LAHORE: Activists from various religious parties thronged the Faisal Chowk (Charing Cross Chowk) on Mall Road on Saturday afternoon on the call of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi on the social media following the government’s crackdown on the participants of the protest sit-in at Faizabad Interchange in Islamabad on the orders of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Surprisingly, there was no police presence in the most sensitive location in Lahore which houses the Punjab Assembly, headquarters of the Lahore Police, and provincial headquarters of the country’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Violent protests erupted in most part of the countries, including Lahore, on Rizvi’s call after the Islamabad police and Frontier Constabulary (FC) launched an operation against TLYR supporters who had been occupying the Faizabad Interchange for more than two weeks.
The protesters in Lahore echoed the same demands as Islamabad protesters which included the sacking of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid and Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, execution of blasphemy convict Asiya Bibi among others.
Hundreds of protesters, including members of the Lahore Bar Association (LBA), carrying anti-Ahmedi placards and batons thronged the Faisal Chowk to register their protest against the operation in Islamabad.
Supreme Court Advocate Rafaqat Ali Kahlo told Pakistan Today at the scene of the protest that the government should give into Islamabad protesters’ demands and should make the names of all those involved in amending the election bill public.
The government has restored the bill to its original form, however, the advocate maintained that the lawmakers should publicise the findings of the enquiry and punish those responsible for “changing the oath regarding the finality of Prophethood” in the elections law.
“We are protesting for a cause which is greater than any country’s law,” said the lawyer, adding that staging a ‘peaceful’ demonstration is part of democracy.
Another advocate, Dilshad Ahmed Khan, said that they don’t care about the law when it comes to religion, referring to the Lahore High Court’s verdict which bars protest demonstrations at the Faisal Chowk.
“Khatm-e-Nabuwwat is more important than anything,” he added.
One of the protesters told Pakistan Today that they have gathered there in response to Khadim Hussain Rizvi’s call on Facebook, following which Twitter, Facebook and Youtube were shut down in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, one of the commuters said that he has no problem with the protest as they are protesting for a “sacred” cause, adding that the protest is not just Tehreek-e-Labaik’s protest.
Another protester, Abdur Rahim Shah, said that they were protesting in the name of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), adding that “the cause is bigger than anything”.
The protesters were also of the view that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid should resign as the former is “friends with Ahemdis” while the latter “is an Ahmadi”.
The protesters later cordoned off the Mall Road using police barricades and refused to let citizens pass, causing inconvenience to commuters and residents of the area.
“The government should immediately get Faisal Chowk vacated from these religious zealots otherwise they will occupy it just like Faizabad Interchange. It seems there is no rule of law and writ of the state in Pakistan,” said Muhammad Anwar, a disgruntled commuter who was harassed by the baton-wielding religious activists manning the barricades on Shahray Fatima Jinnah.
Lahore CCPO, DIG (Operations) were unavailable for comments despite repeated attempts.
Photos by Zubair Mehfooz