Traffic chaos as protesters block main Islamabad highway for sixth day

By AFP
Published: November 13, 2017
SHARES
Email
Commuters forced to walk on foot on the Faizabad interchange due to TLY protests. PHOTO: INP

Commuters forced to walk on foot on the Faizabad interchange due to TLY protests. PHOTO: INP

ISLAMABAD: Protesters from Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah (TYL) blocked the main highway into Islamabad for the sixth day running Monday, virtually locking down the capital and causing commuter fury as authorities hesitated to act.

The roughly 2,000 protesters are demanding the resignation of the federal law minister over a hastily-abandoned amendment to the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

They have camped for nearly a week on a flyover connecting Islamabad with Rawalpindi, along which thousands of people commute every day to work in the capital.

Young men armed with clubs are searching anyone approaching the protest site and refusing to let vehicles pass, pelting those who come near with stones.

Commuters miserable as Faizabad remains blocked

“I have been stuck up on the road for (the) last one and a half hours because of this mess,” said Adnan Iqbal, an employee of a pharmaceutical firm who spoke to AFP from the traffic jam where he was late for work.

The protesters, members of the TYL, acted after the government introduced an amendment which changed some wording in the blasphemy law.

The change — from “I believe” to “I solemnly swear” — did not alter the law, which carries the death penalty. The government has said the change was made inadvertently and quickly reversed it through another amendment.

But the rightwing group insisted it was an attempt to water down the hugely sensitive legislation.

“The protesters have baseless demands. Authorities should deal (with) them with force and move them away from the road,” said Fayyaz Hussain, another commuter who had been struggling to reach his office for two hours Monday.

Khatm-e-Nabuwwat: Govt unlikely to give in to protesters’ demands

Authorities were shying away from employing force despite the palpable anger of commuters and days of traffic delays.

“Use of force is no option at the moment,” senior Islamabad official Shoaib Ali told AFP, adding that the priority was negotiations.

Protesters, meanwhile, vowed to stay put.

“Either the minister resigns or we are killed or arrested: we will not leave this place,” Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, one of the group’s leaders, told AFP at the protest site.

Blasphemy is a highly contentious issue in Pakistan, where even unproven allegations have prompted mob lynchings and other murders.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (1)

  • sterry
    Nov 13, 2017 - 9:50PM

    They learned this from Imran Khan and his dharnas- what better way to create anarchy and destabilize a country than to behave like you are above the law and shut things down!Recommend

Leave Your Reply Below

Your comments may appear in The Express Tribune paper. For this reason we encourage you to provide your city. The Express Tribune does not bear any responsibility for user comments.

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments FAQ.

More in Pakistan