islamabad/rawalpindi - Workers of different religio-political parties, in protest, blocked on Wednesday morning different avenues in the capital after the Supreme Court acquitted Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges. Tens of hundreds of activists of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) blocked the roads linking the twin cities with other parts of province to protest the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision of acquitting Asia Bibi of death sentence. The protestors chanted slogans against the government such as “We will protect the Namoos of Prophet (PBUH) at any cost”, “The companions of Asia Bibi are traitors” and “Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (SAW) Labbaik”.

Security was already on high alert in the city in the wake of upcoming judgment in the important case. Ahead of the verdict, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had asked its workers to assemble at the marked spots at Faizabad interchange and Aabpara Chowk to record their protest if the court orders release of Asia Bibi. Leadership of major right-wing religious parties denounced the court verdict and directed their workers to come forward and hold demonstrations against the acquittal. They alleged that the decision had been taken on the behest of some foreign powers.

Soon after the verdict, the activists started gathering around Faizabad Interchange bordering Rawalpindi and subsequently blocked it from all the sides. The protesters holding batons in their hands burnt tyres to paralyze the traffic. Similarly, the roads surrounding Aabpara Chowk were also closed by the protesters while shopkeepers and traders were told to close down their shops. The workers of Jamaat-i-Islami held a protest demonstration against the court decision in front of National Press Club here. Heavy contingents of police remained present on the occasion. Metro Bus Service also remained suspended after the activists started taking over important points in the city. Government officials and general public suffered a lot due to non-availability of public transport.

As the activists took to streets, security of Judges Colony, localities housing minorities, Red Zone and other sensitive buildings in the city was increased for security reasons. The entry into the red zone was restricted by placing containers due to the security concerns. Personnel of police and other law-enforcing agencies were deployed in Islamabad to prevent protesters from entering the Red Zone which also houses Supreme Court of Pakistan where the verdict of Asia Bibi case was announced earlier in the day. According to the sources, the government officials have been issued special passes to enter the SC premises on Thursday (today) and the Rangers would take over the security of the Supreme Court building by 11pm Wednesday night so as to ensure that there is no law and order situation on Thursday morning when the apex court would hear important cases. Cellular services would remain suspended in the areas around the Red Zone on Thursday (today), the sources added. The protesters were peaceful till the filing of this report as the local leaders kept engaged the workers at the sit-in points.  The road leading from Rawal Dam roundabout to the Red Zone was also blocked by placing containers. Bara Kahu, Tarnol and Kashmir Highway remained open but Aabpara Chowk and Faizabad was blocked throughout the day, according to the Islamabad district administration. The Traffic police had also issued a diversion plan for the day.

 The joint action committee of traders, in a meeting, also announced to observe complete shutter down strike in Cannt and Garrison city to denounce the verdict of country’s top court in Asia Bibi case.

Verbal clashes could also be witnessed between the activists of TLYR and the public over closure of roads. Scores of rallies of activists of religious parties arrived in Rawalpindi from Attock, Jhand, Hazro, Hassanabal, Taxila, Wah Cannt, Haripur, Gujar Khan and Rawat to join the main protest demo being held by TLYR leadership at Faizabad Interchange.

Reportedly, the Ulemas belonging to different schools of thoughts have forced the owners and principals to shut down their educational institutions and to send the students to home even before closing time.

Police, following the instructions of Regional Police Officer (RPO) Muhammad Fayyaz Dev and City Police Officer (CPO) Abbas Ahsan, beefed up the security in the city to avoid any untoward incident.

In Saddar, the remit of police station Cannt, a rally was taken out by Anjuman Tajran from Tyre Market to Kashmir Road. The rally was led by Raja Javed, President Anjuman Tajran, and participated by scores of citizens and traders.

A rally, under the supervision of TLYR Rawalpindi President Inayat Ul Haq Shah, was also carried out in the city. The rally reached at Faizabad after marching on Murree Road. The charged protestors were carrying placards and banners in their hands and chanting slogans against the government.

Scores of activists of TLYR also staged protest demonstrations at Gujar Khan and in Rawat and blocked GT Road from both sides for the traffic. The mess of irate protestors on GT Road triggered a massive traffic jam posing hardships for road users. The protestors were bellowing slogans against the judges who released Asia Bibi.