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November 2, 2018
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Protesters warned before operation

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November 2, 2018

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LAHORE: After failure of talks to disperse the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters, the law-enforcement organisations finalised preparations for operation while security has been put on high alert after announcement of protests today (Friday) by the organisation.

According to sources, the government after being advised to deal with the protesters with an iron hand has chalked out a plan to break the sit-ins and the agitators have been given a warning. Though the operation against the TLP was not started till late night, the police and Rangers contingents had been ordered to move closer to protesters. Police officers warned the protesters on loudspeaker to disperse in five minutes or face arrests. This warning jolted protesters but they waited for decision by their leaders.

Meanwhile, an application has been filed with the Civil Lines police station for registration of case against Pir Afzal Qadri, Allam Khadim Hussain Rizvi, Dr Asif Jalali etc for using inappropriate words against the government and the state institutions.

Earlier, Punjab Information Minister Fayazul Hasan Chohan had claimed that the government was in contact with the leadership of the protesters and according to his information protests may end on Thursday night. “During the last 36 hours, the federal and Punjab governments have been in contact with the leadership of the protesters to reach an amicable solution,” Chohan said.

Chohan said Federal Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Qadri had been deputed by Prime Minister Imran Khan to hold talks. Meanwhile, after the talks with the government the protesters' leaders said that they were holding talks, but have failed in reaching any positive outcome. they vowed to continue their struggle.

Earlier, the roads were blocked in some cities in the country as religious parties continued to protest for a second day on Thursday, amid efforts by the government to defuse the situation. The protests began Wednesday shortly after a Supreme Court verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges.

Although, most of the routes that were closed a day earlier in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad had been opened for traffic, some were still blocked on Thursday. The Rawalpindi-Islamabad Faizabad Interchange was also blocked. Other major arteries in the twin cities were blocked at Dhoke Kala Khan, Tramri Chowk and Karal Chowk. Further, traffic was blocked at routes leading to Taxila, Gujar Khan and Pir Sohawa.

According to a motorways spokesperson, Pindi Bhattian-Lahore, Pindi Bhattian-Faisalabad and Faisalabad-Gojra motorways were blocked for traffic. The M2 Motorway from Lahore to Islamabad was also blocked. "The traffic from M2 Motorway was being diverted to GT Road through Pindi Bhattian," the spokesperson added.

In Peshawar, the protests were being staged at the Ring Road and GT Road. Roads leading to the motorway have also been blocked.

On Wednesday, following the protests, Section 144 was imposed across Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan barring the gathering of more than four persons in public places as well as pillion riding. Section 144 has been imposed till November 10. The protests were also held in different cities of the province including Charsadda, Mingora, Kohat, Mardan and other cities.

In Lahore, traffic was blocked at five places — Charing Cross at Mall Road, Ferozepur Road, Data Darbar and Shahdara Chowk, Askari X and Bhatta Chowk. Railways spokesman said that the trains from Lahore and Rawalpindi division would be sent through different routes.

The National Highways and Motorway Police also issued a travel advisory in view of ongoing protests. Protests were also being staged in Karachi, Gujranwala, Mansehra, Faisalabad and other cities across the country.

Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) advised passengers to report at least four hours prior to their flight departure as roads have been blocked in major cities across the country owing to ongoing protests.

The national flag carrier advised passengers to report five hours prior to their international flight departure and four hours before their domestic flight departure. “Passengers can receive information regarding their flight timings by calling 111 786 786,” a PIA spokesperson said.

All educational institutes across Punjab remained closed in light of the traffic and law and order situation in the country, a spokesperson for the provincial government confirmed.

In Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, however, only the private educational institutes remained closed, while all schools, colleges, and universities in Balochistan remained open as per schedule.

The Punjab government spokesperson said that intermediate exams slated for Thursday under all secondary education boards were postponed and that a new date will be announced later. The School Education Department, in light of the expected traffic situation today, announced a holiday, while the University of Engineering deferred the exams that were scheduled for today. Private educational institutes in all of KP's districts, including Peshawar, also remained closed today.

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