The workers of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) Monday brought to standstill traffic in several major cities and highways to protest the detention of their leader; stranding thousands of commuters – women, elderly and children, endangering lives of Covid19 patients.
The protest came as news of the arrest of Saad Hussain Rizvi was spread through the TLP social media networks Monday afternoon. Saad was taken into custody from Scheme Mor on Wahdat Road Lahore. A leader of TLP Anayat ul Haq confirmed his detention.
Ambulances with blaring sirens and carrying coronavirus and other patients to hospitals were stuck in traffic jams in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and many other cities. Small groups of TLP workers carrying batons threw stones on passing vehicles, smashed their windows and took over major intersections on the GT road, disrupting traffic.
An ambulance is stuck in traffic on Karachi's I.I Chundrigar Road due to protest by TLP workers over their leader's arrest in Lahore. pic.twitter.com/YWSDpm9bIK
— Roohan Ahmed (@Roohan_Ahmed) April 12, 2021
The TLP had given a deadline of April 20 to the government to meet its demands, including the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan, over the blasphemous caricatures. The government had agreed on tabling a resolution in the parliament before Eidul Fitr based on the demands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
Sources said several rounds of talks were held between the government and the TLP leadership on the issue. However, the TLP was adamant to meet its demands before the deadline of April 20.
The agreement with the TLP came on February 10 where the government committee headed by Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri assured to take up the matter before the Parliament, and the group agreed on ending the sit-in at Faizabad, Islamabad, after a violent day of protest.
The detention by the police in Lahore sparked the protests that soon spread to several major cities leading to massive roadblocks. A spokesperson of the National Highway and Motorway Police in a traffic advisory for the public confirmed road closures at major intersections on the GT Road, and on several interchanges on the Motorways from Peshawar to Lahore.
— National Highways & Motorway Police (NHMP) (@NHMPofficial) April 12, 2021
An official source told APP that despite assurance by the government to present the agreement before the National Assembly to condemn the blasphemous acts being carried out in many countries of the West, the TLP rejected the process and stuck to its demands.
The source said that the government, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan had vociferously addressed the issue of blasphemy and Islamophobia at all international forums including the United Nations.
The Federal Cabinet on October 20 while taking strong exception to the publication of blasphemous caricatures in France and hurting the sentiments of billions, said disrespect for the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) was intolerable and unacceptable for any Muslim.
The cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, also condemned in the strongest terms the remarks of French President Emmanuel Macron that hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims.
Read more: Was November 2020 TLP’s last hurrah?
During the meeting, it was reiterated that every available forum would be used for the effective representation of the sentiments of Muslims regarding the blasphemous caricatures.
Central Vice [Amir] President TLP Syed Zaheer ul Hassan Shah in a video message asked all TLP leaders and workers to “come out of their homes where ever they are … protest on roads and jam the entire country.”
A strong reaction from the public
The unannounced protest by the charged TLP workers, who were seen carrying batons in many a video shared by people struck on roads in various cities, led to an equally strong reaction from the public who termed blocking of roads and causing pain to the road users as totally un-Islamic.
Social Media users shared Hadith wherein Abu Huraira reported as saying that Holy Prophet (PBUH) said; “While a man was walking in the road, he found a thorny branch in the road and he moved it aside. Allah appreciated his deed and forgave him.”
Earlier Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly spoke against the practice of blasphemy on the pretext of freedom of speech and said:
“It is important to understand this: The Prophet lives in our hearts. When he is ridiculed, when he is insulted, it hurts… We human beings understand one thing: The pain of the heart is far, far, far more hurtful than physical pain. And that’s why the Muslims react (to insults against the Prophet).”
“That’s all we ask: Do not use freedom of speech to cause us pain by insulting our Holy Prophet. That’s all we want.”
However, despite the measures taken by the government, any attempt to pressurize the government and radicalising society on any pretext could not be acceptable, the source said and particularly mentioned the fiery hate-mongering speeches to incite the innocent people in believing that they were waging a jihad, as a disservice to Islam.
He said Pakistan has already paid a heavy price with the sacrifice of 70,000 martyrs and losses running in billions of dollars due to acts of terrorism and militancy s in the past.
Read more: Crackdown on TLP continues: Is the end near?
Punjab’s Minister for Health Dr Yasmin Rashid appealed to the protestors not to stop the vehicles carrying patients, medical supplies and oxygen cylinders. Lahore, Gujranwala, Gujrat and adjoining areas are witnessing a very high rate of Covid19 infections.
“The oxygen supply at hospitals needs to be replenished every eight hours … do not block roads,” she told a news channel. She said the hospitals in Punjab were almost to the capacity with Covid19 patients and everyone being shifted to a hospital was in a critical condition, and any delay during transportation can prove lethal.
— Islamabad Traffic Police (@ITP_Police) April 12, 2021
Traffic police in various cities have issued traffic alerts to warn the people and have urged them to avoid travel. However, there was little or no respite for thousands of families, women, young children, the elderly who were stuck up in traffic far away from their homes and no place to get food or stay the night.