LAHORE - Police and other law enforcement agencies virtually disappeared as religious parties’ activists took over all major roads in the metropolis in protest against Supreme Court’s verdict in a blasphemy case.

As the top court announced its verdict in the blasphemy case involving Christian woman Aasia Bibi, hundreds of club-wielding members of a religious group took to the streets and blocked important crossings, intercity roads and national highways. Similar demonstrations disrupted life in several other cities of the province. Heavy transport vehicles were seen stuck on both sides of the national highways and the police were nowhere.

The protests disconnected Lahore with rest of the Punjab province as angry mob set tyres on fire and staged sit-ins in many parts of the city. The club-wielding protesters also attacked police and media persons during clashes.

According to the City Traffic Police Department, protest demonstrations were under way at more than 30 points in the provincial capital till late Wednesday. Also, public transport vehicles disappeared from the city roads.

In a video message released on social media, Lahore’s chief traffic officer appealed to citizens to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary travel because “all roads in the city were blocked” by protesters early on Wednesday. He said the situation would improve within hours and roads would be cleared very soon but the traffic police failed to clear the roads till late Wednesday night.

According to a spokesman for the city traffic police, the activists of Tehrik-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah staged sit-ins at Faisal Chowk on The Mall, Qartaba Chowk, Jail Road, Chungi Amarsidhu, Azadi Flyover, Shahdara Chowk, Daroghewala Chowk, Kahna, Babu Sabu Interchange, Khayaban Chowk, Shadman Market, China Chowk, Railways Crossing near Imamia Colony, Lahore Bridge Phatak, Kot Lakhpat, Mohalanwal Chowk, Shahkam Chowk, Model Town Phatak, Ichhra, Shimla Hills, Model Town Link Road, Main Boulevard Gulberg, Quaid-e-Azam Interchange, Mughalpura and Harbanspura underpasses and Thokar Niaz Baig Chowk besides other points.

The protests triggered panic across the metropolis shortly before noon as parents rushed to schools to pick their children. Schools and colleges will remain closed on Thursday due to security reasons, an official said on Wednesday evening.

Starting from Data Darbar, angry mob blocked important intersections, including Faizpur Interchange, Babu Sabu Interchange, Saggian Bridge, Shahdara Chowk and Chungi Amarsidhu. Motorists were also caught in the mess on Lahore-Kasur Road, Lahore-Jaranwala Road, Lahore-Gujranwala Road and Lahore-Multan Road.

Authorities immediately suspended the metro bus service as protests spread in the city. The public transport also disappeared from the city roads which multiplied miseries of the citizens. Following the protests, traders also closed their shops before the scheduled time in areas adjacent to protest sites. The mobile phone services also remain suspended in different parts of the city.

Large crowds took to streets in different Punjab cities on the call given by the TLYRA leaders who staged a sit-in in front of the Punjab Assembly. In Lahore, several ambulances were seen stuck in traffic jumbles as motorists and protesters clashed over roadblocks.

Angry protesters carrying sticks attacked motorcyclists at different points as they tried to break the blockade. Police were seen nowhere.

“Enough is enough. Where are police and security forces? Is there anyone to help us?” questioned car rider Muhammad Afzal who got stuck in the traffic mess on Canal Road near Mohalanwal.

He said that he was leaving along with his family to his native town in Sahiwal district to attend a function. “Now even I can’t go back home. Look at the roadblocks,” he said, referring to long queues of heavy vehicles. Motorcyclist Sultan Ahmad said that he left his office in a hurry to pick his children from school but he was unable to reach the school. He blamed the government for the mess, stating that people were left at the mercy of religious groups.

Even traffic officers deployed on national highways were left with no other option but to divert traffic to alternative routes. A spokesman for the Motorways Police urged motorists to avoid unnecessary travel on highways and intercity roads. Syed Imran said that vehicular traffic was suspended from Lahore to Khanewal amid massive protests at Pakka Meel, Chuhng, Jambar Adda, Pattoki, Renala Khurd, Okara, Sahiwal and Chichawatni.

A police spokesman said that a constable was rushed to hospital with fractured legs after being assaulted by an angry mob near Kot Lakhpat. The police are investigating the incident and the attackers would be brought to justice very soon, he said.