Two cops, as many TLP workers die in Lahore clashes

Published October 23, 2021
ACTIVISTS of the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan come face to face with police contingents at the MAO College bus stop during their ‘million march’ towards Islamabad on Friday. (Right) Police fire teargas to disperse the demonstrators.—Murtaza Ali / Arif Ali-White Star
ACTIVISTS of the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan come face to face with police contingents at the MAO College bus stop during their ‘million march’ towards Islamabad on Friday. (Right) Police fire teargas to disperse the demonstrators.—Murtaza Ali / Arif Ali-White Star

• Lal Masjid’s Maulana Aziz asks supporters to join sit-in on Monday
• Group links talks with release of Saad Rizvi

LAHORE: Two policemen and as many workers of the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) were killed and several others injured after fierce clashes erupted between the TLP protesters and law enforcement agencies at Chauburji Chowk on Friday night.

Chauburji, Lower Mall and surrounding areas turned into battlefields with videos of the clashes showing police firing teargas shells to disperse the protesters who in return pelted the law enforcers with stones. Many TLP workers carrying clubs appeared to be fighting back when the riot police tried to disperse them.

Reuters news agency put the number of cops dying in the clashes at three.

The videos released by the TLP showed many of their workers lying injured on the road with some in critical condition.

Lahore police reported that head constable Ayub and constable Khalid Javed were killed when charged TLP workers attacked the police, pelted the law enforcers with stones and they were crushed by running vehicles. Six officials suffered injuries and they were in critical condition at Mayo Hospital, the police added.

The TLP also released video statements, claiming that two of its workers had died and many others were injured when police fired on their “peaceful” rally.

Life in the areas where these clashes took place came to a standstill, as the Punjab government suspended mobile phone services and power supply to these areas following the tense situation.

A video statement released by a TLP leader showed him calling on the group’s activists and workers from all over Punjab to reach Lahore for “help”. Responding to the call, TLP men took to the streets in various cities.

Meanwhile, the Central Police Office issued instructions to the four regional police officers and district police officers to beef up security on GT Road leading to Islamabad to stop the TLP procession at any cost. Rawalpindi police almost blocked the entire city by placing containers on roads.

Following the clashes, the TLP leadership refused to talk to a government committee till the release of their incarcerated leader Saad Rizvi, whom the group said would lead any negotiations. They alleged that on the one hand the authorities were engaging them in talks, and on the other, “thousands of their workers” had been shot at and many were wounded.

The Punjab government had earlier on Friday constituted a committee comprising provincial Law Minister Raja Basharat and Minister for Prosecution Chaudhry Zaheeruddin for holding talks with the TLP ahead of its march on Islamabad.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was also in the city, in his meeting with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said “law is equal for all. No effort would be spared to ensure rule of law”.

Following the meeting, Chief Minister Buzdar tweeted: “Comprising two senior members of the provincial cabinet, a committee has been formed to negotiate with the TLP. According to the Sunnah of Holy Prophet (PBUH), we all need to work together for peace and harmony in the country.”

According to insiders, the prime minister deliberately did not speak much on the TLP protest as he did not want to accord “much importance” to the issue.

Earlier, scores of TLP workers started marching towards Islamabad from Masjid Rehmatul-lil-Aalameen after the first round of negotiations with the Punjab government remained inconclusive, as the party was of the view that the government did not have the mandate to initiate talks with them.

As hundreds of TLP workers were about to set off for the march after Friday prayers, police relaxed security and allowed them to leave their stronghold at Yateem Khana Chowk fearing a strong reaction.

Meanwhile, the police and Punjab Rangers increased security on the route of the rally and stopped the protesters near Chauburji Chowk by placing containers and barricades.

An official privy to the development told Dawn the police leadership tried to engage the TLP in a fresh round of negotiations there by conveying a message to the organisation’s leaders. However, the group rejected the offer and removed a container placed by the police on the main road bringing both sides face to face. Police were then compelled to use teargas shelling to stop the marchers, the official said.

Till the filing of this report late on Friday, news of violent clashes between police and the TLP continued to pour in.

The capital administration and police have been provided 500 personnel of Rangers while a contingent of 1,000 Frontier Constabulary soldiers will be joining them on Saturday to stop a march on the capital by the 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 would 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.

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.

On the other hand, the district administration has virtually sealed Rawalpindi with the deployment of Elite Force commandos and riot police and placement of shipping containers.

Authorities have also suspended metro bus service in Rawalpindi.

Police arrested another 146 workers and activists of the TLP from different areas of Rawalpindi division on Friday, with 62 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.

Ahmad Fraz Khan also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2021



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