ISLAMABAD: Commuters were jubilant on Tuesday as a main highway into Islamabad reopened three weeks after Faizabad sit-in blocked it, as uneasy soul-searching grew among many locals over the government’s capitulation to the protest demands.
Islamabad Highway, used daily by thousands travelling from Rawalpindi into the capital, was back to normal on Tuesday, with traffic flowing, shops open, and sanitation workers cleaning up the mess left behind by the protesters. The previously little-known group Tehreek-e-Labbaik had virtually paralysed Islamabad. Drivers were forced to go hours out of their way on overcrowded, potholed sideroads unsuited for heavy traffic.
“Everything clear and moving. Its (sic) good to be back in route,” commuter Nauman Naseer posted on a Facebook traffic updates group.
But joy on the roads was dampened for many citizens by fear that a dangerous precedent has been set.
The Tehreek-e-Labbaik had demanded the resignation of law minister Zahid Hamid over a “clerical mistake”. The demonstrators had linked the change in Constitution to blasphemy, a hugely sensitive charge in the country.
The law minister resigned on Monday, with protest leaders saying the government would meet all their demands in a deal the army helped broker.
The Islamabad High Court on Monday demanded a full accounting of the agreement and the part played by the military. Many of the protesters chanted “Long live the Pakistan Army!” as they dispersed, AFP reporters saw.
Published in Daily Times, November 29th 2017.