LAHORE: Punjab Rangers have been deployed across the province to maintain the law and order situation as the protests and sit-ins by the activist of banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) entered the seventh day today (Thursday).
The workers of the proscribed organisation marching towards Islamabad have set up camp on the Kamoke portion of GT Road, while they make preparations to move ahead in their march.
Business centres in the city and on GT Road are closed and so are the shops and restaurants on the highway.
School closed, internet services suspended
Public and private educational institutions located on GT Road and its adjoining areas are closed while internet services in Kamoke city have been suspended.
A trench has been dug by the government on GT Road near Chenab Bridge and containers have also been placed, while the road from Wazirabad to Sialkot has been excavated and the land route between the two cities has been cut off to block the protesters from moving forward.
Repair work on the ditches dug on the Sadhoke stretch of the road, meanwhile, could not be started.
Security has been tightened in Rawalpindi and Murree Road is completely closed for traffic, while the Rawalpindi Metrobus service is closed till further notice.
Govt in talks with Saad Rizvi, other TLP leaders
Meanwhile, the ministry of interior is in talks with the proscribed organisation, including its leader Saad Rizvi, who is currently imprisoned.
A spokesperson for the proscribed organisation said that Allama Ghulam Abbas Faizi and Mufti Umair Al-Azhari are also part of the delegation negotiating with the government.
The spokesman further said that the proscribed organisation stands by its demands that it will present before the government during the talks.
"Our only demand from day one is the removal of the French ambassador," said the spokesman.
TLP blames govt for reneging on ‘promise’
In reaction to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s presser on Wednesday, the proscribed TLP said that facts must be recognised as the outfit is showing patience even after picking up bodies.
A spokesman for the TLP said in a statement that the TLP is a registered political party with the ECP, and it doesn’t believe in an ‘underground’ struggle.
He alleged that the government reneged from its promise of taking the matter of the French ambassador’s expulsion to the Parliament, and instead adopted the path of violence.
The spokesman blamed the government for creating difficulties for the people by placing containers on roads and digging trenches.
He said the TLP is a religious party with the third biggest political force in Punjab. He alleged that militants are those who staged a sit-in in Islamabad for 126 days and attacked the PTV and Parliament buildings.
Five cops killed in clashes
The Pakistan government announced a day earlier its decision to treat the proscribed TLP as a militant organisation, with Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed sharing that the government had summoned the Punjab Rangers to maintain the law and order situation for two months in the province amid the ongoing protests.
Speaking during a press conference in Islamabad, the interior minister had said that the government wants to establish peace as there is a lot of international pressure on Pakistan.
"We have decided to summon the Rangers for a period of 60 days to maintain law and order situation in the province," Rasheed had said. "Like Karachi, Rangers have been called in Punjab under Section 4 (2) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, read with Article 147 of the Constitution of Pakistan."
Three more policemen were martyred in the protest yesterday, while many policemen were also injured in the violence.
So far, since the start of the TLP protest, five policemen have lost their lives to the violence and countless police vehicles have been set on fire by the protesters.
“TLP is receiving external support”
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said during an appearance on Geo News programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath that the state tried to persuade the banned TLP through dialogue for a long time, but the group resorted to violence.
He said there was evidence that the TLP is receiving external support. The decisions taken by the government have been in consultation with the military.
'No need to call in Rangers if everyone stands with police'
How long will the young men in the police and army continue to pay the price for the unwise policies of Islamabad and Pindi, questioned Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar.
10 brave soldiers of the security forces were killed while fighting against religious extremists only yesterday, the senator said, detailing that two army and four police personnel were martyred by the TTP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and four in Punjab.
He said that even today, the solution to our problems lies in implementing the National Action Plan.
Khokhar opined that the current situation is the outcome whenever religion and extremist groups are used for political purposes. He questioned when our state and political parties would understand this.
He said that if everyone were to stand united [against the TLP protesters] and to support the Punjab Police in this time, there would have been no need to call in the Rangers.
The Punjab Police, he said, is fully capable of dealing with and controlling these protesters, he said, adding that he stands with the Punjab Police and officers at this difficult time.
The TLP protest
The banned TLP extended its protest on Rabiul Awwal 12. Initially, the proscribed group staged sit-ins in Multan and Lahore, after which a march towards Islamabad was announced.
Security forces had cordoned off major roads to prevent the protesters from reaching Islamabad. The protesters have been staging sit-ins on GT Road for the past several days, disrupting transport services.
TLP's march has affected life in the federal capital and various other cities in Punjab.
Strict security arrangements have been made in Rawalpindi. The main highways connecting Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been sealed and the Faizabad Metro service has been suspended. Major traffic jams have been reported on alternative routes and citizens are facing difficulties as it has also become difficult to go to a hospital.
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