Govt mulls grand operation after TLP protesters kill two policemen
The banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has refused to budge as they started a long march to the federal capital, Islamabad, from the provincial capital, Lahore, to secure the release of the religious body’s head.
Two policemen embraced martyrdom in a violent clash between the lawmen and outlaws. According to a spokesperson for the police, two of the martyrs were identified as Ayub and Khalid.
Several lawmen sustained serious wounds in the riots. Hundreds of banned outfit members have been staging a protest for a couple of weeks against the detention of their party’s head and the situation worsened on Friday.
The protesting group leaders claimed that they were just out to get court orders for the release of the body head.
"Protesters also hurled petrol bombs on officials," a Lahore police spokesperson said, adding that officials tried to refrain them from vandalising and damaging public property.
"The angry mob also used sticks and pelted stones," he said, adding that officials were showing restraint despite the violence.
In a separate statement, a spokesperson for the banned group said that workers had endured the "worst shelling in history" and were "attacked from all sides" near MAO College. The spokesperson claimed that 500 workers had been seriously wounded while 15 were in serious condition.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar offered condolences and prayed for the deceased officials. He assured their families that the provincial government stood with them in their time of grief.
The chief minister also directed officials to take strict action against those responsible for the incident. "Rule of law must be ensured at all costs," he said, warning that no one would be allowed to take the law into their hands.
He also directed officials to ensure the best possible medical facilities for the injured policemen.
Grand operation on the cards
A grand operation against the protesting TLP is very much on the cards as the Punjab home ministry is taking different measures ahead of launching a grand operation.
All the entry and exit points have been sealed by placing containers. The administration has also decided to shut down all the grid stations of the city before starting the operation. The whole security force has been put on high alert according to the reserves.
The internet and mobile serviced have already been closed in the main areas having the protestors’ presence and a proposal to close the landline service is also under consideration. The cable networks of these areas will also be shut down.
The security officials have also been given modern equipment to deal with the protesters and prison vans have also been placed.
There is also a possibility of imposing a curfew in the provincial capital on Saturday.
Punjab govt, protesters talks failed
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar announced that a committee comprising provincial Law Minister Raja Basharat and Prosecution Minister Chaudhry Zaheeruddin had been formed to negotiate with the proscribed group.
The chief minister said that according to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), "we all need to work together for peace and harmony in the country".
However, as the violence erupted in Lahore, a statement issued by the proscribed group said that negotiations would not happen till TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi is released.
"They called us for talks, but attacked our workers from the back," a statement by the group's spokesperson said. He claimed that "thousands" were seriously injured and many had bullet injuries.
"Now, only the TLP chief will lead the negotiations," the spokesperson said.
Lahore admin closes several roads, suspends internet service
To foil the long march announced by the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), district administration Friday night closed several roads and suspended internet service in different areas of the city of Lahore.
The roads from Moon Market to Scheme Morr, Multan Road from Kharrak to Kachehri Chowk have been halted.
The roads from Kachehri Chowk to Sagiyaan Pul, Old Ravi Bridge, Mozang Chongi (Qartaba Chowk) to Jain Mandar to MAO College have also been blocked for any traffic.
Different squares like Scheme Morr, Yateem Khana Chowk, Samanabad Morr, Chouburji Round About, MAO College Chowk, Liaqat Chowk, Babu Sabu chowk, Band Road, Shell Petrol Pump, Shahdra Chowk, and Gulshan Ravi Double Roads are also closed and police have cordoned off the area.
On the other hand, the interior ministry has issued instructions to suspend the internet services in the areas of Data Sahab, Shahdara and the old and new Ravi Bridge.
According to the instructions of the interior ministry, internet services would remain suspended within five kilometres of the above-mentioned areas.
Situation in Islamabad
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Islamabad Traffic Police said traffic was diverted from Rawalpindi's System Road and Ninth Avenue and advised residents who wanted to go to Pindi via the Faizabad Interchange — which has been blocked during TLP protests in the past as well — or Ninth Avenue to use the IJP Road instead.
"Diversion has been placed for both sides of traffic at Murree Road, Faizul Islam stop, from and to Faizabad. Alternatively, traffic going from Islamabad to Murree Road, Rawalpindi, is diverted to Islamabad Highway.
"Diversion has been placed for both sides of traffic from Express Chowk to D-Chowk at Jinnah Avenue. Alternatively, Nadra Chowk and Ayub Chowk can be used for entry and exit to the Red Zone," according to the statement.
In addition, diversion has been placed for traffic from Islamabad Highway to IJP Rd at Sohan Stop. The traffic is diverted instead to Faisal Avenue, the statement added.
The metro bus service was suspended in Rawalpindi but was running from the stop on IJP Road to the Pakistan Secretariat, the spokesperson said. The containers were being brought to the Faizabad Interchange and put on the roads at midnight. Besides, well-equipped police personnel were deployed in and around the interchange.
Police were also deputed at the entry point of the capital at Tarnol, Rawat and Bhara Kahu. Moreover, containers were arranged to block the roads at these three points but a final direction was awaited from the higher authorities.
Over 2,000 police officials are being deployed at the main points, including the entry points, to counter the TLP's march, the officers said. The police lines headquarters released 1,500 anti-riot gear kits for the contingents to be deployed.
Situation in Rawalpindi
Meanwhile, the Rawalpindi Traffic Police completed arrangements to deal with the long march. In a statement, it said Murree Road and Rawal Road have been closed for commuters while Old Airport Road and Mall Road are open.
Additional policemen have been posted at the High Court Chowk and Mall Road to ensure the smooth flow of traffic, it said.
The district administration sealed Gawalmandi, Saddar Road and Kamran Market areas.