ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved a summary seeking ban on the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan in the wake of violent protests by the radical party.

Earlier in the day, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said that the party was being banned under the Anti-Terrorism Act at the request of the Punjab government.

The statement came 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 had said.

He had 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 had said, adding that a major reason for their failure was that TLP activists “wanted to come to Faizabad interchange 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 had added.

The minister had stressed that the TLP was being banned “not on the basis of the political situation but because of their character”.

Violent protests

Violent protests by the TLP that brought major cities, including Karachi and Lahore, to a standstill, entered their third day across Pakistan on Wednesday.

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.

Anas Mallick is an international journalist who has been working as a field reporter for 7+ years now. With a focus on diplomacy, militancy, and conflict, Mallick's expertise involve Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. He tweets at @AnasMallick


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