LAHORE - Religious activists on Thursday paralysed life in the provincial capital, as they took to the street against the possible arrest of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah leaders.

People in the provincial capital were in trouble as angry protesters went on the rampage. Hundreds of club-wielding workers of the religious group took to the streets and blocked important crossings, intercity roads and national highway by the evening. Similar demos disrupted life in several other cities where traffic on highways was messed up.

Starting from Data Darbar, mob blocked important intersections, including Faizpur Interchange, Babu Sabu Interchange, Saggian Bridge, Shahdara Chowk and Chungi Amarsidhu. Motorists were also caught in mess on 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.

Large crowds took to streets in different Punjab cities on the call given by the Tehreek leaders who were staging a sit-in in front of Data Darbar in Lahore since April 2.

The Tehreek-i-Labbaik had demanded that the government implement by Thursday the Faizabad agreement, brokered by the Pakistan Army between the federal government and the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah last year.

As the deadline given by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, an offshoot of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah, to the government lapsed on Thursday evening, the religious leaders called for countrywide protests.

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 when they tried to break the blockade. Police were seen nowhere.

“Where is the government? What is happing in this city?” asked car occupant Muhammad Ahsan who remained stuck in the traffic mess on Canal Road near Thokar Niaz Beg for hours.

He said that he was leaving along with his family to his native town in Sahiwal district to attend a wedding. “Now even I can’t go back home. Look at the road,” he said while referring to long queues of heavy vehicles. Another motorist, Ibrahim, said that he left his office in a hurry for a medical check-up of his ailing mother, but he was unable to reach home. He blamed the government for the mess, stating that people were left at the mercy of religious leaders.

Roadblocks badly hit flow of traffic in many parts of the provincial metropolis, including Garhi Shahu, Misri Shah, Railways Station, Samanabad, Mozang, Davis Road, Walton Road, Azadi Flyover, The Mall, Jail Road and Ring Road. 

Even traffic officers deployed on national highways were left with no other option but to divert traffic to alternative roads.

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, Okara, Sahiwal, and Chichawatni.

Earlier, police officers in Lahore held a series of negotiations with Tehreek leaders but they refused to call off the sit-in. They stuck to their demands and said they would not call of protests unless the government accepts all points of the Faizabad agreement.

The police and the district administration held another round of dialogue with the TLP leaders late Thursday night but the latest attempt was also unsuccessful. In a press statement issue last night, TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi ordered his followers not to end the sit-in unless he himself calls for an end. He denied media reports suggesting patch-up between the government and the protesters. However, the deadlock persisted till filing of this report late on Thursday night.

In November, these protesters staged a sit-in at Faizabad Interchange of the federal capital, grinding halt to life in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad for more than three weeks. At least seven people died when police and paramilitaries tried to clear protests and the civilian government has called for the military to intervene to restore order.