Pro-Qadri protesters hold Islamabad under siege

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The protest-turned sit-in is still underway but the crowd has diminished from 10 thousand to few hundred. Mobile phone services continue to be blocked. More than 700 protesters arrested

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The protest by supporters of Mumtaz Qadri has entered third day while the citizens continue to face problems because of roads blockades, news blackout and suspension of cellphone services.

The protest-turned sit-in which started on Sunday (27 March 2016) is still underway but the crowd has diminished from 10,000 to around 2,000 protesters. The protesters are supporters of Mumtaz Qadri and are protesting in Islamabad, a month after Qadri was hanged for assassinating Punjab governor Salman Taseer.

The protest continues despite containers and barricades put up to prevent protestors from entering Islamabad’s constitution avenue, where a number of landmark government buildings exist. News from the protest has almost entirely been ignored or under-reported owing to an increasing trend of government ordered news blackouts intended to curb violent protests, but how valid is the demand for media black-out and what are the other tactics to help prevent unrest?

Sudden road blockades,the absence of information on TV channels and suspension of cellphone services, have all contributed to a state of frenzy amongst citizens.

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‘Did they not see this coming’

On Sunday night, when the situation turned severe, the government called in the army to secure the high-security zone as protesters attempted to reach D-Chowk, opposite the Parliament House.

As the protests turned violent questions are being raised about police preparedness. Since Qadri was executed, there’s been an unspoken fear of retaliation. Sensing possible violence, Government had increased security on the day of the execution but has seemingly failed to prevent vandalism and violence since Sunday’s sit-in began.

Several protestors have reportedly traveled from other cities for the sit in. The questions then arise did the authorities not foresee this? how were the protestors able to vandalize public property and why did the authorities not take swift action when the protest turned violent?

Islamabad police sources said that the police department was not prepared for the resistance as they thought the protest would end in Rawalpindi where it started and did not realize how the protesters managed to reach Islamabad from Liaquat Bagh, which is more than 15km from D-Chowk.

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Several protestors have reportedly traveled from other cities for the sit in. The questions then arise did the authorities not foresee this? how were the protestors able to vandalize public property and why did the authorities not take swift action when the protest turned violent?

#IslamabadUnderSeige: Lack of police preparation evident as protesters force their way into capital, march on parliament http://www.dawn.com/news/1248357/liaquat-bagh-to-d-chowk-a-trail-of-destruction

Posted by Islamabad Scene on Monday, March 28, 2016

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Mobile phone services remain suspended Islamabad on second day

Citizens of Islamabad continue to face problems as cell phone service remained suspended throughout Monday and have not been restored till now (2 pm) on Tuesday.

The decision of suspension of mobile phone service was taken to ensure that the protesters, who reached D. Chowk on Sunday night, did not have the facility of communication. Recently, the Interior ministry has been regularly suspending the service, especially on Friday prayer time, to stop Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz from delivering Friday sermons from his residence on a mobile phone.

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‘What of the media black-out?’

In a press release issued by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), media channels are instructed to report ‘responsibly’ citing the example of media coverage that followed the attack in Brussels. Renowned anchor and journalist Maria Memon, summed up the reaction and expectation of the Interior ministry in this tweet:

The government has maintained that limited or no coverage of unrest has helped them curb violence, while many laud the decision others respectfully disagree. On PEMRA’s official facebook page, where the press release appeared, Adnan Khan writes:

would take commercialisation – crass or otherwise – of the media if that is what it takes for media to do it must, i.e. report and inform people. Under PEMRA, that has been consistently thwarted. I wonder why no one has challenged the existence of this Orwellian body on constitutional grounds.

There are others who demand complete media black out while authorities gear up to clear the area of protestors:

 

What’s the flipside of a media black out?

 

 

 

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Damage to public property by pro-Qadri supporters estimated at Rs. 150 million

Islamaad faced an estimated loss of nearly Rs. 150 million to public infrastructure at the hands of participants of a pro-Mumtaz Qadri sit-in that continues at D-Chowk. The protesters have held the capital under siege, ransacking public property, pelting stones at police, vehicles, buildings and bus stops while clashing with the police. Punjab Metrobus Authority (PMA) estimate loss of nearly Rs. 120 million due to complete destruction of the said station. “This property was built using the taxpayers’ money and no one should go scot-free for destroying it,” said a young employee of a private office located near the Parade Ground station. Citizens of Islamabad expressed their anger and disgust over the loss of public property in Islamabad:

Kya human koi btaay sahulat deserve krtay hain? Ye b hukmaranon ka Kasur?

Posted by Metro Bus Rawalpindi-Islamabad on Sunday, March 27, 2016

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700 protesters arrested from Islamabad

More than 700 protesters have been arrested by police from the city and sent to various jails in Punjab, local media reports. Many were arrested during the clashes between protesters and law enforcement officials, and a few of the leaders were also arrested. However, a person at the sit-in says D-Chowk and Parade Ground are not being picked up, but some of those who leave are being arrested.

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Who is leading the Islamabad Protest?

Sunday’s march was not led by any established party, but rather proceeded under the banner of the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, which is a coalition of several, according to this report. Among these, the most active is the Sunni Tehreek, led by Sarwat Ijaz Qadri, Aalmi Tanzeem Ahle Sunnat, led by Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri and the Fidayeen-i-Khatam-i-Nabuwat, led by Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

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Citizens raising voice against protest on social media

Citizens of Islamabad raised their voice against the unlawful and destructive protest through social media using the hashtag #IslamabadUnderSeige:

‘There’s an end in sight’

The set of 10 demands issued by protestors include the unconditional release of all Sunni clerics and leaders booked on various charges, including terrorism and murder; the recognition of Mumtaz Qadri as a martyr and the conversion of his Adiala Jail cell into a national heritage site; assurances that the blasphemy laws will not be amended; and the removal of Ahmadis and other non-Muslims who had occupied key posts.

Pakistan government and people have to deal firmly with the agitators by dismissing all demands, writes Shamila Ghyas, a blogger:

We need to reject their demands, dismiss them, ridicule them, show them a mirror and make them see that we are not scared of them.

Sana Jamalhttps://about.me/sanajamal
Storyteller. Avid Reader. Learner to the core.

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