The government has decided to impose a ban on the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and add the radical religious party to the list of proscribed organisations.
Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced that the government will be placing a ban on the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), the religiopolitical organization that has violently taken to the streets after the arrest of its chief.
The minister announced this through a tweet on Wednesday, saying that the organization would be banned under Rule 11(b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997.
He said the Punjab government had recommended a ban on the organisation, for which a summary was being sent to the federal cabinet. “They were more prepared than us but today we’ve decided that [a] ban on TLP [will be placed] and this file is going to the cabinet for the approval from today,” the minister said.
The statement comes after law enforcement agencies and officials cleared TLP activists from roads in different cities of the country as protests entered a third day.
“[TLP] by blocking roads had stopped ambulances from reaching their destinations and impeded the transport of oxygen cylinders for Covid-19 patients,” the minister said.
He said two policemen were killed and nearly 340 injured in the violence “and the law is following those who blocked roads through social media and gave the message of unrest”.
According to the minister the policemen held hostage by the TLP have also been recovered.
“It was our effort till the last moment to convince them to agree on a resolution to be presented in the assembly, but all of our efforts were unsuccessful,” he said, adding that a major reason for their failure was that TLP activists “wanted to come to Faizabad chowk and Islamabad at any cost”.
The minister said the TLP had done “extensive preparations” for their protest, which were effectively countered by police.
“We want a document that exalts the flag of the Prophet (PBUH), but what you are demanding gives an impression of us being an extremist-minded state to the world,” he told the TLP leadership.
The minister also announced that the Faizabad interchange has been closed as a precaution and will be opened soon.
Sheikh Rashid further said in the recent violence police stations were attacked and policemen were abducted and brought down from their motorcycles and beaten up. “When we did politics and opposition, we would allow ourselves to be arrested whenever a warrant was issued; we did not use to torture police through our workers and people didn’t use to die in ambulances [because of us],” he added.
The minister stressed that the TLP was being banned “not on the basis of the political situation but because of their character”.
In the evening, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said traffic was flowing normally on all important roads across the country.
“Crowds have neither been able to blackmail the state in the past nor will they be able to in the future,” he tweeted.
He said “in a democracy, different groups are allowed to [present] their point of view but no one can blackmail the government by force.”
The “criminals” involved in violence against police and other law-enforcement agencies will be made “a sign of warning”, the minister added.
Violent protests by the TLP that brought major cities, including Karachi and Lahore, to a standstill, entered their third day across Pakistan today.
According to Radio Pakistan, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said that the government will “deal with an iron fist with those who take the law into their own hands.”
Chairing a meeting in Islamabad to review the law and order situation, he directed law enforcement agencies to ensure the writ of the state at all costs. He said that motorways, GT Road and other roads have been cleared for traffic, adding that Pakistan Rangers have done an excellent job in collaborating with the police and the administration in this regard.
The TLP supporters took to the streets across Pakistan to protest the arrest of their leader Saad Rizvi. The TLP has been demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan over the blasphemous cartoons published in France last year.
The protests turned violent as the religious activists clashed with police officers, damaged public property, and blocked major roads in all cities. At least four people, including two policemen, died in the clashes, while over 200 officers sustained injuries.
On Tuesday, the federal cabinet had given clearance to the deployment of the Pakistan Rangers across Punjab to round up the protesters and restore law and order.
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry had said the government was willing to hold talks with the TLP, but violence and dictation will not be tolerated.
Addressing a press conference after the cabinet meeting, he said that every group has a right to protest, but no group or party can dictate actions to the government. No group is allowed to take the law in their own hands, he had added.
Punjab government has also ordered the deployment of Rangers alongside the police at 16 crucial points of the provincial capital amid religious party’s protest. The paramilitary force will be positioned alongside police outside CM Secretariat, GOR-I, Civil Secretariat, Governor House, Punjab Assembly, and the IG Office.
Meanwhile, commuters across Pakistan continue to face problems on roads. In Lahore, at least 16 points are closed due to protests. Lahore’s traffic police has advised people to refrain from unnecessary travel.
“Protests continue in various parts of the city. Citizens are requested to avoid unnecessary travel to the mentioned points,” said the traffic police.
The Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) has advised people to use FC Underpass, Bhatta Chowk, Scheme Mor, Yateem Khana Chowk, Mohlanwal, Chungi Ammar Saddu, to avoid traffic jams. Other roads that are safe to go through are Thokar Niaz Baig, Shahdara Chowk, Khayaban Chowk, Shahkam Chowk, Mul Pulli, Barki Road, and Aryan Pind, according to Lahore’s city traffic police.
In Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Bhara Kahu, Murree Road, and the twin cities’ Metro stations have also been cleared of protestors. Rawalpindi’s Liaqat Bagh has also been cleared by police to allow traffic to resume.
In Karachi, traffic has been restored in Korangi No 2, Baldia No 4, Hub River Road, Sharae Faisal and Stargate. Earlier, protesters pelted stones at vehicles on Shahrah-e-Faisal near Stargate, and set several vehicles on fire.
Roads in Khanewal, including Multan Road, have been reopened.
Meanwhile, roads leading to the French Embassy have been closed due to security concerns in Islamabad. The area between the SP City office and the diplomatic enclave has also been sealed off. It may be noted that police had last month arrested a man near the embassy who had plans to attack the embassy.