LAHORE: Life was paralysed on Saturday in Punjab cities as mobs took over streets and highways to protest early morning crackdown on religious activists in Islamabad. The protest rallies hampered movement of people as public transport, colleges, businesses, and shopping malls remain closed throughout the day.

Official sources revealed that some 300 religious activists were arrested by police in Lahore. They were sent to different police facilities. Most of the arrests were made at GT Road Shahdara when mob tried to set alight the police station.

The Shahdara Chowk turned into battlefield as hundreds of protesters stormed Shahdara police station and set afire motorcycles, and official records. Policemen fled the station as angry mob headed towards the facility. However, police fired teargas shells to disperse the protesters but to no avail.

Video footage showed many protesters attacking the police station after setting tyres on fire on the main road. They also threw stones on the police station and chanted anti-government slogans.

Rescue workers said that at least 13 people including three policemen were injured as clashes erupted outside the Shahdara police station. A spokesman for the Edhi Ambulance service said that all the injured were shifted to hospitals.

Large crowds took to streets and blocked many important crossings, roads, and highways by placing containers, buses, and tractor-trolleys. The protests broke out in all big cities of the province as police attempted to break up weeks-long sit-in protest by Tehrik-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah or TLYR at Faizabad.

In Lahore, paramilitary troops were called in to control the situation in the evening as protests turned violent at a number of places including Shahdara Chowk, Babu Sabu interchange, and Kahna. Big crowds gathered at The Mall in front of the Punjab Assembly, GT Road Shahdara, Thokar Niaz Baig, Ichhra, and Chungi Amarsidhu.

A police officer said that protesters staged strong demonstrations at dozens of places in Lahore. The protesters blocked several roads and crossings including Mall Road, Faisal Chowk, Data Darbar Road, Imamia Phatak, Ek Moriya Pull, Begum Kot Shahdara, Bhatta Chowk, Khayaban Chowk Raiwind road, Ghazi Road, Chungi Amarsidhu, Ghazi Road Chowk, Timber Market, Shah Alam Chowk, Shah Kam Chowk, Kahna, Jagwar Chowk Johar Town, Shadewal Chowk, Thokar Niaz Baig Chowk, Gulistan Chowk, Garhi Shahu Chowk, and Mughalpura Chowk.

Police officer Muntazir Mahdi on Saturday night told The Nation that protests took place at more than 42 places in Lahore. According to the SSP (Operations), no loss of public property was reported in the metropolis.

When asked about the possible arrests of TLYR leadership, the officer said that they had not received any such instructions from the government. “So far, this is not the policy (of the government),” Mahdi said when asked whether the TLYR leader Asif Ashraf Jalali was arrested during the crackdown. The officer also confirmed that some 200 people were detained by police during the crackdown.

Asif Ashraf Jalali, the founder of the TLYR, along with hundreds of workers was leading the sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly on The Mall till late Saturday night. Heavy police contingents were also deployed at the Faisal Chowk but the cops were ordered to observe restraint.

On Saturday evening, paramilitary troops were deployed at all important government installations including Wapda House, Punjab assembly, Governor’s House, and Civil Secretariat. Hours later, Pakistan Rangers personnel were seen on patrol on major roads in the metropolis.

The protests cut off road-links between the provincial metropolis and other Punjab districts for many hours as mobs took to streets in every nook and corner of the city. The Lahore-Multan and Lahore-Islamabad motorways remain suspended for public transports for hours. Similarly, the Lahore-Sheikhupura GT Road and Lahore-Kasur roads were also blocked by protesters.

The roadblocks coupled with protests caused worst traffic mess at all the entry and exit points of the metropolis including Thokar Niaz Baig, Kahna, Shahdara, and Babu Sabu interchange. The metro-bus service also remained suspended in Lahore throughout the day because of security reasons.

A spokesman for the National Highways and Motorway Police said the protest demonstrations near Okara, Renala Khurd, Pattoki, Sundar, and Ravi Riyan caused traffic jumbles on the national highways. He said the police diverted the flow of traffic towards alternative routes at different points on the highway.

Syed Imran Ahmad late Saturday said that the motorways police got the national highway cleared near Okara and Renala Khurd after hectic efforts. He said they were struggling to clear other roads for general traffic as well.