Pakistan’s biggest Shia religio-political party “MWM” stages countrywide protest; announces sit-in in front of Parliament

After a 70-day hunger strike, the Majlis Wahdat Muslimeen (MWM) on Friday blocked the Islamabad Expressway at Faizabad to protest targeted killings.

“We, the ordinary citizens of this country, are all against terrorism, which is killing all Pakistanis, be they Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Christian,” said Allama Hassan Zafar, an MWM leader.

The Islamabad Expressway was blocked between Dhok Kala Khan and Zero Point, which MWM leaders say was part of their countrywide protests – main roads have been blocked in all major cities and towns.

News has been received from across Pakistan that MWM has blocked all main highways across the country resulting in heavy traffic situation coming and going out of the cities. Around 80 venues are reported with sit-ins, protestors demanding of the government to pay heed to MWM’s dissent.

The protest started after Friday prayers and was called off at 8pm.

Current reports suggest around 35 highways have been blocked in Sindh in cities to include; Karachi Hyderabad, Badin, Matli, Haala, Tando Bhago, Talhaar, Golardchi, Sajwal, Thatta, Mirpurkhas, Sakrand, Morro, Ranipur, Babarlu, Ghotki, Shikarpur, Dadu, Mithiari and Kundhkot.

Across Balochistan, MWM is witnessed blocking highways at 5 venues namely; Jacobabad, Naseerabad, Quetta and Dera Murad Jamali, Austa Muhammad and Hub Road.

Punjab witnessed around 22 MWM sit-ins at Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sagodha, Kasur, Multan, Sialkot, Jhang, Chiniot, Qaim, Bharwana, Bakhar and D.G. Khan.

Protestants took to the streets chanting slogans and holding banners at 8 venues in Baltistan while 2 sit-in are reported at Gilgit.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, sit -in at 8 places were observed at Parachinar, Hangu, Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar and Kohat.

“We have been peaceful even when blocking the roads but it is unfortunate that the government did not address our demands,” Allama Zafar said, adding that the MWM was demanding effective measures to end targeted killings.

Other speakers also demanded effective and fair implementation of the National Action Plan, lifting the ban on clerics’ movement and facilitating pilgrims at the Pakistan-Iran border, where they have been stranded for 15 days.

MWM leader Allama Nasir Abbas has been observing a hunger strike for 70 days now, and has only been consuming water and juice. The party has had meetings with leaders of minority communities and all the mainstream political parties as well as Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who promised to look into their concerns.

MWM spokesperson Hasnain Zaidi said the MWM was left with no other option to raise the issue of targeted killings.

“We organised a hunger strike camp led by Allama Nasir Abbas outside the National Press Club to highlight the issue of targeted killings, but the government did not take notice even after 70 days. MWM workers had no other way to bring up the issue,” he explained.

“We will give the government two days to take action, failing which people will come to Islamabad from other parts of the country on August 7 and stage a sit-in in front of Parliament House,” he warned.

The protest was attended by ordinary citizens and a few madressah students. Police and Rangers were deployed for security at Faizabad.

Meanwhile, Friday was a bad day for motorists in Rawalpindi, as the MWM protested on Murree Road against sectarian killings in Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and local residents protested on Adiala Road against electricity loadshedding, causing long traffic jams on main roads.

Murree Road was blocked at the Faizabad flyover where MWM workers and supporters staged a sit-in and also blocked Islamabad Expressway. However, the metro bus service was not suspended during the protest.

Due to the protests, traffic between the twin cities also came to a stop on various service and slip roads. Most motorists held local administration responsible for the traffic congestion.

“The traffic mess can be avoided with proper traffic management because the protesters had told the administration, and the traffic police should make plans for alternate routes,” said Mohammad Haider, a resident of Satellite Town.

He said residents’ time and fuel was wasted during the protests and that protesters should be provided with a separate space to express themselves without inconveniencing the public.

Saleem Younas, a resident of Sadiqabad said the government had banned public rallies in front of Parliament House as it created problems for the ruling elite. However, the government was not concerned about the problems the public faced due to protests.

Residents of Adiala Road also staged a demonstration against unannounced electricity loadshedding and said officials of the Islamabad Electric Supply Company were not present at the complaint office. They blocked the road for two hours and slip roads nearby were also blocked, posing problems for commuters, traders and pedestrians.

Source: AhlulBayt News Agency

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