LHC orders The Mall cleared of protesters

The Lahore High Court on Monday directed the Punjab government to clear the Mall Road, which has been occupied by the protesting visually impaired persons, besides giving clear instructions to pass the law for high security zones in the province immediately.

Justice Jawad Hassan passed the order while hearing a petition moved by Advocate Azhar Siddique. A deputy secretary of Punjab Home Department appeared before the court in the case. The judge expressed serious concern over the blockage of roads by the visually impaired persons who were protesting for their demands. The counsel for the petitioner told the judge that the visually impaired persons have been blocking the road since a week.

The citizens and commuters have been facing trouble due to the road blockage while the shops and markets have also been affected by the protest demonstration, as business activities in the area have come to a halt. The traffic mess, he said, was another issue. All the adjoining roads get overcrowded due to blockage of the Mall Road. He said that it is a clear violation of the Lahore High Court’s judgment, according to which nobody can hold a protest and block the area.

At this, Justice Hassan asked the government’s officer, “Why has the road not been cleared so far?” He further said that there was already a court verdict that nobody could block the road and questioned why the relevant law had not been passed.

The court directed the Punjab government to get Punjab High Security Zones Establishment Act 2021 passed from the cabinet. “Present this law before the cabinet and get it passed,” Justice Hassan further remarked.

On it, the officer replied that the draft law is ready and would soon be presented to the cabinet for approval. At this, Justice Jawad directed the Punjab government to get the Mall Road cleared in light of the directives of the Lahore High Court and get the relevant law passed immediately. The judge disposed of the petition.

Talking to MinuteMirror, a protester said, “PTI government gave us their word; they assured us jobs and support funds but we didn’t get anything.”

“Protest is our right and we will continue to do so unless our demands are met,” he further said.

Interestingly, the judges and senior bureaucrats who live in GOR-I use the same road to reach the Lahore High Court, other courts and the Punjab Secretariat. As an alternative, as and when Mall Road is blocked they face trouble and reach court and offices by using the alternative roads like Majid Nizami Road, Mozzang Road, Litton road and sometimes Cooper Road.

The traders have also expressed serious concerns over the failure of the government authorities for not implementing the old judgment of the Lahore High Court against protest and sit-ins at the Mall Road. “Such sit-ins and long protests have a serious impact on our businesses,” said Navid Ahmed.

Fida Hussnain is a correspondent covering judiciary, politics, business and health issues. He is also a feature writer and researcher with major work on freedom of press in Pakistan. He tweets @fidahassanain and can be reached at fidahassanain@gmail.com.