October 22, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Activists from the banned Tehrik Labaik Pakistan on Saturday continued their march to Islamabad following violent clashes with police that left three policemen dead and many others injured. The federal government sought reinforcement of upto 30,000 police personnel in wake of the protesters reaching the federal capital.
A government negotiation team arrived in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Lahore to hold talks with detained TLP chief Saad Rizvi as the party activists braced for another showdown with anti-riots police contingents at Sadoke on the Grand Trunk Road in Gujranwala.
On Saturday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid cut short his visit to the United Arab Emirates on the instruction of Prime Minister Imran Khan and arrived in Lahore. The interior minister held several meetings with law enforcement officials who briefed him on the TLP march. Sources said the government decided to hold negotiations with Rizvi who was detained at the Kot Lakhpat Jail to persuade him to call off the party’s long march to Islamabad. The committee includes a federal minister and a provincial minister, sources said.
The TLP also hinted that it was willing to call off the protest when it named a negotiating team comprising Mufti Muhammad Wazir Ali, Allama Ghulam Abbas Faizi and Mufti Muhammad Umair Al-Zahiri. A TLP spokesperson said the party was willing to hold talks if the government showed seriousness in the negotiations, adding that Mufti Muhammad Wazir Ali will head the TLP negotiation committee.
Three cops killed in clashes
According to Punjab government, three police officials were killed in overnight clashes with the TLP activists. Scores of activists stormed through road blockades at the MAO College and Shahdara and clashed with anti-riots police squads. In a statement, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar condoled the deaths of the martyred policemen with the bereaved families.
Two of the police officials died when a car of the protesters overran them while the third police official died of wounds after being tortured by protesters., the statement added. “Strict action should be taken against those involved in the tragic incident under the law,”Buzdar said.
There were unconfirmed reports of several fatalities and scores of injured party activists in the clashes. However, there was no independent confirmation of the claims of fatalities.
March nearing Gujranwala
The protesters had crossed the Kala Shah Kaku interchange as the federal and provincial governments hold negotiations with the TLP leadership to call off the long march to Islamabad. Gujranwala police and administration completed preparations to stop the march from proceeding to Islamabad. Till filing of this report, the activists were nearing the road blockades and containers placed at Sadhoke. Police has also placed containers to seal the GT Road near Kamoke.
The road closures caused great inconvenience to passengers who had to walk many kilometres to their destinations due to the blockades. The National Highway and Motorway Police issued alerts of traffic blockades on the Grand Trunk Road in wake of the TLP march. It said traffic was blocked at Jandiala, Wazirabad, Chenab Toll Plaza, Jhelum Toll Plaza, and Canal Bridge at Sarai Alamgir on the N-5 Highway.
Traffic flow normalises in Lahore
The situation in Lahore returned to normal with the lifting of road blockades and the resumption of traffic in all major arteries of the city. However, the metro bus service partially operated service from Gajju Matta to MAO College. The Speedo feeder bus service resumed on all routes except five routes. The Orange Line train service also remained suspended for the third day in the city.
In the evening, the Lahore Traffic police announced that all road blockades had been lifted and traffic was running normally across the city. The Lahore to Islamabad motorway was also open for entry from Babu Sabu and Thokar Niaz Beg.
Rawalpindi under siege
The city of Rawalpindi remained in a state of siege with containers placed on major roads and entry and exit points sealed. The metro bus service was partially suspended and public transport remained off roads.
Rangers have taken control of Rawalpindi Metro Track while another contingent of police was deployed on the Murree Road. The Murree Road from Murreer Chowk to Faizabad Interchange was closed. All
All business centers on Murree Road remained closed. The blockades caused difficulties to commuters, some of whom also reportedly clashed with one another over the right of way.
30,000 police for Islamabad
On Friday, the federal interior ministry requested the provincial governments of Azad Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab government to provide 10,000 police personnel each to the administration in Islamabad. The 30,000 strong force is to be stationed in the federal capital to avoid any security situation from the TLP protest. The request states that police personnel should have complete anti-riots equipment and gear.
The TLP activists started their march from their party headquarters in Chowk Yateem Khan in Lahore to demand the release of their detained chief Saad Rizvi who has been detained since April.