LAHORE, PAKISTAN (AFP) – Health officials said on Tuesday that, covid-19 critical official oxygen was disturbed as thousands of supporters of Pakistan Islamist party blocked
major roads to protest against the arrest of their leader.
Major intersections remained closed in Lahore, Pakistan’s second-biggest city, after the arrest
on Monday of Mr Saad Rizvi, the leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
The party has led calls for the expulsion of the French ambassador, after the government of
President Emmanuel Macron expressed support for a magazine’s right to republish cartoons
depicting Prophet Muhammad – an act deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.
Ms Yasmin Rashid, a leading health official in Punjab, said the disruption of oxygen supplies
during protests Monday night had been a “crisis”.
“Please do not block roads for ambulances and for visitors to the hospitals. Some ambulances
are carrying oxygen cylinders, which are extremely essential for Covid-19 patients,” Ms
Punjab pandemic point man Asad Aslam said several hospitals had faced oxygen shortages
Monday night, but the situation had stabilised after roads were cleared by the authorities.
Pakistan is in the grip of a deadly third wave of the coronavirus with a shortage of vaccines.
The TLP are notorious for days-long road protests which have brought large swathes of
Pakistan to a standstill over the years.
A party official told AFP that two of their supporters were killed during clashes with security
forces on Monday night when police used tear gas and water cannons to break up crowds.
Officials have yet to comment on the reported deaths.
TLP leader Rizvi was taken into custody hours after calling for an April 20 march on the
capital to demand the expulsion of the French ambassador, an ouster the group says the
government had already agreed to last year.
The government has never acknowledged any such agreement.
Mr Rizvi is the son of a firebrand cleric and previous head of the TLP, Mr Khadim Hussain
Rizvi, who died in November after leading massive anti-France protests across Pakistan.
During those protests, TLP supporters brought the capital to a standstill for three days that
saw heavy street fighting and pushed the authorities to cut mobile phone coverage in
Islamabad and surrounding areas.