Government has declared TLP a militant outfit
Saad Rizvi, chief of the banned militant TLP, has joined the negotiations between the group and the government.
Saad, who has been incarcerated at the Kot Lakhpat prison, was brought to an undisclosed location to take part in the negotiations, a TLP spokesperson claimed earlier Thursday afternoon.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on Thursday evening barred TV channels and all other media outlets from coverage of the protests by outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
An official notification issued by the PEMRA said that the restriction has been imposed under the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct, 2015, which prohibits covering proscribed organisations.
Federal Investigation Authority’s Cyber Crime wing has launched a crackdown against defunct Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’s or TLP social media accounts.
At least 12 people were arrested during the simultaneous operation in Lahore, Faisalabad, Nankana Sahab, Islamabad and elsewhere in Punjab, said FIA.
The suspects, FIA said, were involved in posting ‘doctored images and fake videos’ on the internet.
Earlier in the day, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that the Prime Minister Imran Khan has summoned a meeting of the National Security Council on Friday as protests by the banned militant Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan continue for the second week.
In a tweet on Thursday, he said the meeting has been called on urgent basis “in view of the situation arising out of the illegal activities of the banned party”.
Another round, the fourth to be exact, of negotiations between the banned militant TLP and government have begun in Islamabad, another party spokesperson revealed Thursday afternoon.
The protesters have, on the other hand, reached Chanda Qila, a few kilometers from Gujranwala. To stop them, a number of trucks and containers have been parked on the Sarai Alamgir GT Road. The Chenab Bridge in Gujarat has been completely closed for traffic, while all routes from Gujarat to Lahore have been closed.
“Our primary demand from the first day has been the expulsion of the French ambassador,” a TLP spokesperson said Thursday. “The government has always used power to snatch our constitutional and legal rights. Protests are the beauty of democracy.”
The TLP spokesperson was talking about the government’s decision to deploy Rangers personnel in Punjab to counter protests by the “militant banned outfit”.
He demanded that the interior minister unveil the government-TLP negotiations and put their stance in front of the public too. “If it is a crime to guard the honor of the Prophet, then we will continue to commit this crime till our last breath.”
By the looks of it, it seems like there the government is being run on a one-man show, he said, adding that the “allegations” against TLP regarding taking funds from India are a conspiracy.
“We all know who has been taking funds from Israel,” the spokesperson concluded.
There were developments on Wednesday and into the night at the jail where Tehreek Labbaik-e-Pakistan’s leader Saad Rizvi is being detained. SAMAA TV correspondent Naeem Ashraf Butt reported that a meeting was held at 3pm. By nighttime, he was taken to an undisclosed location outside the jail.
The advantage of releasing Saad Rizvi would be that the authorities would be able to take off some of the pressure from the protestors. This sort of a decision could get them off the streets where they have caused bloodshed and destruction and affected normal traffic and movement for Lahore and Islamabad in particular.
Faisal Vawda of the PTI has made the incredible claim that Prime Minister Imran Khan did not know about the agreement the government signed with the now banned militant Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan or TLP in February 2021.
“For any problem you have two solutions: one is at the table and the other is to fight,” said Vawda. “There is no third way.”
Watch Faisal Vawda’s interview with Nadeem Malik here
The government has called in personnel of Pakistan Rangers for 60 days to maintain the law and order in Punjab after clashes erupted again with the banned militant Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan or TLP, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said on Wednesday.
He said that the group would not be allowed to challenge the writ of the state and would now be treated as a “militant” group and not a religious party.
“So far, they have killed three policemen and injured 70 others,” he said.
He said that government could never put the safety of life and property of citizens at risk in any circumstances.
“Under Article 147, the Rangers have been deployed in Punjab at the request of the provincial government,” he said.
The government of Punjab has requested the federal government formally to deploy the paramilitary troops in the province. The interior ministry has sent the summary to the cabinet for approval.
He urged the defunct group to end their protest and return home.
“We venerate Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and hold Khatam-e-Nabuwat in as much esteem as all Muslims should (but) they [the TLP] have something else on their agenda.”
“I have told the group that we cannot shut the French embassy and their ambassador is not in Pakistan,” he said. “The group cited information on Google to insist that he was still in Pakistan,” he said.
“As an interior minister, I can say with confidence that the French ambassador is not in Pakistan. This proves that they have something else in mind.”
The government has decided to move against the banned Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan or TLP in “no restraint” mode for inciting violence in the country, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Wednesday.
He said that this had been decided in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday. The meeting was attended, among others, by officials of military and civilian intelligence agencies.
“The banned TLP will now be treated as a militant organization,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudry.
The banned TLP, he said, had set a trend of violence. “It has now been decided that this will not be tolerated anymore,” he said.
In clear terms, he said that the TLP had falsely presumed that it was possible to “blackmail the state.”
Pakistan, he said, had never been impressed by “major terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaida, so do not consider Pakistan to be a weak state”.
The information minister said that the banned TLP had so far staged such protests six times and successive governments had been “very patient with them”.
“We don’t want bloodshed, but the TLP leadership does,” he said.
In November last year, six policemen were martyred and 700 injured in clashes with TLP in Islamabad. On October 22 this year, three policemen were killed and several others were injured.
