LAHORE: Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed chaired an important meeting on law and order situation on the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan here Saturday. During the meeting, the overall law and order situation in the country was reviewed.
The meeting was attended by federal and provincial ministers including Noorul Haq Qadri, Ali Amin Gandapur, Raja Basharat, IG Police Punjab and other officials of the law enforcement agencies. The strategy about talks with ‘a banned organization’ was also discussed in the meeting. It was agreed to take all possible steps to maintain law and order in the country.
The government’s three-member negotiating team comprises of Federal Interior Minister Shaikh Rasheed, Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noorul Haq Qadri and Punjab’s law minister Raja Basharat. Meanwhile, the banned organization also announced its negotiating team and it included Mufti Muhammad Wazir Ali, Allama Ghulam Abbas Faizi and Mufti Muhammad Umair al-Zahiri, according to a statement.
According to sources privy to the matter, the talks with the banned outfit would not be held at Kot Lakhpat Jail. “They will rather be held at an undisclosed location,” they said. The sources further said that the government delegation would be led by Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed while the banned outfit TLP would be represented by its senior leaders.
Three policemen martyred in clashes with TLP
Pir Noorul Haq Qadri on instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan has reached Lahore from Karachi today and started contacts with various religious leaders. “The government believes to settle issues with dialogue. Protection of life and property is the foremost priority of the government,” Qadri said. The prime minister had also directed Shaikh Rasheed to reach Lahore for talks with the protesting group.
Sheikh Rasheed on Saturday has returned from United Arab Emirates (UAE) in emergency in the wake of current situation of law and order due to protests across the country. The minister was in Dubai to witness India and Pakistan match in ongoing International Cricket Council (ICC) Twenty20 World Cup. Hundreds of defunct TLP workers march on Islamabad demanding the release of Saad Rizvi. The party’s central council been demanding the government release Saad Hussain Rizvi, the chief of the defunct party. He was arrested earlier in the year for inciting violence.
A large number of party members took part in the sit-in. The party council members say that they have been protesting peacefully for 15 days but have not received much reaction. The government has repeatedly turned its back on the agreement, they said. The defunct Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had given the government till Thursday evening to release Saad Rizvi or they said they would make an announcement of a plan of action.
A stage was set in front of the TLP headquarters at Multan Road in Lahore where 200 to 250 members turned up. An additional 400 to 500 members are said to be inside and around the centre. A heavy contingent of police is outside the TLP centre. There’s, however, no restriction of movement, and workers can easily enter and leave the headquarters. Mobile and internet services are blocked in the area. Earlier, the party had announced that their march will start after Friday prayers. The party was hopeful negotiations with the Punjab government will be successful. The central committee members were supposed to meet the government representatives before Friday prayers.
A spokesperson of defunct TLP’s central committee said that the party has a “Plan B” if the government tries to stop them from entering Islamabad. “It will be revealed when the time comes,” he said on the condition of anonymity. Multan Road has been closed from all sides near the stage, including Fawara Chowk, Shah Noor Scheme cut, Utility Store Scheme cut, and Shah Farid.
Security beefed up in twin cities
All routes from Yateem Khana Chowk have been closed by containers. The ongoing wave of protests and sit-ins by the banned TLP for the third consecutive day has badly hit the traffic system in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, as main thoroughfares connecting to Faizabad Interchange and other adjoining roads have been blocked by the authorities. Lahore has also witnessed the worst traffic snarl due to different road blockades and diversions. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has suspended the Internet and mobile service in the areas where the banned outfit is holding its protests.
The authorities have moved containers to Islamabad ahead of the TLP march to the federal capital. All bus stations in Faizabad have been sealed and the traffic system has been badly disturbed in Faizabad and its adjoining roads. The protest by the banned group has affected Internet service in different areas of Lahore including Shahdara, Badami Bagh, Ferozwala and areas adjacent to the Ravi Bridge.
A spokesperson of Lahore Police in a statement said that two policemen were martyred and 44 were injured in the violent protest of the workers of the proscribed group previous day. The police spokesperson has identified the martyred policemen as Head Constable Ayub and Constable Khalid Javed. “In the violence by the angry mob 44 policemen got serious injuries”, the police spokesperson added.
Earlier, Federal Interior Ministry has decided to take emergency measures to tackle likely protest by the supporters of an outlawed religious group in the federal capital city. According to sources, the government has decided to secure Islamabad from the protesters at any cost. The government has summoned police contingents from provinces to ensure public order in Islamabad in the wake of likely protest, sources said.
The ministry has called contingents of 30,000 policemen from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir, according to sources. The Ministry of Interior has summoned 10,000 policemen and officers from Punjab, KP and Kashmir each to assist in maintenance of law and order. The interior ministry has directed the provinces to sent riot gears with their police contingents, according to sources. The ministry has written letters to the secretaries of provinces for deployment of police contingents in Islamabad, sources added.