LAHORE - Hundreds of farmers yesterday held a protest march toward the provincial metropolis from southern Punjab districts against the shifting of three sugar mills from the area to central Punjab.

The Lahore High Court had ordered the transfer of the sugar mills from Bahwalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Muzaffargarh to central Punjab districts where the units were originally established. Mills are owned by ruling Sharif family. 

Protesting farmers who were not allowed entrance in Lahore till late night demanded the mills were not transferred from their area for at least this crushing season. Sugar mills in the country will start crushing in next month.

“Who will purchase our sugarcane crop sown over thousands of acre if mills remain close this season?” said Chaudhary Anwar, the chairman of the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad Pakistan (PKI). He pointed out the already shortage of crushing units in southern Punjab to meet the demand of sugarcane growers.

The other faction of the PKI which is led by Khalid Khokhar claims the son of Abbas Sharif arranged the protest to pressurize judiciary to withdraw its decision against the shifting of the mills. Abbas Sharif is late brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif.

The farmers’ rally, however, was not allowed to enter the city and it caused a worst traffic mess at Multan Road for hours. The police blocked the way of the march near EME society, one kilometer away from Thoker Niaz Beg—Lahore’s entrance point, by placing containers on the main highways.

“We are sitting here for four hours,” Ch Sarwar said while talking to media at 9pm.

The roadblocks caused traffic jumbles at Thokar Niaz Baig Chowk and on the Multan Road and Canal Road till late night. 

Traffic from Sahiwal, Okara, Khanewal and other districts of southern side of the country enters Lahore from the blocked highways side.

Since, the city traffic police officers blocked the main highways in the evening, it later started diverting the traffic flow towards alternative routes.

 Hundreds of Anti-Riot Force personnel were sent to the site to control the situation. Lahore’s chief traffic officer Rai Ijaz Ahmed told reporters that at least 100 traffic officers were there to respond to the situation. He said the motorists were being provided alternatives in order to avoid traffic mess.

The traffic police on Monday night issued an advisory plan and urged the motorists to use alternative routes.

Citizens can use reach Multan Road from canal road via Shahkam Chowk. Similarly, the vehicular traffic was diverted towards Bhobatian Chowk from Mohlanwal.

Motorways police stopped heavy traffic at Okara and Pattoki and asked people to avoid using Multan Road because of blockades near Thoker.