LAHORE - Punjab police gave freehand to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) protesters who blocked roads, pelted public transports with stones, and ‘forced’ traders to shut down their businesses.

Life in the city came to a standstill as the PTI squads were in action on the call of their captain to shut down the provincial capital.

“Not a single PTI worker has been arrested so far and no case has been registered against the protesters,” Lahore Operations police chief DIG Haider Ashraf confirmed to The Nation by phone late Monday.

Earlier, the police were directed to ensure immediate arrests of the PTI workers in case they would attempt to force the traders to shut down. However, on the orders of the Punjab government the police had to change its strategy on Monday morning.

Notwithstanding the imposition of section 144 by the district coordination officer, the government allowed protests and sit-ins at more than 26 points in the provincial capital.

At least 19,680 policemen were deployed on security duties to maintain law and order situation. The police patrolling was also intensified across Lahore.

The government had to suspend the metro-bus service in the morning soon after the PTI workers pelted the bus stations and buses with stones on Ferozpur Road. The police were also on-guard in the locality but they were asked to exercise maximum restraint.

PML-N leader Khawaja Salman Rafique claimed that two persons expired in the ambulances because the PTI workers did not allow the ambulances to shift the patients to the hospitals.

Similarly, according to another PML-N leader, the PTI workers forced the traders to shut down their businesses in Shah Alam Market, Akbari Mandi, Hall Road, and some others parts of the city. Again the police were helpless and the protesters were given freehand to force the shopkeepers to shutdown.

A couple of days ago, the Lahore police had assured the Lahore High Court that a comprehensive security plan would be implemented to provide protection to the lives and properties of the public in Lahore. The police had declared more than 63 markets and 52 other points as sensitive.

Apart from anti-riot force, heavy police contingents were deployed around shopping malls, business centers, bazaars, and markets to ensure businesses as usual but they were witnessing the situation like silent spectators.

In a press statement, Lahore CCPO Muhammad Amin Wains had also claimed that no group, organisation or party would be allowed to create law and order situation in the provincial metropolis. The city police chief warned that the elements found involved in troublemaking would be dealt with iron hands.

The PTI announced that it would close down at least 18 points of the provincial capital as part of its anti-government strike but they staged sit-ins at more than 26 points. The traffic blocked on all major thoroughfares including Liberty market, Faisal Chowk Mall Road and also on the motorway.

The PTI protesters attempted complete shutdown at 18 points including Shahdara Chowk, Bhati Chowk, PMG Chowk, Babu Sabu interchange, Chairing Cross Mall Road, Regal Chowk, GT Road Shalimar Chowk, Mughalpura Bridge, Bhatta Chowk, Walton Chowk Defense More, Liberty roundabout, Akbar Chowk, Thokar Niaz Baig, Raiwind Road, Canal Road Chowk, Chungi Amarsidhu, Jurray Pull Chowk, Choburji Chowk, and Mozang Chungi.

A Lahore traffic police spokesperson said that traffic wardens were also deployed at all the diversion points to guide the motorists.