April 19th, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed & Rehan Piracha
The situation remains tense at the Chowk Yateem Khan in the city today, after yesterday’s ( Sunday ) violent clashes between police and Tehrik Labaik Pakistan supporters.
Supporters of the proscribed outfit have released 11 police officials taken hostage in Sunday’s clashes, Federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced in a video message. The federal interior minister stated that 11 police officials have been set free but the list provided by the Punjab police of the abducted security officials listed the name of 15 policemen and one Rangers personnel. He said the police officials were released after two rounds of talks of the banned outfit with the Punjab government, adding that the protesters had gone back into their main center of protest, Rehmatul Lil Alameen Mosque in Yateem Khana Chowk, and the police have also stepped back from the sit-in area.
According to a senior police official, in fact the TLP kidnapped 16 security personnel and have released all of them. He further stated that all the released security personnel have received injuries.
Talks on with TLP, NA told
Speaking in the National Assembly on Monday, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Noor-ul-Qadri said the government officials will hold a third round of talks with the TLP supporters, after iftaar in the evening to bring about an end to the impasse as per wishes of the parliament and the nation.
Asad Qaiser, speaker of the National Assembly, adjourned the session for Thursday, after a heated debate by opposition members. The opposition criticised the Prime Minister for choosing to address the nation in a televised address instead of addressing the parliament on the important issue first.
On Sunday, Twitter feeds were abuzz with videos and claims of killings during clashes between police and the TLP supporters around Chowk Yateem on Multan Road. The banned outfit claimed that at least four of their workers were killed during the operation and several others injured as the police used live ammunition on the protesters to disperse them.
However, according to Punjab police, the operation was started in an act of self defense after the “miscreants” attacked Nawankot police station and attacked police and Rangers with petrol bombs. The federal minister said all the freed police officials bore marks of injuries on their bodies.
Religious and political parties misusing Islam: PM
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said it was unfortunate that the political and religious parties in Pakistan misused Islam to cause damage to the country.
“Some of our political and religious parties use Islam wrongly and end up causing damage to their own country,” said PM Imran Khan, addressing a ceremony in Islamabad on the ground-breaking of Margalla highway.
The Prime Minister said he had started a campaign to bring together heads of state of Muslim countries to present the case for honour of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) on international forums.
Chowk Yateem under siege
Hundreds of shops and businesses in Chowk Yateem Khana on Multan road remained closed for the seventh day on Monday, after TLP supporters blocked adjoining roads and held a sit-in there on April 12. Police erected barricades from the Scheme Morr to Samanabad Morr, diverting traffic to Chowk Yateem Khana on Multan Road onto adjoining roads. Police stood guard at barricades on Bund Road near the Nawankot Police Station building, scene of the fiery clashes on Sunday. The intracity bus stations on Bund Raod were open but the passengers have been told to use the Shiran Kot route to reach the terminals instead of the blocked Chowk Yateem Khana.
Waqar Aslam, a resident of Chowk Yateem Khana, told Voicepk.net that cell phone services in the area remain suspended and residents are able to only communicate with friends and family by using WhatsApp through landline internet.
Religious parties stand behind TLP
The prominent religious political parties and groups have put their weight behind the proscribed TLP and urged the government to show restraint from using force against the workers of the TLP.
Mufti Muneeb ur Rehman, who leads the national alliance of Bralevi seminaries announced a nationwide strike against the police action on the TLP workers. He urged the traders and transporters to join their strike and remain closed on Monday. The Lahore traders association has announced to observe a complete strike.
Rehman said that the ban imposed on the TLP should be lifted and their arrested workers be released immediately.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Jamat e Islami head Siraj ul Haq also announced his full support to the Mufti’s call for the strike.
In a late-night presser on Sunday, Rehman strongly criticized the police operation against the TLP and termed it as “State terrorism. “If the TLP decides to march towards Islamabad with the dead bodies of their martyrs and the injured ones, we will join them”, Rehman announced.
PFUJ, SHCBA condemn media blackout
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) has strongly condemned the blocking of news coverage of unfortunate developments unfolding in Lahore because of the protest of a religious group and government handling of the situation that has led to riots, loss of lives, and damage to properties.
In a joint statement issued on Sunday President PFUJ Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary-General Nasir Zaidi expressed grave concern over the situation, saying the blackout of the developments by the government was counter-productive, leading to rumor-mongering that would not only create confusion but fan antigovernmental sentiments.
— PFUJ Official (@OfficialPfuj) April 18, 2021
In a separate statement, the Sindh High Court Bar Association condemned the utter failure of the ruling PTI government to peacefully resolve the crisis emerging from the TLP clashes. “The government’s reaction has swung from willful blindness to disproportionate and lethal force,” the SHCBA said.
The SHCBA resolution on the TLP protests & government reactions. pic.twitter.com/65FG78OULE
— Salahuddin Ahmed (@SalAhmedPK) April 19, 2021
“The Sindh High Court Bar Association considers the primary culprit for this current cycle of violence are the faces within the deep State that have continuously encouraged and fostered the weaponization of religion for political objectives in the past without any thought to the inevitable blowback and reactions”, the statement said
The SHCBA also slammed the unconstitutional gagging of electronic media concerning the protests. While media channels must show restraint in their coverage of such protests and policing operations, such a blanket ban only fuels the disinformation being spread on social media, the SHCBA added. The public’s right to know must be respected by the government and PEMRA, it said.