LAHORE: Law enforcement personnel arrested on Friday night Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) head Dr Asif Ashraf Jalali in the wake of their protest call for agitation on Sunday (tomorrow).

Law enforcement agencies also launched a massive crackdown in Lahore and arrested dozens of activists of the two religious organisations.

Soon after the news of the arrest of the two clerics spread, hundreds of activists of the two parties took to the streets and blocked many roads for traffic.

Multan Road turned into a battlefield where the violent activists clashed with police. A constable was seriously injured after a group of protesters attacked him with clubs and iron rods. Late night reports suggested that the workers of the TLP and TLYR also damaged vehicles in several parts of the city.

Senior police officers in Lahore confirmed to Dawn the arrest of Khadim Rizvi and Ashraf Jalali. “We have arrested the wheelchair-bound cleric and the TLYR chief,” they said, adding that the high/red alert had been generated to heighten the security in the provincial capital.

Following the unrest and severe clashes, Rangers reached Lahore, taking control of city’s major roads. Prior to the agitation, a police officer said, hundreds of trained police commandos and personnel of the anti-riot force were dispatched to the Multan Road after the information that violent activists of the TLP had held a senior police officer — Iqbal Town SP Syed Ali — hostage along with his guards.

He said the SP was negotiating with the leaders and activists of the TLP in his division in the wake of the party’s call for protest. The police commandos rescued the SP and police guards after some clashes which led to the unrest in the area.

Meanwhile, a massive crackdown was launched across Punjab following reports of violent protests by the activists of the TLP and TLYR. According to a Dawn correspondent in Sialkot, police arrested Sufi Mohammad Rafiq, district emir of the TLP, and four main activists of the party, identified as Saleem Shahid, Mehbub Hassan, Nasir Dogar and Syed Kaleemul Hassan Shah.

In Karachi, several activists of the TLP started protest soon after the arrest of Khadim Rizvi. The party’s workers came out on roads and staged a protest sit-in on M.A. Jinnah Road, and resultantly traffic was diverted to other routes.

“We have started sit-in at Numaish Chowrangi on M.A. Jinnah and protest may spread to other parts of the metropolis if Allama Rizvi is not released,” said TLP spokesperson Ali.

Police resorted to tear gas shelling to disperse the TLP workers holding the sit-in. “The police used tear gas shelling and dispersed the mob,” said a senior police officer who wished not to be named. The officer said that “some workers” were also detained and the main artery had been vacated from the protesters.

The TLP spokesperson confirmed to Dawn that police used tear gas shelling and apprehended their party leader Sufi Ayaz Qadri and other workers.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2018