JUI-F calls off plans to block roads across the country after lawmakers, party workers released

Published March 11, 2022
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman speaks to the media on Thursday night. — DawnNewsTV
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman speaks to the media on Thursday night. — DawnNewsTV

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Friday called off plans to block highways across the country after parliamentarians and workers, who were arrested last night during a raid at Parliament Lodges, were released by Islamabad police.

In an audio message shared on Twitter, Maulana Fazl said there was "no need" to block the roads now since all parliamentarians and workers have been released.

On Thursday, a heavy contingent of police raided the Parliament Lodges to expel members of the Ansarul Islam — the volunteer force of the JUI-F — who were invited to provide security to opposition lawmakers.

At least four legislators, along with two dozen Ansarul Islam volunteers, were arrested during the operation, police officials told Dawn.

A couple of legislators also courted arrest in protest over the police action at the parliamentarians' lodgings, they said, adding that all the arrested persons were shifted to a police installation for further action.

The opposition held a joint meeting following the operation after which Maulana Fazl directed party workers to open the highways they had earlier blocked in protest against the police operation and set a deadline of 9am for the government to release arrested parliamentarians and party workers.

The maulana said he was announcing the end of the protest keeping in view the hardships faced by the commuters, including women and children, warning however, that he would again give a call to his workers to block the highways if those arrested were not released.

In his message today, the JUI-F chief again condemned the police's actions on Thursday, claiming that they "discarded all laws and ethics at Parliament Lodges, baselessly tortured workers and dragged and arrested elected representatives of the public, detained their guests and presented a wrong picture and false narrative to the public".

He thanked his party workers, members of other opposition parties and the people of the country for "taking immediate action and jamming the entire country in less than an hour" and congratulated them for their "success".

On the other hand, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said that Maulana Fazl had been "making calls all night and asking for forgiveness and for his workers to be released so he could have some honour left".

Gill claimed the maulana also asked his workers to apologise. "In principle, they (the workers) should not have been released but we did not want to let them flee the political arena on this excuse," he tweeted.

Police action

A day earlier, JUI-F lawmaker Maulana Salahuddin Ayyubi reached the Parliament Lodges — where nearly all members of parliament are allotted accommodation — alongside a few dozen motorcycle-riding volunteers. Some of the volunteers entered the lodges with the lawmaker, while others gathered outside the main gate.

Images of their presence outside the lodges aired on news channels caught the attention of authorities, who asked the capital police chief to remove them from the premises, police officials said.

In response, a large force, consisting of an anti-riot unit, police commandoes, the Counter Terrorism Department and Anti-Terrorism Force along with prison vans reached the Parliament Lodges — located opposite Parliament House — under the supervision of the DIG and SSP Operations. According to police sources, all volunteers then moved to MNA Ayyubi's Lodge (A-401) and locked the door.

Senior police officers asked them to surrender, but they refused, police said.

Around 8pm, the police party broke down the door of the MNA's flat, which led to a physical confrontation between police, legislators and the Ansarul Islam volunteers, officers said, adding that during the confrontation a number of MNAs and volunteers sustained injuries.

Police succeeded in arresting around two dozen volunteers, and at least four legislators (including a senator and three MNAs), who were then dragged and bundled into police vehicles.

After the police party left, an incensed Maulana Fazl arrived at the scene with a large number of party workers and activists in tow, announcing his intention to court arrest and issuing a call to all his supporters across the country to come out onto the streets to protest the state's high-handedness.

Enraged JUI-F workers then blocked roads and highways in different parts of the country. They blocked the Hazara Motorway, Mad­ran-Peshawar Motor­way, Nawab Shah-Sakrand Road, and Pak-Afghan Highway at Jamrud.

All highways linking Balochistan with Sindh and Punjab were blocked by the JUI-F workers at various points. Traffic was suspen­ded between Quetta and Ka­­rachi after the JUI-F activists blocked the Natio­nal Highway at Mastung, Kalat, Khuzdar Uthal and Hub.

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