LAHORE: To prevent hundreds of supporters of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) from accessing the federal capital, authorities have built barricades on the Jhelum River bridge and the Punjab Rangers have set a’red line.’
The banned group intends to march to the federal capital and organise a sit-in demanding that the French envoy be expelled. After Friday prayers, tens of thousands of TLP employees and sympathisers resumed their march.
“Beyond this boundary, the Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) are in charge of maintaining law and order, and they have been granted the permission to shoot at criminals. Everyone has been strongly urged to return to their homes “On the Jhelum bridge, a paramilitary group posted a banner.
The authorities also erected containers on the far end of the bridge to prevent demonstrators from crossing the river, ostensibly to keep TLP supporters at Jhelum contained.
A contingent of Punjab Rangers has been deployed on the Chenab and Jhelum crossings and RPO Rawalpindi Imran Ahmar is monitoring the situation in Jhelum along with a heavy contingent of police.
Moreover, the National Highway, GT Road, Chenab Toll Plaza to Mor Bhai Khan, Sohawa are closed for traffic at multiple points.
Aujla Canal, Wazirabad, Chenab Toll Plaza, Gujrat, Canal Bridge and Jhelum Toll Plaza, Jhelum Cantt, Pakistan Tobacco Company, Chakwal Mor, Bhai Khan Bridge, Sohawa, are also closed for traffic.
The thousands-strong march of the banned TLP has shown no signs of relenting. The marchers also have heavy machinery, including three to four heavy cranes and excavators, to remove the obstructions on the road to Islamabad.
‘Counter TLP at all costs’
A day earlier, Punjab CM Usman Buzdar had given the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) a free hand to counter the TLP as the procession neared Gujranwala. Since the start of the march on Oct 27, at least six police officials have been martyred as a result of clashes with TLP. According to TLP, it has also lost several of its supporters to the “police firing and shelling”.
The authorities, in order to stop the rally, have blocked major thoroughfares such as the Murree Road and adjacent highways with containers and dug trenches across GT Road.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced the deployment of Rangers in Punjab for 60 days after at least four policemen were martyred and over 250 sustained injuries in clashes between participants of the march and law enforcers near Sadhoki. The Sadhoki clashes led the government to declare the TLP a “militant outfit”.
“The TLP would now be treated as a “militant” organisation in view of its persistent tendency to challenge the writ of the state by creating chaos with the support of anti-state elements,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said.
“On Tuesday, a clear policy decision was taken in a meeting, which was held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the top leadership of Pakistan Army, intelligence agencies heads and all the authorities concerned, that the proscribed Tehreek-e-Labbaik will be treated as a militant group,” the minister had told a post-cabinet meeting presser.