Islamabad braces as TLP workers disrupt life in Lahore

Security has been beefed up in the capital and adjoining areas after the latest deadline given by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) to the government for the implementation of its demands lapsed on Thursday.

A heavy contingent of law enforcement agencies has been deployed at the entry and exit points of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. A joint flag-march of the army and LEAs was also held in the capital, according to a security official.

Meanwhile, TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi has escalated a protest he has been leading at Lahore’s Data Darbar since April 2.

He is pressing for the implementation of the Faizabad agreement, which was brokered by the army last year between the government and leaders of Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA), of which TLP is an offshoot.

Pir Afzal Qadri, chairperson of the TLP, told party workers after the 4pm deadline lapsed today that they must “come out on the streets and not go back until Rizvi announces an end to the protest”.

Following Qadri’s orders, TLP workers have taken to the streets in various locales of Lahore. According to reports, they have also attempted to intimidate commuters and citizens with sticks and batons.

They have also blocked various key traffic intersections in Lahore, including the busy Thokar Niaz Beg.

Reports also state that the flow of traffic from Shahdara till the motorway has been choked considerably. There are also reports of clashes between TLP workers and commuters. Law enforcement agencies are reportedly present but are refraining from stepping in.

TLP leadership’s words caused a chain reaction in Sahiwal where party workers created blockages on the Lahore-Multan motorway at Chichawatni bypass and near View Hotel at Lahore-Sahiwal bypass; they vowed to not end their sit-in until orders come from Lahore.

TLP workers block a thoroughfare in Sahiwal — Photo by author

Temporary demonstrations and sit-ins were also reported in Mian Channu city in Khanewal district as well as in Kabirwala on the National Highway.

In Hyderabad, TLP workers blocked Hyder Chowk, whereas the party’s spokesperson in Karachi told Dawn that they are planning to march from Numaish Chowrangi to the Karachi Press Club at 7pm.

According to DawnNewsTV‘s sources, TLP leaders have also been considering blocking the Lahore-Islamabad motorway as well as the GT Road to paralyse inter-city movement.

“If the 11-point Faizabad agreement, which includes provisions like the release of arrested workers and withdrawal of cases against them, is not implemented, the entire country will be on the roads next Friday,” Qadri had told journalists last week.

CM Punjab chairs advisory meeting on security situation

With TLP workers choking major arteries of Lahore, an advisory meeting was called by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to discuss the situation.

During the meeting, the chief minister was briefed on the security situation of the province.

The meeting was also attended by provincial law minister, the spokesperson of the Punjab government, the chief secretary, and officials from different law enforcement agencies.

Govt fails to arrest Rizvi, others

Last week, the TLP chief and some TLYRA leaders were declared proclaimed offenders by an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad. Law enforcement agencies, however, have been unable to make any arrests.

The spokesman for the Punjab government, Malik Ahmed Khan, had admitted that arresting Rizvi and other TLYRA leaders was proving to be difficult for the provincial authorities.

Speaking to DawnNewsTV regarding the protest, Khan had said Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was in constant contact with the protesters and was trying to convince them to abandon the sit-in.

Faizabad debacle

The protests in the capital at Faizabad had begun last year after a change to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath via the Elections Act 2017 came to the fore. Despite the government terming it a clerical mistake and immediately moving to bring the document back to its original form, the opposition and TLYRA demanded action against those involved.

Violent protests then spread across the country after the federal government used force against those camping at Faizabad. The protests were eventually called off when the government accepted most of their major demands under an army-brokered agreement.

The demands of the protesters included making public the Raja Zafarul Haq report — containing details of the investigation into the clerical error, the release of all arrested protesters, formation of committee to suggest action against those who used force against protesters, and full implementation of an earlier agreement between Punjab government and TLYRA.

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