Hundreds of students from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and activists of Imamia Students Organisation and Wahadat-ul-Muslimeen blocked Islamabad Expressway on Tuesday for over three hours. They were protesting against the killings of passengers in an attack on a bus that took place in Kohistan on Tuesday.
The majority of people killed were from the Shia community of G-B and militant outfit Jundullah has claimed responsibility for the killings.
Traffic on the expressway remained suspended as protesters burned tires and moved heavy concrete blocks onto the highway, bringing traffic between Rawalpindi and Islamabad to a halt.
“We condemn the killing of innocent people at the hands of terrorists and inadequate security measures by the government,” said Wahadat-ul-Muslimeen (WuM) Rawalpindi Secretary General Agha Amin Shaheedi.
Prominent Shia leaders spearheading the protests warned of a march in front of the Parliament House building next Friday if the government fails to nab those responsible for the killings.
“We have decided to hold a protest march towards the Parliament on Friday after prayers and we will protest the killing of innocent Shia people,” said an ISO spokesperson. He said it was worrying that armed men attacked a bus full of innocent passengers and easily fled without being detected.
A number of people from G-B come to the twin cities to work and for higher education. Every day, dozens of people travel between Rawalpindi and Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), through public and private transport services.
Although the slogan-chanting students and activists remained peaceful, contingents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad police were deployed to maintain law and order. The police restored traffic on the overhead Faizabad Bridge and link roads along the highway. However, the main expressway remained blocked till late in the evening.
Agha Shifa Najafi of Imam Bargah Al-Sadiq in Sector G-9/2, while condemning the killings of innocent people by militants, asked the protesters to remain peaceful. The government, he said, appears helpless before people who are openly taking people’s lives.
The protestors dispersed peacefully after staying on the roads for over three hours. However, they vowed to return if the killers of the bus passengers were not arrested.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2012.