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Student's death paralyses Islamabad

Islamabad, Jan 22: Students protesting the death of a colleague in a hit-and-run accident near Zero Point on Wednesday blocked the Islamabad Highway for seven hours, throwing traffic in the city in a big mess.

Vehicles piled up for miles on both sides as angry students staged a sit-in on the busy highway during the early morning rush hour. Others threw stones, burnt tyres and kicked, punched and attacked the stranded and passing cars, damaging scores of them.Scared motorists veering away from the trouble spot clogged the link roads too.

Normal traffic could be restored only after the protesters started dispersing around 3pm to attend the funeral of their colleague and police had hunted down the runaway driver in Rawalpindi and booked him under PPC 320.

Police said the trouble started at 8am after a madly driven Cultus car knocked down Mohammad Zaheer, a student of the Government Commerce College, H-8, Islamabad who was waiting to cross the road, and sped away.

A passing army officer rushed the badly injured boy to the nearby Shifa International Hospital but doctors could not save his life.

Hundreds of students poured out on the highway to protest when the tragic news reached the college around 8:30am. They first put stones to block the highway and then sat down on it.

Soon police arrived at the scene and tried to calm down the students who were demanding the arrest of the hit-and-run driver and accusing the police and the city administration of neglecting their duties to provide safety on the roads.

Police officials assured them that they would put their "genuine demands" for constructing a bus stop and a pedestrian bridge at the site for the students attending the educational institutions in Sector H-8, and deploying traffic police to check and punish reckless driving, particularly during school hours.

However, the police's persuasive efforts failed and sensing the fury of the students, it closed the highway from Zero Point to Shakarparian Chowk, and later sections of the Kashmir Highway and the Khayaban-i-Suhrawardy also as the protesters marched towards the H-8 traffic signal.

Traffic arriving from Faizabad side and the Garden Road was also turned away to avoid the marchers.

The protesters remained at Zero Point till 1pm and then started marching towards H-8 traffic signal. On the way they sat down at the spot where the incident had occurred, demanding that senior officers come there to listen to their grievances. However, none appeared and the students moved on after 30 minutes.

Zaheer's friends grieved him all the time. "His educational brilliance and humble background had made him a popular figure. It is heartbreaking to think he is dead," said one.

Zaheer was the son of a fireman and was a student of 2nd year in the commerce college. Dawn

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