November 16th, 2020 

Bureau Report


Even after a day of pitched battle with the police, scores of protesters from the TLP (Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan) continue their sit in at the Faizabad Chowk to press for their demand of Pakistan sending back the French ambassador here over the publication of blasphemous caricatures in France.

On Sunday, November 15, the TLP took out a rally from Liaquat Bagh to Faizabad in which around 5000 TLP supporters participated. Liaquat Bagh became a battleground between police officials and stick-wielding TLP activists during the day especially they attempted to cross into the capital. Riot police fired teargas shells against the stone-pelting protesters; during the clashes, dozens of police personnel, including Waris Khan police station SHO Abdul Aziz, and several TLP activists were injured and shifted to hospitals. The mobile phone network service was suspended in many areas of Rawalpindi and Islamabad as well.

According to Rawalpindi police, the protesters ransacked shops and businesses on Murree Road as well as injured several police officials in stone pelting. Police said close to 200 supporters have been detained following the clashes.

The TLP supporters’ sit-in at Faizabad Chowk is on the same location where the group had held earlier sit-ins against the government in 2017 and 2018. The TLP supporters then dispersed following an agreement with the government. Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the head of the TLP, did not take part in the rally and the current sit-in at Faizabad. According to party workers, Rizvi has ordered workers to continue the sit-in till the demand of sending back the French ambassador is met.

The authorities had sealed Rawalpindi’s 24 entry points with shipping containers. In Islamabad, the administration 16 entry points to the federal capital. The blockade and suspension of cell phone service caused inconvenience to residents of the twin cities. The Islamabad Traffic Police issued a traffic diversion on Monday till further orders. According to the diversion plan, traffic coming to Faizabad from all sides has been diverted to alternate routes. Diversions have been placed on Serena Chowk, State Bank Chowk and D Chowk to block entry to the Red Zone. In a tweet, Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat announced that the Islamabad Expressway from Zero Point till Khanna Bridge will stay sealed. “Everyone is requested to please use alternate routes. Apologies for the inconvenience. We are trying our best to clear the route,” he said in his tweet.

The Islamabad administration has deployed 3,113 security personnel including police, Rangers and Frontier Corps at Faizabad in order to stop the TLP supporters going toward the diplomatic enclave. In the evening of Monday, the TLP supporters claimed that police had been firing tear gas shells on them to disperse them. The suspension of cell phones in the twin cities also continued for the second day. Residents in the federal capital shared videos of shelling at Faizabad saying the situation there was still tense and police had not been able to clear the routes for traffic. There was no official confirmation of the clashes on Monday till the filing of this report.