–Low turnout recorded on the streets
–MMA calls for review of SC’s decision of acquitting Aasia Bibi
LAHORE: Religious political parties held a ‘million march’ in Lahore on Thursday to protest against Aasia Bibi’s acquittal by the Supreme Court (SC) in a blasphemy case, thereby halting the routine life of citizens of Lahore as educational institutes and local businesses remained closed, and traffic remained jam-packed in different parts of the city.
While MMA had called for the religious groups to join the rally, many prominent religious figures, including Hafiz Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer, Maulana Amir Hamza, Khwaja Moeenuddin Koreja, Hafiz Raza Kazim, Maulana Allah Wasaya, Hafiz Abdul Ghaffar Ropari and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidari boycotted it. Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan-Noorani (JUP-N) also boycotted the rally. According to sources, JUP-N leader Maulana Abu Al Khabeer Zubair had personal issues with Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman because of which he did not participate in the rally.
Nearly all schools, colleges and universities in the vicinity of Mall Road remained close. The provincial home ministry had ordered their temporary closure due to security reasons. Citizens complained that rallies and protests had become a norm in Lahore after Aasia Bibi’s acquittal and their routine life was being disturbed. Students also complained about their studies being affected because of the closure of educational institutes.
Businesses located in the vicinity were also affected as main trading hubs like Hall Road, Beadon Road and Panorama Centre remained closed. Businessmen told Pakistan Today that because of the frequent protests and rallies, their businesses were being affected and they had to bear financial losses. Mian Akhlaque, a shopkeeper, said, “I have to earn the daily bread for my family and whenever there is a protest or procession, I have to close my stop, and I am unable to earn anything. I fail to understand why these people come out on the roads. Their leaders should be holding talks with the government instead of disrupting the routine life of others.”
City Traffic Police took measures to control the traffic flow and deployed 200 wardens, 20 inspectors and four DSPs to manage the traffic. 1,000 policemen, 23 inspectors, eight DSPs and three SPs were deputed for maintaining security. The flow of traffic remained suspended on Mall Road and adjoining areas, including PMG Chowk, Chairing Cross, Lawrence Road, Qadri Chowk, Regal Chowk, Temple Road, Safaan Wala Chowk, Fane Road, Mozang Adda and High Court Chowk. Traffic jams were also observed on Jail Road, Lower Mall Road, Old Anarkali, Lytton Road, Cooper Road, Abbot Road and Ferozpur Road.
Addressing the rally, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, along with other religious leaders, said that SC acquitted Aasia Bibi under pressure from western countries. They called for the decision to be revised for the best interest of the religion and the country. They also demanded an explanation from the government and relevant authorities for releasing Aasia Bibi and for allegedly sending her abroad secretly. Fazl further said that the ‘million march’ would go down in history as a great rally.
The rally started at 12pm on Thursday and despite the participation of 28 religious political parties, scholars, teachers and students, a low turnout was recorded on the streets of Lahore.