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TLP blocks traffic in Punjab cities

Top Story

April 13, 2018

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LAHORE: After the expiry of the last deadline of 4 pm Thursday for the government to implement Faizabad agreement, the Tehrik Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) instantly launched countrywide anti-government protests, staging sit-ins in many cities to block several main roads in important cities bringing the life to an abrupt halt and causing serious problems for travellers and commuters. The party's activists were demonstrating in various cities including Rawalpindi, Lahore, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Mandi Bahauddin, Peshawar, and Karachi.

The government had sought a week’s extension in the deadline to implement the Army-mediated Faizabad agreement reached with TLYR on Nov 27 last to end the 21-day sit-in there. That deadline expired on Thursday evening without any announcement from government. Surprisingly, TLP leadership also refrained from holding the scheduled press conference supposed to be held after the expiry of deadline and instead issued a video message, directing the workers to come out on the streets and stage the sit-ins across the country.

The video message showed TLP vice president Pir Afzal Qadri flanked by TLP chief Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi and others giving the protest call to the workers, asking them to remain seated at the sit-ins and never leave till the Faizabad agreement was implemented.

The message also warned the workers to be watchful against the rumours of any agreement between TLP and government to end the sit-ins, and wait for the video message by the leadership. Soon after the message, angry workers came out on the streets in different cities and blocked several main roads, causing serious traffic mess. Besides, the links between different cities of the Punjab were disconnected as protesters blocked traffic on several highways connecting major cities.

The government sources began saying in the night that the fresh round of talks with TLP succeeded and sit-ins were called off. However, the TLP leadership rejected the claim saying that the TLP shoora would meet late night to decide about the government proposals. The government sources kept saying that the demands of TLP would be implemented in the next 24 hours and that Raja Zafarul Haq committee report was also presented to the TLYR, claiming the report did not hold any minister or government officials responsible for the controversial amendment in the electoral laws.

Some private channels, citing sources, claimed the government had handed over the committee report to the TLP leadership. The channels reported a case was also registered at a Rawalpindi police station for killing religious party workers during the Faizabad sit-in, staged in Islamabad in Nov-Dec 2017. The case was registered on the report of Muhammad Hafaz Alvi against policemen also included clauses of murder and murder attempt.

The TLP leadership, however, warned media and workers against believing the government claims and wait for the formal announcement to be made after the party shoora took final decisions on government proposals. However the meeting of TLYR shoora continued till the filing of this report.

In Lahore, the key points of entry and exit in the city were blocked at Thokar Niaz Beg on Multan road, Shahdara on GT road, Babu Sabu interchange at motorway entry point on Bund Road bus stand, and Ghazi road leading to airport was blocked at Bhatta chowk. Besides, Metro bus service was also suspended after the protestors blocked the Ferozepur road near Chungi Amar Sadhu and angry protestors also deflated the tires of several buses of Speedo bus service which also brought the traffic to a halt on several city roads.

A traveller, Farrukh, told The News by telephone that he, along with hundreds of others, remained stuck near Babu Sabu interchange for several hours, as he was coming back from Rawalpindi via the Motorway. He said those imposing their will on the poor travellers, including children, women and patients, through road blockade in the name of religion, were, in fact, proving disloyal to the religion which is all for peace and comfort for everyone.

Ashfaq, another commuter, said he had a horrible experience on the Ferozepur Road, explaining even the adjoining streets witnessed the worst kind of traffic mess -- putting children, women and elderly people in great trouble. “Everyone is perturbed, but nobody cares,” he added. “I saw ambulances stuck on various roads of the city,” said a motorcyclist, Tanvir, while narrating his side of the story. “Those on motorcycles or bicycles usually find space to keep moving, but this time I remained stuck for quite some time at several points especially on the Lower Mall side,” he added.

The traffic authorities, who were busy diverting the traffic to alternative routes from the blocked roads, could not provide any relief to the commuters. Severe traffic jams were seen on Shanghai Overhead Bridge, Chungi Amarsadhu, Ferozpur Road, Multan Road, Mohlanwal, Bhatta Chowk, GT Road Shahdara, Faizabad Interchange, Saggian, Babu Sabu, Thokar Niaz Baig, Akbar Chowk, Azadi Flyover, Circular Road, Shalimar Chowk, Defence Morr, PECO Road, Kahna, Darogawala Chowk, Yateem Khana, Samanabad, Bhaikaywal Chowk and Canal Road. Mayor Lahore also remained stuck in the traffic jam near Faizabad Interchange for hours.

In Karachi, the TLP took out rallies at various busy thoroughfares, blocking traffic and causing problems for commuters. Holding sticks in hands, the TLP activists chanted slogans in favour of their demands. Moreover, it was reported that at various points, the protesters harassed commuters and clashed with the police. The protesters gathered at the Numaish Chowrangi in the afternoon to hold their protest. Following this, the law enforcement agencies tried to disperse them and cordoned off the area.

In Rawalpindi, the TLP activists blocked Murree Road bringing traffic to a halt. A jammed Murree Road means life in the entire city has come to a halt

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