Blockades on the highways linking Islamabad with Rawalpindi entered their third day on Wednesday, as local traders warned the protest organised by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) supporters could have a serious impact on already struggling businesses, causing immense losses.
The protesters have paralysed traffic and forced schools to close in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, as they step up their efforts to topple the government following an assassination attempt on Imran Khan, the former prime minister.
Long queues of vehicles were seen stuck on M-1 and M-2 highways, one of the main arteries into Islamabad, as people were unable to reach their places of work and education.
Wasiq Qayyum Abbasi, the deputy speaker in the Punjab Assembly, has asked the protesters to continue the demonstration against the assassination attempt on former prime minister leader Imran Khan.
In a statement on Wednesday, the traffic police said that Old Airport Road was blocked by protesters. Due to the blockade, the traffic was diverted to alternative routes. It further said that Murree Road was blocked near Iqbal Park, while Pirwadhai Mor towards I.J.P. Road was also closed to traffic.
The traffic police said that a section of the Grand Trunk Road near Margalla Hills and Sarai Kala Chowk was also blocked.
Television footage showed Khan’s supporters burning tyres as they set up protest camps across roads.
On Tuesday, the government accused the PTI of deliberately making life difficult for the public by blockading roads. “Imran Khan wants chaos and sedition in Pakistan,” said Hamza Shahbaz, vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Khan launched the long-march protest rally from Lahore to the capital on October 28. He was waving to the crowd from a container mounted on a truck in Wazirabad last Thursday when a man fired several shots at him.
He was among 10 wounded people. One party worker was killed.
Khan’s party announced late on Monday that the march would resume on Thursday at the place where Khan was attacked, and he would lead it virtually.
Popular anger over the shooting and the increasingly poisonous tone of public discourse were reaching alarming levels, analysts said. “You are set to see only chaos and incoherence in Pakistani politics,” Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political analyst, told Financial Times.
The political tension comes as Pakistan is grappling with economic turmoil exacerbated by recent flooding that the government estimates caused economic losses worth $30 billion.