Dozens held for block­ing en­trance to cap­i­tal

Pro­test­ers were dis­turb­ing pub­lic life, says Pun­jab gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial

The Gulf Today - - Asia -

ISLAMABAD: Po­lice have ar­rested dozens of mem­bers of a hard­line party that has blocked a main en­trance to the cap­i­tal since last week, a pro­vin­cial spokesman said, in the lat­est con­fronta­tion be­tween re­li­gious ac­tivists and au­thor­i­ties.

Hun­dreds of sup­port­ers of the Tehreek-e-labaik Pak­istan party have blocked a main road to Islamabad since Fri­day, threat­en­ing vi­o­lence if their de­mand that the min­is­ter of law be sacked is not met.

The group blames the min­is­ter, Zahid Hamid, for changes to an elec­toral oath that it says amounts to blas­phemy. The gov­ern­ment puts the is­sue down to a cler­i­cal er­ror.

A spokesman for the Pun­jab pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, Ma­lik Muham­mad Ahmed Khan, told Reuters 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 Tehreek-e-labaik’s ac­tivists from var­i­ous dis­tricts,” he said.

Labaik spokesman Ejaz Ashrai said in a state­ment po­lice ar­rested hun­dreds of its work­ers in a coun­try­wide swoop, mainly in the party’s base in Pun­jab.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Ah­san Iqbal late on Mon­day urged the pro­test­ers to call off the sit-in, say­ing he hoped the gov­ern­ment “wouldn’t be forced to take ex­treme steps.”

One se­cu­rity source said the protest- ers de­tained sev­eral po­lice­men, seized their weapons and mis­treated them.

“The ab­duc­tion of the po­lice is a heinous crime,” Iqbal said in a state­ment.

Po­lice have ac­cused the pro­test­ers, who are oc­cu­py­ing the main artery be­tween the cap­i­tal and the nearby city of Rawalpindi, of throw­ing stones at them.

Fear­ing vi­o­lence, the gov­ern­ment has blocked sev­eral roads with ship­ping con­tain­ers to cor­ral the pro­test­ers, but that has caused hours-long trafic jams.

Also on Tues­day, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) or­dered to re­verse in the Elec­tions Act 2017 all amend­ments per­tain­ing to the Khatm-i-nabuwwat oath.

IHC judge Jus­tice Shaukat Sid­diqui heard a pe­ti­tion sub­mit­ted by Tehrike-khatm-e-nabuwwat leader Maulana Al­lah Wasaya against an amend­ment to the Khatm-e-nabuwwat oath in the Elec­tions Act, which had ear­lier been deemed a “cler­i­cal er­ror” and sub­se­quently rectiied.

Wasaya in his pe­ti­tion called for all changes to sec­tions per­tain­ing to the Khatm-i-nabuwwat oath to be re­versed, and for strict ac­tion to be taken against those who had a hand in the er­ror.

Agence France-presse

Ac­tivists raise slo­gans dur­ing the protest in Islamabad on Tues­day.

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