Hundreds rounded up as TLP announces long march on Islamabad

Published October 22, 2021
Supporters of the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party shout slogans during a protest in Lahore on Thursday. — AFP
Supporters of the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party shout slogans during a protest in Lahore on Thursday. — AFP

LAHORE: The police allegedly detained over 1,000 activists and workers of the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) during a crackdown that was intensified across the province after the group announced a long march on Islamabad after Friday prayers (today).

Dozens of fourth schedulers of the proscribed group were also among those taken into custody from all 36 districts of the province besides at least 40 in Lahore, an official privy to the development told Dawn on Thursday.

He said the situation was not as alarming in other parts of the province as it was in Lahore where around 900 workers and second-tier leadership of the TLP were protesting outside the Jamia Masjid Rehmatul Lil Aalamin on Multan Road.

Passengers carrying their luggage enter Lahore on foot at Babu Sabu Toll Plaza after the motorway was closed due to a protest by a banned religious outfit. — White Star
Passengers carrying their luggage enter Lahore on foot at Babu Sabu Toll Plaza after the motorway was closed due to a protest by a banned religious outfit. — White Star

Tension escalated in the city on Thursday after a group of charged workers vandalised the Multan Road Orange Line train station near the protest venue, damaging CCTV cameras and infrastructure there. They also snatched a bus of a government educational institute and tortured two police constables.

Activists block roads, vandalise Orange Line train station, snatch govt institute bus, torture two constables

However, police personnel deployed near the sit-in largely stayed away, as they were directed by the inspector general of police to avoid confrontation, the official said.

There were also reports that the TLP activists blocked roads in some parts of the city with containers and other vehicles and got into heated arguments with commuters for demanding removal of the blockade.

In the wake of this situation, the Lahore police lodged five cases against TLP workers, the official said, adding the government also suspended internet and mobile phone services in the TLP strongholds of Samanabad, Sherakot, Nawankot, Gulshan-i-Ravi, Sabzazar and Iqbal Town.

Announcing the long march on Islamabad, TLP leader Pir Ajmal Qadri said the “peaceful” procession would begin after Friday prayers. “If any hurdles are created, the party also has a Plan B to thwart any official attempts,” he told a charged crowd at the protest site.

In what appears to be a change of heart, the group delinked the march from the release of its incarcerated leader, Saad Hussain Rizvi, and said the purpose of the move was “respect for the holy prophet (PBUH)”.

He advised the workers to continue the mission of the group’s founder, the late Khadim Hussain Rizvi, even if “we are martyred in the march”, and asked the government to implement the agreement – a reference to the accord reached with the TLP last November to sever diplomatic and economic ties with France.“The government better implement the agreement in true spirit or get ready to face the consequences,” Qadri warned.

Meanwhile, the official said the police high command called an emergency meeting late on Thursday to devise a strategy following the TLP’s announcement of the long march. Chaired by Lahore Capital City Police Officer Ghulam Mahmood Dogar, the meeting was attended by the deputy inspectors general and senior superintendents of police of both investigation and operations wings and all divisional superintendents of police. The meeting decided to take action against those taking law into their hands.

The official said police deployment has been doubled on Multan Road and other parts of the city. About the province-wide crackdown, he said most TLP workers were arrested in Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Multan when they tried to reach Lahore in violation of government orders.

The city police officer (CPO) has issued instructions to get surety bonds from the detainees for not creating a law and order situation. He also directed officers to initiate legal action against the hardcore activists and those detained under the Fourth Schedule of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

The Punjab government also attempted to engage the TLP leadership following the long march call, the official said.

Ahmad Fraz Khan also contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2021

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