Islamabad Politics Report/Moazzam Raza Tabassam: After the Refusal of Punjab government to implement the Faizabad agreement on thrusday, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) members have blocked major highways in Punjab and sealed off entry and exit points of various cities accross the country, the federal capital Islamabad includ.
The Faizabad agreement was reached between the federal government and religious parties following violent protests against an amendment in the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat clause – explained by the government as a ‘clerical’ error. The demonstration ended after the country’s premier intelligence agency ‘facilitated’ a negotiation between the government and protesters, which placed the issue to rest for the time being.
The deal struck between the protesters and government involved the resignation and removal of the federal law minister, release of all TLP workers and supporters who were arrested during the Faizabad crackdown, and all cases pending against the TLP to be disposed of.
However, Rizvi has now launched another protest movement on the same issue – the finality of prophethood – days after his arrest warrants were issued by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Islamabad and he was declared as a proclaimed offender in the Faizabad sit-in case after failing to appear before the court despite repeated summons.
The TLP protesters had staged a sit-in at Lahore’s Data Darbar, which entered its 11th day as the deadline given to the Punjab government ended at 4pm on Thursday.
TLP spokesperson Sheikh Azhar told reporters that negotiations between the government and the religious party had broken down and Khadim Rizvi had given a call to his followers to come out on the streets and stage sit-ins.
According to reports, followers of fiery cleric and TLP Chairman Khadim Hussain Rizvi have blocked Shahdara Chowk, Chungi Amar Sidhu, Azadi Chowk, Motorway Interchange and Metro Bus Service in Lahore, Faizabad interchange on the Rawalpindi-Islamabad main highway, Muree Road and Liaqat Bagh, and major roads leading to Faisalabad, Sheikhpura and other central Punjab cities.
The ICT police and Punjab government has begun deploying additional police forces to maintain law and order, however, it is not yet known how the government plans to deal with the violent protesters, who have previously held the federal capital Islamabad and other main cities of the country hostage for over 20 days in November last year.
Meanwhile, the Motorway Police has summoned additional troops to deal with any untoward situation on the highways.
TLP leader Ali Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri had earlier told the media that if negotiations fail, the demonstrations will eerily echo the Faizabad protest which paralysed the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad last year.
“We will not let the government deviate from what they originally promised,” Qadri added.
The party’s activists were demonstrating in various cities including Rawalpindi, Lahore, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Mandi Bahauddin and Peshawar.
The National Highway, which connects the country’s two largest cities of Karachi and Lahore and several cities of Punjab province, was blocked at Pakka Meel, Chuhang, Mohlanwal, and Pattoki.
The Lahore district administration suspended the Metro Bus Service following the demonstrations and blockade of roads by the protesters.
Citizens were inconvenienced after long queues of traffic were formed due to the demonstrations.
The protest was underway at the motorway’s Faizpur Interchange and Sheikhupura among other cities.
In Peshawar, the protesters demonstrated at Jameel Chowk. Long queues of traffic were formed on the Ring Road, as commuters were forced to use alternate routes.