Health officials today, Tuesday, April 13, said that thousands of supporters belonging to a Pakistan Islamist party blocked major roads protesting their leader’s arrest. The officials added that the protesters equally interrupted critical oxygen supplies for Coronavirus patients.
Major road outlets remained closed in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-biggest city, following Saad Rizvi’s arrest yesterday.
Rizvi’s party, Tehreek -e-Labbaik, has called for the French ambassador’s expulsion after President Emmanuel Macron’s government expressed support for a magazine’s right to republish cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed, an act considered blasphemous by most Muslims.
According to a leading health official in Punjab, Yasmin Rashid, the disruption of oxygen supplies during protests on Monday night had been a “crisis.”
“Please do not block roads for ambulances and visitors to the hospitals. Some ambulances are carrying oxygen cylinders, which are essential for Covid patients,” Rashid said.
Asad Aslam, Punjab pandemic pointman, remarked that several hospitals had faced oxygen shortages on Monday night. The situation was brought under control as soon as authorities opened roads.
Pakistan is faced with a deadly third wave of covid 19 and equally facing vaccine shortage.
A party official told reporters that two of their followers were killed in clashes with security forces on Monday night as the police managed to disperse the crowd by using tear gas and water canons.
Saad Rizvi was taken into custody moments after calling for an April 20th march on the capital asking for the French ambassador’s expulsion, a move the group declared the government already endorsed last year.
On its part, the government has never acknowledged any such agreement.
It should be noted that Rizvi is the son of a firebrand cleric and previous head of the TLP, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who died in November after leading massive anti-France protests across Pakistan.
During those protests, TLP supporters held the capital hostage for three days, which saw heavy street fighting and forced authorities to cut mobile phone coverage in Islamabad and surrounding areas.