in making changes to the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat declaration for electoral candidates, which have already been reversed. The administration has already sealed the Red Zone except for one road open for the movement of the officials.

Ahmed Rana, a motor biker, said that it took two hours to him to reach his office in Blue Area every day from the Airport Society just because the government was not taking interest or action to disperse the protesters. There is a deadlock between the government and the TLYR leadership on the demand of resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

The roughly 2,000 protesters are demanding the resignation of the federal law minister over a hastily-abandoned amendment. Young men armed with clubs are searching anyone approaching the protest site and refusing to let vehicles pass, pelting those who come near with stones.

“I have been stuck up on the road for the last one and a half hours because of this mess,” said Adnan Iqbal, an employee of a pharmaceutical firm, from the traffic jam where he was late for work. The protesters acted after the government introduced an amendment which changed some wording in the blasphemy law.

The change — from “I believe” to “I solemnly swear” — did not alter the law, which carries the death penalty. The government has said the change was made inadvertently and quickly reversed it through another amendment. But the rightwing group insisted it was an attempt to water down the hugely sensitive legislation.

“The protesters have baseless demands. Authorities should deal (with) them with force and move them away from the road,” said Fayyaz Hussain, another commuter who had been struggling to reach his office for two hours Monday. Authorities were shying away from employing force despite the palpable anger of commuters and days of traffic delays.

“Use of force is no option at the moment,” senior Islamabad official Shoaib Ali said, adding that the priority was negotiations. But the protesters vowed to stay put. “Either the minister resigns or we are killed or arrested: we will not leave this place,” said Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, one of the group’s leaders.

Farid Sabri

The writer is a member of Pakistan Today's Islamabad bureau. He can be contacted at his email [email protected], and Twitter: @FaridSabri786

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