Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had summoned a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) for tomorrow (Friday) due to the continuing protests by the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
In a tweet, the minister said that the meeting had been summoned in light of the situation arising out of the "illegal activities" by the banned group. "Other issues related to national security will also be discussed in the meeting," he said.
Chaudhry's statement comes as thousands of TLP workers left Kamoke and neared Gujranwala city on Thursday morning, continuing with their long march to Islamabad.
Meanwhile, federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that the state had laws against terrorism and militancy.
"Killing of policemen and other [law enforcement agencies] and any act of terrorism by the TLP or any group will be dealt with the full force of the law. Restraint by the government so far should not be mistaken as weakness. Let there be no ambiguity on that count," she said.
A day earlier, Chaudhry announced that the TLP would not be allowed to challenge the writ of the state and would be treated as a "militant" group – not a religious party.
“The cabinet has decided to treat TLP as a militant organisation and it will be crushed as other such groups have been eliminated. Pakistani state has defeated major terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda,” Chaudhry said at a post-cabinet meeting press conference on Wednesday.
The minister said the government had evidence that the TLP was being funded by some groups in India which also maligned Pakistan through social media.
The TLP, he said, was established in 2015 and since then, its modus operandi had been to come out on the roads and block them. “But there is a limit to the state’s patience.”
The same day, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid said that "like Karachi", Rangers were being deployed in Punjab for 60 days to maintain the law and order situation in the province.
He said Rangers were being deployed in Punjab under Section 4 (2) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, read with Article 147 of the Constitution, on the requisition of the provincial government.
He warned that the way the TLP was behaving, it could be declared a global terrorist organisation. “In such a case, nothing will be in our control,” he said.
The government's announcement had come after at least four police officials were killed and another 263 wounded, many of them seriously, when violent activists of the TLP clashed with police near Muridke and Sadhuke on Wednesday.
The fierce clashes broke out after the TLP tried to resume its march on Islamabad to pressurise the government to accept its demands.
Punjab Inspector General of Police Rao Sardar said the charged mob of the proscribed organisation martyred four police officials and injured 263 others.
While briefing the media, he said: “TLP activists were armed with automatic weapons and shot straight fire on the police.” The use of arms against the law-enforcement agencies by the banned outfit was a matter of serious concern, the IGP added.
On its part, the TLP claimed that two workers of the organisation had died in the clashes with police and 41 had been wounded.
A TLP spokesman said police had used excessive force against their peaceful rally. However, the group’s claim of deaths of its workers could not be confirmed independently.
Police said the TLP was trying to mislead the public by making false claims on social media and posting some video clips from the past.