ISLAMABAD: Three policemen were injured on Tuesday in a clash with Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLY) protesters, who continue to block the crucial Faizabad Interchange – which connects Islamabad with Rawalpindi – for the seventh consecutive day.
Roughly 2,000 protesters are demanding the resignation of Federal Law Minister Zahid Hamid over an amendment to the Prophethood Declaration Clause in the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017.
The I-9 station house officer and two other policemen were injured in the clash while the police arrested dozens of protesters.
The Islamabad police chief said the protesters were deliberately trying to escalate tensions so that a clash with police would become inevitable while the protesters said they would defend themselves if the police conducted an operation against them.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi and other TLY leaders reportedly told the protesters to put up resistance to the police, signalling that they would continue to defy orders to clear the interchange.
Punjab government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan said that the protests were a “serious inconvenience for people and disturbing public life” in the province that surrounds Islamabad. “The Punjab government has detained dozens of TLY activists from various districts,” he said.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal urged the protesters on Monday night to call off the sit-in, saying he hoped the government “wouldn’t be forced to take extreme steps”. The protesters reportedly detained several policemen, seized their weapons and mistreated them. “The abduction of the police is a heinous crime,” Iqbal said in a statement. Police also accused the protesters of throwing stones at them.
Separately, Federal Minister of Religious Affairs Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, while addressing a joint press conference with Minister of State for Interior Affairs Tallal Chaudry, reiterated that the government firmly believes in the finality of Prophethood.
“All Muslims are firm believers in the finality of Prophethood, and we have no ambiguity over the clause,” Yousaf stressed.
The religious affairs minister urged the protesters to end their demonstration as the government has taken notice of their reservations.
Thousands of people use the interchange to commute every day to work in the capital. Last week, an eight-month-old child died on his way to the hospital after being stuck in traffic because the TLY’s blockade.
The protesters have erected tents on the greenbelt and deputed their own ‘security’ personnel who frisk pedestrians and motorbike riders.
They have also been controlling traffic for hundreds of meters around their protest camp, parking buses at several locations on Islamabad Highway and removing nearby police checkposts.
As a result, all major roads including Seventh Avenue on Kashmir Highway, Islamabad Expressway, Murree Road and IJP Principal Road have been completely closed for traffic. Due to diversions, the alternative roads are also clogged including Kashmir Highway, Club Road, Taramri Chowk and other arteries.
Life for the residents of Islamabad and Rawalpindi has been at a standstill for the past one week due to the sit-in. Thoroughly exasperated by the situation, the citizens have urged the Supreme Court to intervene in the matter.
The residents complained about the use of roads by political and religious groups for rallies and said such processions caused immense misery.
The commuters complained that due to the partial suspension of Metro Bus Service, they had no option but to use either slow-moving minibuses or fast taxis to reach their respective destinations and that cabbies overcharged them.