PESHAWAR: The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl on Friday began the ‘Plan B’ of its anti-government Azadi March by blocking major highways in four districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The party workers staged sit-ins on the Grand Trunk Road near Nowshera, Karakoram Highway in Hazara region, Chakdara road in Malakand division and Indus Highway near Bannu.
However, the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway wasn’t blocked.
Former minister and JUI-F leader Asif Iqbal Daudzai told Dawn that the highway blockades would continue until party chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman issued new orders.
“Workers will continue blocking highways until they receive further orders from Maulana sahib,” he said.
Officials insist force won’t be used, DCs to convince party leaders to end road blockades
Mr Daudzai said the JUI-F workers had blocked the Indus Highway that linked southern and northern regions of the country on the Bannu Link Road.
He said the Karakorum Highway, the only land route between Pakistan and China, had been closed at Chatarplan in Mansehra district.
Official sources said the government had directed the commissioners and deputy commissioners of the relevant divisions and districts to engage with protesters.
They said there would be no use of force against protesters, while the administrations concerned would persuade the local JUI-F leaders to end protest.
The government has already set up an eight-member ministerial committee headed by minister for law and parliamentary affairs Sultan Mohammad Khan to oversee the situation.
A monitoring cell is also working to assist the committee.
Officials said alternate arrangements were in place to ensure smooth flow of traffic in the province.
They said traffic on the Indus Highway had been diverted from Gandi Chowk towards Bannu via Naurang for DI Khan, Tank and Punjab, while the Motorway and Pir Sabaq Branch Road had been kept operational for traffic due to the blockade of GT Road at Hakeemabad point in Nowshera.
The Swat Expressway is used by motorists from and to Malakand division.
The officials said despite blockade at Chatarplan point, the vehicles continued to use the KKH.
Meanwhile, the Karakoram Highway was blocked in Chatter Plain area of Mansehra district causing long queues of vehicles moving between Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and among cities.
JUI-F provincial chief Maulana Attaur Rehman, who led the blockade, said the main arteries were blocked in Mansehra, Chakdara, Swat and Bannu after the approval of the opposition parties and they would be opened only after the prime minister resigned.
“Though people have suffered due to the blockade of roads, it is far better than of their misery caused by high inflation and unemployment,” he said.
District police officer Zaibullah Khan and superintendent of police Arif Javed visited the sit-in site and examined security situation.
The JUI-F workers staged a sit-in at Pul Chowki on Chakdara-Batkhela Road in Timergara blocking the road to traffic.
Hundreds of protesters from Lower and Upper Dir, Swat, Buner and Malakand led by the party’s divisional chief, Mufti Fazal Ghafoor, gathered at the Pul Chowki Chakdara.
The police diverted traffic for Dir, Chitral and Bajaur to Badwan Chakdara Road.
However, the Swat Motorway in Chakdara remained open to heavy traffic to Swat and Dir via Alladadand Road.
Also in the day, the JUI-F workers from Karak, Bannu and Lakki Marwat districts marched on the link road in Karak area before stopping alongside the Indus Highway to protest against the government.
However, the traffic on the Indus Highway wasn’t blocked.
The rally from Karak district was led by JUI-F lawmakers Mian Nisar Gul Kakakhel and Malik Zafar Azam and Bannu district’s by MNA Zahid Akram Durrani.
The speakers demanded fresh polls in the country insisting that the 2018 general elections were massively rigged.
Meanwhile, the government asked the JUI-F leadership to sit down with the government to settle parameters for its protest.
Addressing a news conference here following a meeting of the ministerial committee on law and order, adviser to the chief minister Ajmal Wazir said it was the JUI-F’s constitutional right to stage protests but it should not trouble people.
The meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.
“The JUI-F is at liberty to protest but there is no justification to close roads and highways and disrupt life and businesses. The road closures will bother people and cause losses to businesses. The JUI-F can either sit with the government or local administrations to agree terms of reference for the protest,” he said.
The adviser said the government was closely monitoring the JUI-F protest and it, too, had the Plan A and Plan B regarding protests.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019