SIALKOT/SARGODHA/TOBA TEK SINGH/HAFIZABAD/CHINIOT/GUJRANWALA - Thousands of outraged activists of various religious parties continued their protest for the second consecutive day (Thursday) in different districts of Punjab against the Supreme Court's (SC) verdict in favour of blasphemy suspect Aasia Bibi.

People suffered as traffic remained blocked. Many of the religious activists were booked for staging riots and delivering speeches against the government and the judiciary.

In SIALKOT, thousands of outraged religious activists, armed with hockey sticks, wooden sticks, iron rods, stones, and bricks kept all the entry and exit points of Sialkot district blocked. They blocked all the main and inter-city roads in Sialkot, Daska, Sambrial, and Pasrur by burning tyres there.

They also kept the traffic blocked on main Sialkot-Daska-Gujranwala Road, Sialkot-Sambrial-Wazirabad Road, Sialkot-Pasrur-Narowal Road, and Sialkot-Head Marala by placing containers on these main roads. They also burnt tyres there and staged sit-ins. They lodged very strong protest against SC verdict in favour of accused Aasia Maseeh.

The long queues of vehicles were witnessed on all the main and inter-city roads in Sialkot, Daska, Sambrial, Pasrur, and surrounding areas.

Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnah, Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasoolallah, Jamaat-e-Islami, and other religious parties also took out rallies. They chanted anti-government and anti-judiciary slogans. They demanded withdrawal of the SC verdict and pledged to sacrifice their lives for Tuhafaze Namoose-i-Risalat. Local police remained unable to take any action against the protesters despite the imposition of section PPC 144. However, the police remained present on the troubled spots.

The traffic on all the main and inter-city roads remained blocked for the whole day in Sialkot, Daska, Sambrial, Pasrur, and surrounding areas. People especially the students of schools and colleges suffered from a great ordeal. All the government and private schools, colleges, and universities remained closed on the orders of the Punjab government in a bid to avert any untoward incident.

Similarly, lawyers observed a complete strike in Sialkot, Daska, Sambrial, Pasrur, Zafarwal, Shakargarh, and Narowal on the appeal of Sialkot District Bar Association (DBA). They took out rallies and lodged very strong protest against the Supreme Court's verdict in favour of accused Aasia Maseeh in a famous blasphemy case. They were carrying banners and placards. They marched on all the main inter-city roads, and chanted anti-government slogans. They also staged a sit-in at Allama Iqbal Chowk, and unanimously passed a resolution against the SC verdict.

Likewise, traders observed a shutdown on the appeal of Sialkot Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajiran. They lodged a strong protest against the acquittal of accused Asia Maseeh in a famous blasphemy case by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. All the bazaars, markets, and commercial hubs of Sialkot remained closed. The protesting traders, after keeping their shops closed, also demonstrated at Allama Iqbal Chowk. They staged a peaceful sit-in there. Sialkot Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajiran president Mehar Ghulam Mujtaba and general secretary Ehsanul Haq Butt jointly led this protest. Later, the traders unanimously passed a resolution, demanding withdrawal of the SC verdict.

In SARGODHA, police have filed a case against as many as 300 activists of different religious and trade organisations for delivering speeches against the government and the judiciary on Thursday.

Sargodha City police lodged an FIR against Tehreeke Labaik Pakistan (TLP) Punjab president Qari Aamir Aslam Sahi, Anjuman-e-Tajiran president Nasir Sehgal, general secretary Naeem Kapoor, Insaf Foundation chairman Hafiz Abdur Rauf, Pir Javeed Qadri, Mufti Shahid Masood, Qari Abdul Waheed, Hafiz Abdul Wahab Saqib, Attaullah Jalali, and others. The Bhalwal police registered a case against 26 people for staging riots near Motorway Salam Interchange.

Meanwhile, a shutter down strike was observed in the city while the District Bar Association also boycotted the courts. Besides, private education institutions remained closed.

In TOBA TEK SINGH, City police on Thursday registered a case under sections 16 of MPO and 186, 148 and 149 of PPC against Maulvi Iqbal of Chak 327/JB Bhalair and his 40 accomplices for staging a protest in violation of section 144 CrPc, blocking road at Shahbaz Chowk, and raising slogans against Supreme Court over acquittal of Aasia Bibi in a blasphemy case. However, no arrest has been made so far.

Meanwhile, a sit-in and protest by the religious activists continued on Wednesday night and Thursday at Shahbaz Chowk and at Gadda Khana Chowk in Gojra. A complete strike was also observed at Toba and Gojra on the call of Anjuman-e-Tajiran. Public meetings were also held here, and the religious leaders demanded that the Supreme Court withdraw its decision immediately and prevented Aasia Bibi from fleeing abroad.

In HAFIZABAD, the activists of Tehreeke Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah (TLYR), Sunni Tehreek, Jamaate-e-Ahle Sunnat, Sunni Federation and other religious parties continued their sit-in for the second consecutive day (Thursday) at Fawara Chowk and near General Bus Stand against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi by the Supreme Court.

They declared that the Muslims of the country would not hesitate to render supreme sacrifices to protect Namoos-i-Risalat. They raised vociferous slogans against the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the present government. The activists declared that they would continue demonstration till hanging of the blasphemer. Due to tension, the business activity in the city remained very thin. Heavy police contingent kept patrolling to prevent any unpleasant incident. No untoward incident was reported from any place of the district.

In CHINIOT, fear gripped the district as 34 activists of different religious parties were arrested on the charge of violence. People took to streets and a protest procession of Ulema and religious parties was taken out with PML-N MPA Maulana Ilyas Chinioti. The participants chanted slogans. They reached press club where the leaders addressed the participants and demanded that the Supreme Court review its decision. A number of religious activists protested at various points in the district including Chiniot City; Bhowana, and Lalian.

Main religious protest procession was taken out from Jamia Masjid Mohammadia in which hundreds of people took part. Led by Pir Tahir Shah, Ghulam Abbas Attari, Sikandar Hayat, and Habib Qadri, the participants condemned the SC decision and demanded that the government review the verdict. They threatened massive protests if their demands were not met.

However, the police managed to disperse them and 34 of them were rounded up and four FIRs were registered against them. They were booked on the charge of instigating people against the government, violating Amplifier Act, and section 144 ban. Earlier, the Chiniot deputy commissioner imposed section 144 in the district banning gathering of five or more persons at any public place.

In GUJRANWALA, the TLP and other religious parties carried out protests against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi. Hundreds of activists held sit-in at Qila Chand Bypass and blocked the road for traffic. Passengers from Lahore to Rawalpindi and other cities faced difficulties due to road blockage. The protesters chanted slogans against the SC decision, and demanded execution of Asia Bibi.