Normality returns after three days of protests
RS150B LOSS TO NATIONAL EXCHEQUER AS BUSINESSES ARE HIT
Pakistanis heaved a collective sigh of relief yesterday, as life tiptoed back to normal in major cities after the end of sporadic protests by religious groups, who reached an agreement with the government.
The sit-ins led by Tehreek-iLabbaik Pakistan (TLP) started on October 31, after the Supreme Court acquitted a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy charges.
After three days, Pakistanis warmly welcomed the return to normal, daily life as schools and shops reopened, road blocks were removed and traffic returned to normal across the country.
In Islamabad, the city administration began an early morning clean-up of the roads and traffic flowed smoothly. Citizens who had been stuck at home for three days came out to shop, reviving commercial activity. Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and other places saw similar activity.
Days of protests by the religio-political groups confined people to their homes, choked traffic, closed schools and businesses and halted economic activity.
It was worse for the sick and suffering. “My father is a heart patient and is not in a good condition. What if something happened to him when all the roads were blocked?” Islamabad resident Habib Ahmed told
Gulf News. He lamented that common people were the ones to suffer during times like this.
Closure affects everyone
Another badly hit lot were the daily wage earners. “I have to feed a family of five from what I earn every day, supplying raw material to a warehouse,” said Hakeem Khan, 36, a daily wage earner and sole breadwinner of his family. “I had to borrow money to put food on our table,” he said, adding that it’s the poor who suffer during strikes or protests.
The lockdown of the cities also affected business, halting activities in some industries in Punjab, as they could neither receive imported raw materials nor send out export items from the Karachi port, due to closed roads.
One industrialist who had an export shipment worth millions feared that he would be fined and face huge losses if his consignment does not arrive on time. Local news reports estimated that Pakistan suffered a loss of Rs150 billion (Dh4.11 billion) when economic activities came to a standstill during the protest.
During the protests, a few incidents of violence — including vehicles being burnt and policemen getting pelted with stones — were reported on social media. However, the mainstream media and news channels did not cover the protests, following the government’s orders in an attempt to calm down tensions.
The protests were called off after the government and the TLP signed a five-point deal on Friday night. The government agreed to “initiate the legal process” to place Asia Bibi’s name on the exit control list, or a travel ban. The government assured that it would not oppose a review petition filed against the court’s judgement in the case and release all people arrested during the protests.
TLP issued an apology to those who were inconvenienced by the protests.
A woman displays dolls at her stall to attract visitors during the Daachi Arts and Crafts ■ Exhibition organised by the Daachi Foundation in Model Town, Lahore, yesterday.