Dozens held for blocking entrance to capital
Protesters were disturbing public life, says Punjab government official
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.
Activists raise slogans during the protest in Islamabad on Tuesday.