Cop killed, 40 others injured in Lahore as TLP protests against Rizvi's detention continue for 2nd day
At least one police constable was killed and 40 other personnel injured in Lahore as violent protests continued for a second day on Tuesday against the arrest of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi.
Protests were also reported in other major cities including Karachi, where at least one protester was killed during clashes with police.
On Tuesday, police also registered an FIR against Rizvi and other TLP leaders under terrorism and other charges.
Major intersections remained closed in Lahore while traffic was upended in Islamabad and Karachi. Further, Motorway Police advised citizens to avoid travelling unnecessarily, adding that Motorway M-1 and M-2 were open for all kinds of traffic.
In a statement, party spokesperson Tayyab Rizvi said that there was no truth to reports that the protests had been called off. "They will continue till the French ambassador is deported," he said.
He added that party workers will participate in the protests till they are told otherwise by the party chief. He also said party workers had been martyred in firing incidents in Karachi, Lahore and Talagang. "The number of TLP workers martyred has risen to 12," he said.
Govt says 'everything will be alright'
Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed, when asked about the law and order situation in the country, said "everything will be alright".
He said this in response to a question by a reporter about the government's strategy to contain the country-wide protests as he was leaving a meeting on the law and order situation, attended by Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noor-ul-Haq Qadri and other high-ranking officials in Islamabad on Tuesday.
"Nothing has been decided about the release of anyone," he replied to a question about the government's plans for TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi.
A day earlier, at least two people were killed and several others, including policemen, injured when violence erupted in major cities of the country.
The government had not officially commented on these protests, which have been ongoing for a second day today, till the filing of this report.
The TLP is protesting blasphemous caricatures published in France and demanding that the French ambassador be sent home and import of goods from that country banned.
The government had reached an agreement with the TLP on Nov 16 to involve the parliament to decide the matter in three months. As the Feb 16 deadline neared, the government expressed its inability to implement the agreement and sought more time. The TLP agreed to delay its protest by two-and-a-half months to April 20.
On Sunday, the party chief, in a video message, asked the TLP workers to be ready to lunch the long march if government failed to meet the deadline. It prompted the government to arrest him.
Police swooped on Rizvi at around 2pm on Wahdat Road in Lahore where he had gone to attend a funeral. Outraged, the TLP issued a call for countrywide protests. Within the next few hours, protesters took to the streets and blocked the Grand Trunk Road on a number of points.
All main cities like Lahore, Gujranwala, Islamabad and Peshawar were cut off from each other and the rest of the country. The activists held sit-ins at various points in Hyderabad and Sukkur. They blocked highways, motorways and train tracks, disrupting life in a better part of the country and causing violence as protesters clashed with police at many places.
In Lahore, protesters beat a police constable to death during a clash in the Shahdara area, according to Lahore police spokesperson Rana Arif.
At least 40 policemen were injured during the demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday in Lahore alone, according to a police report.
Shahdara Police have registered a First Information Report against TLP leaders and workers for the killing of the police constable.
The funeral prayers of Constable Mohammad Afzal, who was martyred last night during violence by the protesters, were offered today at Qila Gujjar Singh Police Lines.
Meanwhile, Islamabad police on Tuesday urged citizens to use alternate routes instead of Dhokri Chowk, Bhara Kahu, Kashmir Chowk, Rawat T Chowk, Tarnol, Faizabad and IJP Chowk.
Rawal Road, Tramri Road, Faisal Avenue, Express Road and Margalla Road are open for traffic, a spokesperson for Islamabad police said.
Jinnah Avenue, Srinagar Highway as well as 7th, 9th, 10th and 11th Avenue were open for traffic, he said, adding that Ataturk Avenue and Shahra-i-Dastoor were also open for all kinds of traffic.
He urged citizens to avoid travelling unnecessarily and adding that officials were working to address the issues being faced by the people.
The Karachi traffic police said that while protesters had dispersed from most parts of the city, demonstrations were still ongoing in three areas of the metropolis.
"Sit-ins are being staged at Orangi Town No. 5, Korangi 2.5 and Hub River Road. Alternate routes are being provided at the protest sites," the statement said.
Baldia Town police station ASI Farooq Ahmed added that police were trying to clear Hub River Road to ensure the smooth flow of traffic. However, TLP workers had pelted officials with stones, he said.
The situation turned violent in the evening when a 22-year-old man was killed and another was injured in police firing carried out to disperse protesters in Baldia No. 4.
In the evening, protest also resumed at Star Gate, where motorcycles were set on fire. Sharea Faisal was closed, and traffic was being diverted from this road to Shahrah-i-Quaideen.
Five separate FIRs were lodged in four different police stations of the East district against 30 "miscreants", including two under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), according to the SSP East.
Protests disrupted Covid-19 oxygen
Meanwhile, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said the disruption of oxygen supplies during protests on Monday night had been a “crisis”.
“Please do not block roads for ambulances and for visitors to the hospitals. Some ambulances are carrying oxygen cylinders, which are extremely essential for Covid patients,” Rashid said.
Punjab pandemic pointman Asad Aslam said several hospitals had faced oxygen shortages on Monday night, but the situation had stabilised after roads were cleared by authorities.
With additional input by AFP.