–Commuters, especially women, suffer amid traffic gridlocks on major roads, lack of public transport
–Protest in govt-declared ‘red zone’ challenges writ of state yet again
LAHORE: Hundreds of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) activists on Monday staged a protest at Faisal Chowk – the erstwhile Charing Cross – of The Mall against alleged rigging carried out in the July 25 polls and left citizens, especially commuters and traders, suffering owing to the traffic mess and closure of markets.
During the protest rally from Data Darbar to Faisal Chowk, commuters were seen detouring to reach their destination, also causing minor gridlocks on all adjacent routes. Taimoor, a biker stuck at Lawrence Road, while speaking to Pakistan Today, said that he was unaware of the protest rally and could only cover a single kilometer distance within half an hour.
“This is terrible. No one is concerned about what a common man has to face amid such a mess,” added the exasperated citizen.
With other commuters also being left extremely frustrated after law enforcers sealed Shaarey Fatima Jinnah, Lawrence Road and other adjoining roads, minor clashes between the motorists, who had lost their temper in the day-long traffic mess, were also witnessed.
Several ambulances were also seen finding a way out of the traffic congestion in a bid to rush patients to nearby hospitals, while a number of women were found suffering due to the rally as they failed to find any transport back home. Others were observed stuck in their vehicles, waiting for the rally to conclude.
Traders were also seen complaining as they had been forced to shut their shops situated on The Mall.
Amid the sufferings of the people, deployed police personnel seemed helpless. On inquiring, they informed that they had received orders from the high ups to take strict security measures.
Repeated attempts were made to also contact DIG Operations as well as the police spokesperson, but they were unavailable.
According to Traffic Police spokesperson Hammad Raza, the police was concerned about the ordeal commuters were facing. Speaking to this scribe, he said that several roads in the city, which intersected the under construction Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) route, had added to the traffic mess caused by the protest.
TLP CHIEF DEMANDS ECP CHAIRMAN’S RESIGNATION:
Meanwhile, TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, at the rally, demanded the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) chairman and other officials of the election watchdog resign over their “inability to hold free and fair elections”.
He said that the polls had been marred by “worst rigging in the history of the country” and his party would not stay silent in the face of “injustice”.
WRIT OF STATE CHALLENGED AGAIN:
The protest by TLP, which caused an intolerable nuisance to the residents and the commuters, once again challenged the government’s writ of declaring the spot a “red zone”.
Punjab Home Department on April 7 had banned all kinds of protests, demonstrations, sit-ins and rallies at The Mall. A notification was also issued in this regard, which is still valid.
“A number of sensitive installations/buildings including Punjab Provincial Assembly, Governor House, Lahore High Court, 90-Shahra-e-Qaid-e-Azam, State Bank of Pakistan are located on Mall Road. Threat alerts about the possibility of terrorist attacks on these vital and sensitive installations are received from different intelligent sources quite frequently keeping in view the overall security situation in the wake of ongoing war against terrorism,” read the notification.
Moreover, the banning of all such activities was announced following the suffering of citizens commuting to and from Mall Road, while also adding to the problems of the business community as a score of business centers are located in the vicinity.
It is pertinent to mention here the Lahore High Court (LHC) had banned protests on Mall Road in 2011 through an order on a petition filed by merchants with shops in the vicinity of the major thoroughfare. However, it has never been followed and even mainstream political parties such as PTI, PAT, TLP and other groups have held protests, let along demonstrations by doctors, nurses, clerks, teachers, milkmen, traders and peasants.