Nor­mal­ity re­turns af­ter three days of protests

RS150B LOSS TO NA­TIONAL EX­CHE­QUER AS BUSI­NESSES ARE HIT

Gulf News - - Pakistan - BY SANA JA­MAL Cor­re­spon­dent

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.

On­line

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.

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