Strike to protest Multan blast
* Angry protesters stone vehicles and burn tyres
By AS Qamar
MULTAN: Businessmen went on complete strike in Multan on Friday to mourn the deaths of 40 people in a car bomb explosion on Thursday. All shopping centres, markets, kiosks and hotels remained closed and police and the Elite Force men patrolled the city.
Multan District Police Officer (DPO) Sikandar Hayat told Daily Times that filling stations in the city had been closed. However, gas stations were open, he added. The DPO said that police did not allow Maulana Alam Tariq to stay in Multan at night. However, Maulana Muhammad Ludhiyanvi, chief of the banned Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan stayed in Multan, he said.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi has announced a reward of Rs 10 million for information leading to the arrest of those behind the attack. The CM also announced compensation for the deceased families and those injured in the explosion.
Security has been tightened around imambargahs, mosques, railway stations, bus stands and official buildings. Police claimed that a Suzuki car was seen parked minutes before the Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan meeting concluded. “The car was stolen in 2001 and found on August 20, 2001 by Jhelum Police. Later it was sold to more than half a dozen people,” said police.
Lawyers also went on two hours token strike to mourn the blast deaths. They condemned the terrorism activity in Multan, calling it a failure of the administration and law enforcement agencies. Millat-e-Jafaria observed Friday as the ‘protest day’ to express concern at bomb explosions in Sialkot and Multan.
Youths burn tyres: More than 1,000 youths staged a rally at Jamia Masjid Rashidia and Rashidabad Chowk and hurled stones and bricks on vehicles. They also burnt tyres on the Khanewal-Lahore and Faisalabad Road. The supporters of assassinated Azam Tariq set fire to tyres and motorcycles and shouted slogans against the government. However, District Coordination Officer Ijaz Chaudhry and DPO Sikandar Hayat pacified the angry mob and the protesters dispersed on their assurance that the criminals would be arrested soon.
The protest came despite the deployment of hundreds of police and troops in Multan and an announcement by Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao on Thursday that he would advise provincial governments to ban all religious gatherings and processions except in mosques until further notice.