October 21st, 2021
By Hamid Riaz & Rehan Piracha
Supporters of the banned Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan on Thursday continued their sit-in outside their main secretariat (The Rehmat-ul-Alameen Mosque) at Chowk Yateem Khana for the third day to demand the release of their detained leader Saad Rizvi.
The sit-in has already paralysed the lives of citizens, as shops and businesses remained closed in the heavily congested locality. Residents braved barricades and hour-long traffic jams to reach offices and educational institutions located in other parts of the city.
Supporters at the sit-in told Voicepk.net that protesters would leave on a long march to Islamabad from the Rehmatul Aalimeen Mosque after Friday prayers. The administration has barricaded all roads leading to the sit-in camp outside the TLP stronghold. Barricades have been set up at Moon Market on Allama Iqbal Boulevard, Scheme Morr on Multan Road, Sherakot on Bund Road and Chaubarji. Supporters of the banned outfit wearing reflective yellow jackets with the name of their organisation printed in black, blocked and stood guard at all streets leading to the sit-in camp.
These TLP security guards frisked all those entering the sit-in area on the road. The guards also stopped passersby from filming closed shops on the road.
Scores of protesters were seen sitting on the ground in front a of 10-feet high stage on Multan Road near the street corner of the mosque compound. A number of large tents were erected on the road to house workers and sympathisers arriving from other major cities like Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. In the evening, protesters raised their hands and swayed to devotional hymns playing intermittently from loudspeakers, placed along the dividers of the main road. Some supporters were seen doling out food from cauldrons to hungry protesters at the sit-in.
All shops and businesses on the Multan Road and nearby Chowk Yateem Khana bazaar have remained shut since Tuesday.
The sit-in has affected the daily lives of the residents of the heavily-populated area. Residents and commuters faced difficulties in getting to offices and educational institutions in the areas around Chowk Yateem Khana, which remained littered with heavy stones.
Mobile phone service remained disrupted in Sabzazar, Allama Iqbal Town, Chowk Yateem Khana, Shera Kot, Nawan Kot and Gulshan Ravi localities, while a notification by the government has ordered internet services to be shut down as well.
A heavy contingent of police is present near the sit-in to deal with the extraordinary situation. The provincial government has remained tight lipped about the sit-in and has not publicly disclosed any ongoing negotiations with the protesters.
Hassan Khawar, provincial government spokesperson, did not respond to calls and texts for comments on whether the government was holding negotiations to call off the sit-in peacefully.
The landline internet services to these localities were also disrupted in order to restrict the TLP supporters from highlighting their sit-in on social media. Residents were unable to make calls on social media platforms and send videos through them.
Saad Rizvi was arrested ahead of a long march announced by the TLP on April 12. Following the riots and protests, the government banned the TLP.
A two-member division bench of the Lahore High Court will decide matter of release of Saad Hussain Rizvi, according to the directions of the Supreme Court while hearing the Punjab government’s petition against the high court’s 1st October order to release him.
Hearing the Punjab government’s petition at the Lahore registry, the apex court remanded the matter of Rizvi’s release to the Lahore High Court, directing that a special division bench hear the case. The hearing was conducted by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.
The Punjab government’s counsel sought annulment of the release order and argued that 12 people, including three policemen, had lost their lives, as a result of the protests and rioting on Saad Rizvi’s call. Rizvi was detained under the Anti-Terrorism Act and the High Court’s review board was approached to extend his detention, but the High Court’s review board rejected the request for extension.