ISLAMABAD - Protest demonstrations broke out in major cities across the country on Wednesday following Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Aasia Bibi, with club-wielding protesters blocking Islamabad’s main highway and barricading roads in Karachi, Lahore and other cities.

The protesters mainly belonging to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) took to the streets to protest the apex court’s ruling.

The protesters gathered at Islamabad’s Faizabad Interchange, outside the Punjab Assembly in Lahore and on several locations in Karachi and Peshawar.

In the federal capital, the protesters were amassed at Faizabad Interchange while Islamabad Expressway was closed at Shakrial and Grand Trunk Road at Gojar Khan.

Islamabad Red Zone was also sealed due to security concerns. The road from Rawal Dam roundabout to Red Zone was closed for traffic by placing containers to block the passage.

In Lahore, TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi was leading the main protest demonstration at Lahore’s Charing Cross in front of Punjab Assembly building while Multan Road, Manga Mandi, Cungi Amar Sidhu, Darogha Wala Chowkw were also blocked to register their protest.

Meanwhile, Punjab government has imposed section-144 across province amid protest rallies by the various outfits. Under section-144, more than four people are not allowed to gather at any place. Cases would be lodged against those carrying out rallies and protesting.

On the other hand, Punjab govt has also summoned Rangers for the security of sensitive buildings and places.

Karachi’s Baldia Town, Numaish Chowrangi, Shahra-e-Faisal, Star Gate, Sohrab Goth, Al-Asif Square, Orangi Town Number 5, Surjani Town, 4-K Chowrangi and Tower were affected by the protests of the religious parties.

According to traffic police the road leading to Baldia Town from Sher Shah was closed for the traffic. The vehicles coming from Hyderabad were being diverted to Abull Asfahani Road due to closure of Sohrab Goth.

People using the Numaish Chowrangi road have been asked to take alternative routes.

Traffic was diverted to II Chundrigarh Road from Jinnah Bridge while Babaye Urdu Road was being used by the commuters as an alternative after closure of MA JInnah Road.

The government of Sindh in the exercise of powers conferred under Section 144 has imposed a complete ban on pillion riding and assembly of more than four persons.

According to a notification, the government of Sindh has imposed a ban on protests, demonstrations, rallies and assemblies of more than four people across the province for a period of 10 days with immediate effect.

Furthermore, a ban has also been imposed on the display of arms, private vehicles with mounted police lights, private vehicles with tinted glasses and fancy number plates throughout the province with immediate effect.

In Peshawar, TLP staged a protest demonstration against the release of Aasia Bibi and blocked main GT Road near Pir Zakori Sharif Flyover.

The protest rally was led by provincial president Allama Dr Muhammad Shafiq Ameeni, Pir Wajhatullah, Falak Niaz and Pir Alhamdulellah. The protesters holding banners and placards chanted full throat slogans against the decision.

Addressing on the occasion, Dr Shafiq Ameeni said that the activists of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Labbaik have serious reservations over the Supreme Court decision to release Aasia. He urged the activists to remain peaceful.

The rally started from Jamil Chowk Ring Road and reached GT Road Zakori Sharif flyover where they held sit-in and blocked GT Road for all kinds of traffic. They were waving party flags and banners, demanding re-arrest of Aasia Bibi.

 COMMUTERS FACE PROBLEMS ON HIGHWAYS, MOTORWAYS

The commuters travelling on national highways and motorways on Wednesday were left with no option but to cover the long distances by foot to reach their destinations due to blockage of major arteries across the country, especially in Punjab.

The right wing religious parties held protests and staged sit-ins on several locations in reaction to the verdict announced by Supreme Court.

National Highway and Motorway Police had also issued a warning and advised the general public against unnecessary travelling on national highways and motorways to avoid inconvenience.

Initially, the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway (M-2) was closed for traffic at Thokar Niaz Baig, Ravi, Kala Shah Kaku and Sheikhupura interchanges while the traffic coming from Islamabad to Lahore was allowed to enter the motorway and a diversion was provided to them at Khanqah Dogran Interchange. Vehicles coming from Lahore to Islamabad were allowed to enter the motorway from Hiran Minar Interchange.

However, later in the evening, the motorway was also closed from Islamabad and Balkasar interchanges for general traffic.

On national highways, the traffic was also blocked at several points including Peshawar and Akora Khattak in KP while in Punjab, the traffic was closed at Taxila, Mandra, Gujar Khan, Sohawa, Dina, Saray-Alam-Gir, Kharian, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Kamoki and Muridke.

The traffic at Lahore, Manga Mundi, Marala, Renala Khurd, Chichawatni, Mian Channu, Sahiwal and Khaniwal was also blocked while the traffic at Hub and Kalat districts of Baluchistan was also hindered due to these protests.

The NH&MP police made special arrangements to divert traffic on smaller roads from national highways and motorways to avoid congestion while the commuters were advised to contact its helpline for any kind of help and guidance.

Sources inside the National Highway Authority (NHA) and Motorway police informed this scribe that the traffic load on motorway and major national highways was quite low as people at large avoided due to the uncertain situation.

On the other side, the transporters also cancelled their scheduled operations on roads which were blocked by the protestors.

 

Protests paralyse cities