Anti-government protesters block highways across Pakistan

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By Nasir Aijaz
AsiaN Representative

Islamabad: After staging sit-in from November 1 to 12, thousands of workers of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), a religio-political party led by Maulana Fazal-u-Rehman, continued blocking the major highways across the country since Wednesday as part of the party’s Plan to dislodge the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician.

As a result of the blockade traffic flow remained affected in several parts of the country including the Silk Route connecting Pakistan to China.

In Karachi, the capital of Southern Sindh province, the protesters blocked Hub River Road that connects the country’s industrial hub to Balochistan province. According to JUI-F’s provincial spokesperson Sami Swati, the party has decided to continue the protest with the party’s workers and leaders to offer the Friday prayer at the venue of the sit-in.

“After the Friday prayer, the next plan of action will be announced,” he told the media.

JUI-F’s Balochistan chapter on Friday announced they would block the main highway and roads in the province from November 15 to 18.

While opposition parties have announced to support JUI-F’s ‘Plan’ in Balochistan, Chief Minister Jam Kamal said his government would not allow the demonstrators to block highways.

Protests including blocking the highway linking Sindh to Punjab have also been going on in Ghotki district since Thursday causing severe traffic jams.

Similarly, protests in Malakand division and Charsada of Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw (KPK) province, and federal capital Islamabad have also been going on since Thursday.

On Thursday protesters also blocked the Grand Trunk Road between Islamabad and Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, causing lengthy lines of vehicles. Similar disruptions were reported in Jacobabad, a city in Sindh linking the province with Balochistan, KPK and Punjab province.

The protests, led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman began with the ‘Azadi March’ on October 27 from Karachi. Hundreds of thousands supporters reached Islamabad on October 31, holding a two-week sit-in on the city’s main highway from November 01.

On Wednesday November 13, Fazl ordered his supporters to disperse across the country to block roads, in what he termed as ‘Plan B’ to topple Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Meanwhile, Fazal confidently said on Friday that ‘fresh elections for the parliament would be held before next year’.

Talking to the media in KPK, the JUI-F chief said that if the prime minister had resigned the protests would not have spread to the entire country.

He added that his party workers will block main highways across the country. “I would advise the provincial governments to let us exercise our democratic right to protest,” he told reporters.

When asked if he expects national polls to be held next year, he said, “2020 is very far away. Election will be held before that.”

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