–Labbaik continues to protest against Aasiya Bibi’s acquittal on second consecutive day
–Markets observe complete shutdown; city’s entry, exit points remain closed for security reasons
–CM says protection of people state’s prime responsibility
LAHORE: Life in the provincial capital on Thursday continued to be paralysed at the hands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) workers, who protested against the acquittal of Aasiya Bibi, a Christian who was sentenced to death in a blasphemy case.
Country-wide protests by the TLP have continued against the Supreme Court’s verdict since Wednesday when demonstrations were held simultaneously at different spots on TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi’s call, in a grave violation of section 144 that the provincial government had imposed.
On Thursday, TLP-led protests continued across the province on the second day. The main sit-in being staged in Lahore at Faisal Chowk outside the Punjab Assembly resulted in the closure of a majority of nearby routes, however, unlike Wednesday, the roads wore a deserted look as people stayed at homes.
The local transport in Lahore, including Metro Bus Service, Speedo Service and Lahore Transport Company bus service also remained closed due to which there was less attendance in the government and private offices.
Tyres were set ablaze and the mob resorted to damaging buses in Delhi Gate, Chitta Gate, Walton Road, Bhatta Chowk and Bedian Road areas.
The Mall from Alhamra Arts Council to Regale Chowk remained closed for any kind of traffic whereas traders and residents of the area were distressed because of the situation.
A complete shutdown was observed in all major markets of the city besides the closure of all public and private sector educational institutions. Exams, including those of University of Punjab, Allama Iqbal Open University, Punjab Board and tests of the Public Service Commission were also postponed.
A number of shopkeepers were also seen taking advantage of the situation by raising the prices of necessary food items, including vegetables and fruits.
Pakistan Today was informed that the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, at present, had reduced as a result of the closure of routes and subsequent reduction of supply to city vendors. “On a daily basis, the vegetables being brought into the city include 600 tons of potatoes, 600 tons of onions, 250 tons tomatoes whereas the number of other vegetables, including carrots, reddish, lettuce, cauliflower, spinach, peas, green chilies, mustard leaf, collard greens and fenugreek was around 450 tons.”
Similarly, they said, the quantity of fruits being brought into the city included 500 tons of bananas, 250 tons of apples, 400 tons of oranges, 100 tons of pomegranates, 50 tons of Japanese fruits and 20 tons of grapes. “Owing to the protests, the supply has been reduced,” sources added. They were of the view that this was the reason why vendors were giving a hard time to the buyers.
Meanwhile, cellular network services remain suspended in several parts of the city as well.
All of the provincial capital’s entry and exit points, including Shahdara, Saghian, Babu Sabu and Thokar Niaz Baig, were also sealed due to security reasons; however, the motorway was opened for traffic after 17 hours of negotiations.
Sources informed Pakistan Today that no cases were heard at courts and prisoners were also not transported amid the protests.
Among other affected areas were the Ferozepur Road, Ghazi Chowk, Ravi Road, Kahna Kachha, Chungi Amar Sadhu, Shahdara Chowk, Data Darbar, Boota Mahal Chowk, Qartaba Chowk, Samanabad, Mozang, Icchra and Raiwind Road to name a few.
The GT [Grand Trunk] Road was also reportedly blocked by the mob.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar said the protection of life and property of the people was the prime responsibility of the state and reiterated the government’s resolve to fulfil this obligation.
“No one can be allowed to disrupt the daily life of citizens,” he said while presiding a high-level meeting to review law and order situation in the provincial metropolis and other parts of Punjab.
The chief minister directed officials concerned to take every possible step to ensure a smooth flow of life in the province and said there should be no hindrance in this regard.
“The government is cognisant of the troubles faced by the general public due to the closure of traffic; therefore, alternate routes should be identified and citizens should also be informed about it so that their troubles can be minimised.”
Implementation of law will be ensured at every cost and it will come into action in case of any violation, he said further.
“Pakistan belongs to all of us and we will take every possible step to protect the life and property of the people along with ensuring maintenance of peace in the society.”
Earlier, the chief minister was briefed about the general law and order situation and the flow of traffic in the province. Provincial Law Minister Raja Basharat, Punjab chief secretary, IGP [Inspector General of Police], additional chief secretary (Home) and other officials concerned attended the meeting.
IGP Amjad Javed Saleemi requested the masses to not take law in their own hands and informed the police in cases of any violations.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZUBAIR MEHFOOZ