Relentless protests across Punjab: Protesters stage sit-in on airport premises
LAHORE, Feb 19: As protests continued across Punjab against Saturday’s killing of Shia Hazaras in Quetta, scores of charged protesters entered the parking area of the Lahore airport and forced the authorities to close all entry and exit points.
The protesters led by the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Shia Ulema Council and the Imamia Students Organisation barged in the airport parking area and staged a sit-in at about 6:00pm.
They burnt tyres and raised slogans against the killings in Quetta, creating problems for the Airport Security Force (ASF) and passengers. They reportedly thrashed some passengers during the protest. ASF and police officials controlled the situation after some time.
On the other hand, Shia leaders on Tuesday decided to continue their protest in Lahore and other parts of the province with blockade of Lahore-Sadiqabad road, Lahore-Rawalpindi/Islamabad road and Lahore-Islamabad Motorway at various sections.
“We have continued our sit-ins in front of Governor’s House on The Mall, Thokar Niaz Beg, Mcleod Road, Mochi Gate, Chungi Amar Sidhu, Babu Sabu and Imamia Colony, resulting in closure of Canal Road, Ferozepur Road, Multan Road, GT Road from Thokar to Multan Road up to Pattoki and from Shahdara to Muridke as well as Bund Road,” Majlis information secretary Muzahir Shigri told Dawn.
Panic gripped various localities of the city when charged protesters came out of city streets raising slogans and carrying placards and banners. On Wahdat Road near Bhaikhaywal Mor, the protesters blocked traffic coming from Multan Chungi, Muslim Town Mor, Dubai Chowk and Campus Road. The police here foiled their bid to prolong their stay on the road.
Near Babu Sabu, the protesters tried to take to the motorway, but the motorway police stopped them. A passenger telephoned this reporter from the Chakri interchange and told that hundreds of buses had been stuck up there because of protests. “I started my journey from Lahore at about 11:00am and reached Chakri in seven hours.
Here, we have been stopped from moving to Islamabad because of processions, rallies and sit-ins at various points,” Riaz Hussain told Dawn.
ASF spokesman Muhammad Aamir said though there was no serious attempt by the protesters to enter airport lounges or take over installations, the authorities restricted them to airport’s open area and they staged a peaceful sit-in there. “Keeping in view the situation, we closed all entry and exit points,” he said, adding that the flight operation remained smooth.
Besides Lahore, protests were staged in many parts of the province as well.
In Sahiwal, hundreds of protesters staged sit-ins on GT Road, Chichawatni city, Central Imam Bargah at Jogi Chowk and the View Hotel Crossing on Lahore-Multan road near Sahiwal bypass.
In Chiniot, the local Shia community staged sit-ins at Rahim Gali and Mohallah Garha. Later, they expanded their protest to all major roads leading to Chiniot and blocked traffic.
In Muzaffargarh, hundreds of men and women blocked main roads leading to Quetta and Rawalpindi and chanted slogans against the government for its failure to ensure peace in Quetta.
In Sialkot, the Shia community staged demonstrations at 37 places. The main sit-ins were staged at Allama Iqbal Chowk and China Chowk. In Okara, sit-ins were staged on GT Road near Renala Khurd and Okara Bypass.
In Sheikhupura, sit-ins were staged on various city roads and traffic remained suspended. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf office-bearers and activists took out a rally to protest the Quetta carnage. Traders observed a complete strike to express solidarity with the Hazara community.
In Bahawalpur, Majlis activists took out a rally and staged a sit-in at Farid Gate.