Police start arresting protesters; up to 60 held

FIR lodged against protesters for damaging police vehicle

Members of Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah sit on Jinnah Avenue. PHOTO: MUDASSAR RAJA/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Police have launched a quiet operation of arresting members of a religious group which has been staging a sit-in on main Jinnah Avenue near D-Chowk since Thursday. At least 60 protesters had been held by the police by Saturday evening.

A few hundred supporters of the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah (TLYR), held a rally from Lahore to Islamabad on the issue of recent controversy surrounding Khatm-e-Nabuwat (Belief in the finality of Prophethood) clause in election laws. The protesters demand that government identify and punish whoever was behind the change of wording of Khatm-e-Nabuwat declaration, an amendment which was immediately withdrawn and declaration restored in its original form.

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Due to the protest sit-in, main Jinnah Avenue and Blue Area have remained shut for traffic from Kulsum Plaza to D-Chowk since Thursday. Metro bus service has also remained suspended in the capital due to the protest.

The authorities had told the rally organisers to hold the demonstration at Parade Ground but the protesters ignored the warning and marched towards the D-Chowk and have been staging a sit-in at China Chowk ever since.

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TLYR chairman Asif Ashraf Jalali said on Saturday that hundreds of their supporters had been arrested by the police. He said police have been arresting any participant who leaves the sit-in venue to make ablution or go to toilet in nearby mosques. A few hundred people are still attending the sit-in.

Authorities have also confirmed that around 60 people from the sit-in have been arrested so far. Instead of any major operation against protesters, the police modus operandi has been to nab sit-in participants who veer away from the protest camp. Law-enforcement personnel deployed around protest site clearly outnumber the protesters.

Police have also registered an FIR against 40-50 unidentified TLYR supporters for allegedly beating policemen and damaging
their vehicle.

Meanwhile, the talks between the rally organisers and a government team led by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique are also under way, with the last round taking place on Friday night.

Closure of the Jinnah Avenue and Metro Bus have also caused difficulties for commuters. While the bus service has resumed, it is operational between Saddar Rawalpindi and Faiz Ahmed Faiz station on 9th Avenue in Islamabad, suspending its operation in most of
the capital.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2017.


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