1,000 FC personnel, 500 Rangers along with police deployed in and around Red Zone . Murree Road near Faizabad sealed . TLP office-bearers go into hiding
ISLAMABAD: The capital administration and police have been provided 500 personnel of Rangers while a contingent of 1,000 Frontier Constabulary (FC) officials will join them on Saturday to stop a possible march on the capital by the the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
With expected support from other religious groups, the local chapter of the banned organisation is prepared to host a sit-in which they claimed will reach Faizabad by Monday.
Lal Masjid has already announced its support to the TLP and it is likely that students and followers of Maulana Abdul Aziz will hold their own protest in Aabpara or around Lal Masjid.
However, talking to Dawn, Maulana Aziz said he supported the cause of the TLP and would encourage his supporters to take part in the sit-in at Faizabad.
Sources told Dawn on condition of anonymity that on the request of the police, the capital administration approached the interior ministry to seek personnel of Rangers and the Frontier Constabulary (FC). In response, a contingent of Rangers, comprising 500 personnel, was provided to the administration while 1,000 FC personnel would arrive on Saturday (today).
The security personnel were being deployed in and around Red Zone and the Faizabad Interchange while a contingent of 200 police personnel each was deployed at the entry points in Tarnol, Bhara Kahu and Rawat. Moreover, 1,400 police personnel were deployed at different locations, including Faizabad and Red Zone.
Meanwhile, the capital administration and police were facing problems in arranging containers to seal different areas, the sources said, adding that they have managed to arrange only 60 containers in the last three days.
Of these, 50 containers were placed around Faizabad Interchange for sealing it while the remaining 10 were placed around the French embassy. Police officers were asked to arrange more containers as soon as possible.
Directives were also issued to the administration and police to arrest all TLP leaders, activists and workers wherever they were seen, the sources said. Besides, instructions were issued to use force against the banned outfit if it tried to enter Islamabad.
A decision was also taken by the government to seal and block all districts and roads falling on the route of the TLP march from Lahore to Islamabad after the first round of negotiations held in Lahore concluded without any result.
Majority of the local leadership of the banned outfit is in Lahore while most of the remaining leaders along with activists and workers who were present in the capital had gone into hiding.
So far, police have arrested 50 leaders, activists and workers in Islamabad and detained them in different police installations.
The administrations of seminaries were also approached and warned to refrain from joining the TLP protest, the sources said, adding that some of them gave an assurance and announced their disassociation from the TLP.
“Police crackdown is continuing and we have received reports that around 70 of our activists have been rounded up in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. But most of the activists, including several office-bearers, have gone into hiding,” said Mohsin Qadri, the TLP’s nazim for South Punjab, who is currently in Potohar region.
He said the TLP had shuffled its office-bearers ahead of the sit-in to confuse the police because the law enforcement authorities only have data of activists of their respective areas.
Another TLP office-bearer, who is currently in Jhelum, told Dawn that the rally would take up to two days to reach Faizabad.
“Our network is still intact and we are hopeful that residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad will come out in large numbers to support our cause,” the office-bearer said requesting not to be named.
In another development, Milli Yakjehti Council (MYC) Secretary General and naib emir Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Liaquat Baloch, in a news conference, said the government should implement its commitments made to the TLP.
The main purpose of the media talk was about a unanimous decision taken by the MYC to hold a Seeratul Nabi conference on Oct 24.
However, responding to queries about the TLP’s protest, Mr Baloch said banning the group was an immature decision of the government because the authorities could not file even a reference against it. He said the continued detention of the TLP chief was unfair and illegal.
“Due to such acts, the government is encouraging protests across the country,” he said.
With the deployment of Elite Force commandos, riot police and placement of shipping containers, the government has virtually sealed the garrison city to ward off the outlawed TLP’s long march on Islamabad.
Authorities have also suspended metro bus service in Rawalpindi.
On the other hand, the police arrested another 146 workers and activists of TLP on Friday from different areas of Rawalpindi division.
Out of the 146 workers, 62 were rounded up from Rawalpindi district, 34 from Jhelum and 25 each from Attock and Chakwal.
Rawalpindi’s busiest Murree Road was virtually sealed with shipping freight containers from Saddar to Faizabad while its arteries were blocked with razor and barbed wire.
Although there was no protest especially in the Saddar area, the police were seen forcing shopkeepers to pull their shutters down and shoppers were also asked to leave markets.
Due to blocking of Murree Road, ambulances were unable to reach hospitals as they were sent back by the police due to closure of roads. Besides, commuters were seen waving hands to motorcyclists to reach their destination.
Besides the district police, 160 personnel from Punjab Highway Police and 16 companies of Punjab Constabulary (PC) have been called to assist the Rawalpindi police in maintaining law and order.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2021