Around a thousand protestors defied a ban on rallies on The Mall on Saturday to block the road in anger at Mumtaz Qadri’s death sentence for the murder of Salmaan Taseer, causing massive disruptions to traffic all over the city. Unprepared and undermanned, the police were unable to stop them from blocking the road.
Police sources said that officers monitoring the rally had failed to assess the situation properly. They said that when the rally began at Data Darbar, City SP Nawaz Khetran and Security SP Jawad Qamar were the only officers escorting it. The police had intended to stop the rally at Government College, but they didn’t have enough number to do so and they received instructions from higher-ups not to confront the protestors, they said.
The blockage of The Mall resulted in traffic jams in Garhi Shahu, Canal Bank Road, Davis Road, Cooper Road and Ferozepur Road, said traffic police officials. They said that they tried to divert traffic to side roads, but these were also quickly blocked. Ongoing work on Ferozepur Road at Kalma Chowk and Muslim Town added to the problem. The roads remained jammed for up to seven hours, with the traffic issues not clearing up till about 10pm. Wardens worked in double shifts to sort out the problem.
The Lahore High Court recently banned rallies on The Mall after traders who work in the area moved a petition complaining that the protests hurt their businesses.
On Saturday, stick-wielding protestors roamed the markets on The Mall and pressed the traders to shut their stores, according to trader groups. However, representatives of the protestors denied this, saying they were entirely peaceful.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2011.
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