- Salmaan Taseer’s 5th death anniversary
Life in provincial capital Lahore came to a halt on Wednesday as police put up blockades on all major roads in the city to avoid any untoward incident as clerics took out rallies to ‘celebrate’ former Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer’s death at the hands of a religious zealot.
City District Government Lahore had given no prior notification of blockades, leading to massive traffic jams. People had to wait in long queues for hours as mullahs kept on blaring sermons on loudspeakers. The situation eased a bit long after sunset, around 9pm, when protesters belonging to the Sunni Tehreek, Tehreek-i-Khatme Nabuwat and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah started dispersing.
Meanwhile, Punjab Police arrested over 100 clerics who attempted to hold a rally in Gulberg area of the city. The clerics were allowed to hold a rally on Mall Road but not in the area of Gulberg. Heavy police contingents were deployed at Kalma Chowk and roads were blocked with containers in various parts of the city. Metro Bus Service was suspended after a few mullahs and their followers entered its track.
Law enforcement agencies, along with Lahore’s traffic police, placed containers and barriers on major streets and roads of the city’s different areas Wednesday morning. The purpose was to create an exclusive route for the planned protest by the Tahafuz Namoos-e-Risalat on the death anniversary of slain former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer.
Activists of the civil society gathered last year with banners, portraits and candles at Liberty Roundabout to mark the death anniversary of Salmaan Taseer. A group of extremists attacked the members of the civil society injuring a number of them. Subsequently, an Anti-Terror Court gave five of the seven mentioned in the FIR a 16 years and 6 months jail term.
Sources say that the Tahafuz Namoos-e-Risalat this year planned to occupy the Liberty Roundabout and stop any such vigil to be held. As a result, the Jinnah Flyover starting from Cavalry up to Centre Point was blocked, Liberty was blocked by containers from all entry points and containers were placed along the signal-free Main Boulevard starting from Jail Road all the way up to Kalma Chowk.
The former governor was shot dead by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, on January 4, 2011, after Taseer had openly defended a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, who was accused of blasphemy.
Mumtaz Qadri was executed at the Adiala Jail on February 29, 2016. The execution resulted in massive protests across the country. The protests on the issue linger on till date.
A protest was also held by the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah. This rally started from Data Darbar and made its way to Punjab Assembly and Charring Cross, to finally head towards Liberty to join the other group.
The massive protest resulted in massive traffic jams along major arteries of Lahore’s road network. Talking to Pakistan Today, a witness attempting to reach Kalma Chowk by car said, “It looks as if there is a very serious security threat in the city. I have never seen key locations of the city being locked down like this during peak rush hours.”