The traffic situation across country is continuing to head towards normalcy despite countrywide protests by hardliner Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
According to reports, while the sit-ins are likely to continue even today and maybe later, the protests will be confined to certain areas in every city.
It may be noted that the protests come amid the third wave of COVID-19, however, authorities remain reluctant to calm the hardliners down.
WHY ARE PROTESTS BEING HELD?
Countrywide protests erupted on Monday after security forces detained TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi in Lahore.
According to a news outlet, a senior police official also confirmed that Rizvi had been taken into custody as a “pre-emptive measure” ahead of the party’s April 20 deadline. However, no first information report (FIR) against Saad Rizvi has been registered so far.
TLP leader Syed Zaheerul Hassan Shah, in a video message, confirmed Saad’s arrest and said the government had “completely deviated from” the agreement it had reached with his party regarding Namoos-i-Risalat. “The government has resorted to thuggery (gunda gardi) and is restoring its past practices.”
Shah called upon party leaders and workers to “come out on the roads” in their areas in protest against the government action.
“Carry out protest demonstrations on roads and wherever you are, jam the entire country,” he told them in the message.
Following the development, protests erupted in multiple cities of the country.
It bears mentioning that, last year, TLP supporters had brought Islamabad to a standstill for three days with a series of anti-France rallies.
Police blocked the demonstrators as they attempted to enter the capital. Some chanted that the only punishment for a blasphemer was beheading, police official Tauqeer Shah said.
The protesters attacked the police with bricks, stones and sticks, he added. They were pictured blocking the road into Pakistan’s capital.
“Several of our officers were injured,” he said, adding that nearly 2,000 protesters had camped at the main entrance to the city, refusing to leave.
Karachi’s II Chundrigar Road, MA Jinnah Road and their surrounding areas, including the road connecting Tower to the Governor House, was left jam-packed with vehicles due to the protest.
Other roads were also blocked in the port city, including Baldia No. 4 Hub River Road, Northern Bypass, Orangi Town No. 5, Jinnah Bridge (traffic blocked from ICI towards Jinnah Bridge), Star Gate.
Police dispersed protesters from Star Gate to allow the flow of traffic to return to normal.
Moreover, it emerged that at least one officer was injured in Orangi Town No. 5 after the protesters began pelting stones at the police.
ISLAMABAD & RAWALPINDI:
In Islamabad, Athal Chowk was forced into closing, which created problems for citizens. Protests also broke out in Bhara Kahu and roads leading to Murree and Azad Kashmir from the federal capital were also blocked for traffic.
Protesters were also seen chanting slogans on Murree Road.
Moreover, the entry points for the twin cities were closed down, leading to more problems.
TLP workers were seen stone-pelting and forcing travellers to stop their cars at Committee Chowk in Rawalpindi.
Workers of the party also climbed atop the Liaquat Bagh metro bus station, while traffic blockages were reported from across the city.
In Lahore, the traffic flow was disrupted in several areas and on multiple roads.
The roads blocked by TLP workers included the following: Faletti Chowk towards Faisal Chowk; High Court Chowk towards Regal Chowk; Avari Chowk towards Governor House Chowk (now opened); Corporation Chowk Outfall Road; Yateem Khana Chowk; Khayaban Chowk; Muhafiz Town towards Thokkar Chowk EME Road; Darogawala Chowk towards Quaid-e-Azam Interchange (both sides); Chungi Amarsadhu towards Kasur (both sides); Shahdara Chowk from all four sides; Shadbagh; Joray Pul Zarar Shaheed Road; Barki Road; Bhatta Chowk Bedian Road; Walton Road; Canal Road; Cup store Misrishah; Harbanspura Interchange (slip roads); Shalimar Chowk towards Ghas Mandi; Quaid-e-Azam Interchange to Niazi Shaheed Interchange on Ring Road; Bagriyan Chowk; and Sundar Road.
Protests in Multan led to beefing up of the security as the TLP workers blocked the road link between Multan and different cities of southern Punjab.
Reports of protests from Jhelum and Naushahro Feroze were also received.
TLP member Khalid Awan told a local news outlet that the government had “turned back on its promise” to expel the French ambassador by April 20 and took Rizvi into custody.
“We will not step back from our mission because of Saad Rizvi’s arrest,” he said.
In Feburary, the federal government and TLP had agreed to table the TLP demands in the Parliament, which would decide the matter. At the time, the TLP had extended its deadline from February to April 20.
According to the document signed on January 11, 2021, the TLP had signed an agreement with the PTI government on November 16, 2020, which could not be implemented.
“The government and TLP were in talks for the past one month as the government resolved to implement it. It has been agreed that the federal government would table the agreement in the Parliament by April 20 and decisions would be taken with a nod of the parliament,” the agreement said.
The agreement had said that those TLP leaders whose names had been registered in the fourth schedule would be absolved. The agreement had said that the agreement would stand cancelled if any clause of the agreement is violated. The document had said that the prime minister would formally announce the deal which would be implemented amicably.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan also announced the agreement on Thursday during a TV interview, saying that the government negotiators had successful talks with the leadership of TLP and it had been agreed to extend its deadline of February to April 20.