Over 150 arrested for attempting to hold 'pro-blasphemy law' demonstration in Lahore

Published January 4, 2017
A container blocks off an underpass to Gulberg. ─ Photo by author.
A container blocks off an underpass to Gulberg. ─ Photo by author.

Over 150 people were arrested as religious parties attempted to hold a demonstration in favour of the blasphemy law in Punjab's provincial capital Wednesday on the death anniversary of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.

Protesters belonging to the Sunni Tehreek, Tehreek-i-Khatme Nabuwat and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah were among those who had planned to march from Kalma Chowk to Liberty Chowk in favour of the blasphemy law.

The provincial government, however, did not permit the holding of the rally, after which police erected blockades in different parts of Lahore to prevent a gathering.

Deputy Inspector General Operations Haider Ashraf told Dawn that over 150 members of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah had been arrested. He added that more arrests will be made, and that no one had permission to hold a rally in Lahore.

Superintendent Police (SP) Security Ibadat Nisar said the Punjab government had not allowed the demonstrators to hold any rally in Lahore. He said that police would not allow the demonstrators to reach their destination and would block routes and make arrests if necessary.

Main Gulberg and all arteries leading to it have been blocked from Barkat Market to Main Market and police have been heavily deployed across the city.

Residents in Lahore are facing severe traffic jams along certain routes due to the diversions.

Taseer, a former governor of Punjab and an outspoken advocate for blasphemy law reform, was gunned down by his security guard Mumtaz Qadri the same day six years ago.

A pro-blasphemy law protest had also been planned for Rawalpindi today, according to reports circulating on social media.

Open support for Taseer's killer

On Taseer's death anniversary, banners proclaiming Mumtaz Qadri as a hero cropped up in various cities. The banners call people to commemorate 'Youm-i-Namoos-i-Risalat'.

Nearly a year after the hanging of Qadri, a shrine is being built in his memory in Bhara Kahu, not far from the capital where he was brutally gunned down.

A month after Taseer's killer was executed, a mob of pro-Qadri protesters led by the Sunni Tehreek and the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool (SAW) converged on the capital and besieged Islamabad's Red Zone.

The stand-off between the government and protesters ended without a showdown after three days and several rounds of negotiations between both parties.

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