“As of now 27 workers armed with Kalashnikov rifles are present in the protest in Sadhoke,” he claimed. “We can’t just sit and view the whole drama (without doing anything).”
How many more days should we wait? he wondered.
A Punjab Police Sub Inspector was killed and at least seven policemen were injured when protesters from the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) clashed with police in Gujranwala’s Sadhoke on Wednesday, shortly after they resumed their “long march” on Islamabad.
Early morning, the banned outfit announced its protesters were heading to Islamabad after talks with the government broke down. Punjab authorities responded by deploying at least 15,000 police personnel to Gujranwala from Lahore and digging ditches.
Meanwhile, authorities in Rawalpindi and Islamabad have once again closed roads using shipping containers. Additional security measures for Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave were being implemented, especially, to protect the French embassy. The Metro Bus Service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been suspended.
The Pakistan Railways has cancelled at least four trains, including the Green Line, and rerouted others to avoid areas hit by clashes.
The TLP protesters had been encamped at Muridke, between Lahore and Gujranwala, since Sunday when the negotiation between the government and the TLP began. The government released at least 350 of the TLP activists and the protesters opened roads. They also agreed to not to proceed towards Islamabad.
However, after the talks failed the TLP protesters resumed their long march.
The TLP activists set off from Muridke and clashed with the police just 10km away in Sadhoke, where authorities dug ditches on roads to stop the protesters.
Markets and shops were told to close down and cellular phone service was suspended.
The TLP claimed police fired tear gas shells and rubber bullets and used water cannons against the marchers. It said at least 50 of its workers had been wounded. The claim could not be verified independently. Officials have refused to comment about the clashes.
The TLP supporters attacked policemen deployed at a chekpost near Sadhoke. At least seven policemen were left with head injuries.
A police Sub Inspector, identified as Akbar, has been killed in the clashes, police sources said.
Rangers have been called in to support the police after the clashes.
The TLP activists were heading towards Kamoke, 11km from Sadhoke, as Gujranwala, located another 25km to the northwest, prepared to cope with the march.
Reports say shops have been closed in the city and the Deputy Commissioner has ordered mobile phone companies to switch off the cellular towers in the region.
Earlier, the Punjab Police ordered at least 15,000 personnel from Lahore to deploy in Gujranwala.
The police personnel were leaving in private buses and they have been allowed to carry only the riot gear, SAMAA TV’s Jahangir Khan reported early Wednesday.
All the station house officers, deputy superintendents, and superintendents from Lahore could be sent in to cope with the protest, sources claimed.
Farther down on the GT Road from Gujranwala, the police continue to hold trucks at the River Jhelum Bridge near Jhelum. Law enforcement and district authorities regularly use trucks and shipping containers to block roads to stop marching protesters.
Authorities have closed roads in and around Rawalpindi and Islamabad to prevent the TLP supporters from entering the twin cities. Shipping containers have also been placed on the roads connection Rawalpindi with Islamabad.
Islamabad police enhanced security for the diplomatic enclave. No one is allowed to enter the diplomatic enclave without a special pass.
Sources said that the diplomatic community has received information that there is a risk of disorder and that the French embassy faces increased danger because it is located at the entrance of the diplomatic enclave.
The Pakistan Railways has cancelled four trains and decided to reroute others “in view of the current situation,” it said in a statement.
Trains to and from Peshawar and Rawalpindi are being diverted via Jund, Basal, Kandian, Sargodha, Sangla Hill, Sheikhupura, and Lahore, the statement said.
The Subak Kharram, the Islamabad Express, and the Rawal Express between Rawalpindi and Lahore have been cancelled.
Similarly, the Green Line from Rawalpindi to Lahore has been suspended, the statement added.
Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed Tuesday night said that the government was ready to accept all demands from the TLP except the one to expel the French ambassador to Pakistan as doing so could hurt Pakistan’s relations with all the European Union nations. “Pakistan is not in a position to expel the French ambassador or close the French embassy,” he said.
Rasheed had earlier told journalists that he held “conducive” talks with the incarcerated TLP chief Saad Rizvi. The TLP demanded the release of Saad Rizvi and recently arrested TLP workers and the expulsion of the French ambassador.
The TLP’s Mufti Mohammad Wazir Ali announced on Wednesday morning that they had resumed the “march” on Islamabad.
He accused the government of making “mockery of the talks” and showing a lack of seriousness.
Ali said the government had promised to introduce a resolution in the National Assembly to expel the French ambassador, but it backtracked on its promises.
He also said that the TLP could call for nationwide protests.
Punjab police sprang to action on Wednesday after initially letting the TLP protesters to launch out from Lahore.
Punjab IGP convened a meeting of police officers at the Central Police Office in Lahore on Tuesday to reflect on the shortcomings of the force to deal with the TLP protest.
The police officers tasked with handling the march in Lahore were unable to offer a satisfactory explanation about their failure to stop the protesters from leaving the city.
However, the sources say, a major cause of the failure turned out to be the deployment of untrained police personnel because anti-riot officers were serving elsewhere.
At least 795 personnel from the anti-riot force had been deployed out of the force at various police stations, the sources said.
They have now been summoned back, they added.