Deep, long pit dug with cranes; procession reaches Sudoke; govt holds talks with four members of banned outfit
LAHORE: The government has dug up a trench on GT Road near Gujranwala in response to an announcement by the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) that they will set out on a long march towards Islamabad.
A deep and long pit was dug with the help of cranes while the roads were also blocked in advance by placing containers. Thus, all paths via road leading to and from Gujranwala were blocked.
Meanwhile, a procession by the banned outfit, the participants of which began marching from Lahore, have reached Sadoke, Geo News reported.
Earlier in the day, the government held talks with four members of the banned outfit, Minister for Law Punjab Raja Basharat said.
The law minister's statement came during a meeting of the committee formed for negotiations which was chaired by Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed.
The law minister informed the committee that in the last three days, the government has spoken to the banned outfit four times.
The banned outfit announced a "peaceful protest" on Friday after jummah prayers to demand the release of their leader Saad Rizvi.
A day earlier, Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar announced the government's decision to form a committee to hold talks with the banned outfit.
"We have formed a committee, consisting of senior members of the Punjab Cabinet Raja Basharat and Chaudhry Zaheeruddin to negotiate with the [banned] Tehreek-e-Labbaik," Buzdar wrote on Twitter.
"According to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PUBH), we all need to work together for peace and harmony in the country," he added.
Today, at Lahore's Batti Chowk, clashes between protesters and police continued for a second day, injuring six law enforcement personnel.
Meanwhile, internet services are being restored gradually, the roads in the city are being reopened, however, Orange Line Metro Train is still closed — for four days now.
In Rawalpindi, the stretch from 6th Road to Faizabad remains blocked. Containers have been placed on Murree Road, causing difficulties for commuters.
To keep Islamabad safe from the protests, the Ministry of Interior has summoned an additional force of 30,000 police personnel from Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, who will be equipped with anti-riot gear. Notices in this regard have been sent to all three chief secretaries.
Two policemen were martyred after cars collided yesterday during the protest, a police spokesperson said.
According to the spokesperson, the policemen were injured after the cars collided near District Court in Lahore. Following the accident, they were rushed to a hospital, but they succumbed to their wounds.
The martyred policemen were identified as Ayub and Khalid, stationed at Gawalmandi and Mayo Garden police stations, respectively, the spokesperson said.
Moreover, a clash took place between police and workers of the banned outfit near MAO College, where 10 personnel, including the station house officer (SHO), were injured.
They were later shifted to a nearby hospital, the spokesperson said.
In light of the events, PM Imran Khan held a telephonic conversation with Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri earlier today to discuss the prevailing law and order situation.
On the directives of the prime minister, Qadri arrived in Lahore from Karachi and Rasheed arrived from the UAE to hold negotiations with the banned outfit's leadership.
Rizvi was taken into custody shortly after the federal government had declared the TLP a proscribed organisation under anti-terrorism laws and launched a broad crackdown against the party.
The action came after days of violent protests and traffic disruptions in the largest cities of Pakistan, which saw the public and private property being damaged by gangs of hooligans bearing sticks and turning on law enforcement officials at will.
Speaking on the move, Prime Minister Imran Khan had explained that his government had taken action against the banned TLP because it "challenged the writ of the state and used street violence, attacking the public and law enforcers".
Two policemen were martyred in Lahore Friday night after a couple of cars collided during a protest by the banned outfit. Clashes between police and members of the outlawed outfit also resulted in over 40 cops getting injured.