Islamabad/Lahore, April 14: Pakistan on Wednesday decided to ban a radical Islamist party under the Terrorism Act after its supporters clashed with the law enforcement agencies for the third consecutive day, leaving seven persons dead and over 300 policemen injured.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told the media that the Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) was being banned under the Rule 11-B of Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.
“I have approved a proposal sent by the government of Punjab to ban the TLP,” he said. “We have also warned those who are funding the TLP.”
Ahmed said that at least two police officials were killed and 340 others injured in clashes with the protestors during the last two days.
There were media reports that at least two protestors were also killed.
The announcement came hours after the Pakistani Rangers cleared the major thoroughfares of the country following sporadic clashes with TLP supporters in some towns and cities.
The TLP had launched the country-wide protest on Monday after the arrest of its chief Saad Hussain Rizvi ahead of April 20 deadline the Islamists had given to the Imran Khan government demanding expulsion of the French ambassador for publication of cartoons of the Prophet.
The TLP, which bagged 2.5 million votes in the 2018 general elections, blocked the roads across the country following the arrest of Saad Rizvi, son of Khadim Hussain Rizvi who died a few months ago.
The minister said that all motorways and highways had been cleared and the main choking point in major cities had also been cleared for traffic.
Over 800 Indian Sikhs who arrived in Lahore via Wagah border on Monday to attend Vaisakhi festival in Gurdwara Panja Sahib Hassanabdal, Rawalpindi, finally reached their destination on Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday afternoon, the visiting Indian Sikhs left Lahore for Gurdwara Panja Sahib Hassanabdal in 25 buses which were escorted by police and Rangers. “Owing to the TLP protest that blocked roads, the Sikh yatrees reached Hassanabdal at 4am Wednesday after over 14 hours journey which otherwise is covered in three hours, an official of the Punjab government told PTI.
The law enforcement agencies claim to have arrested over 2,000 TLP workers across the country mostly from Punjab.
Ahmed said that “the government will deal with an iron fist with those who take the law into their own hands”.
He said Rangers would remain deployed in all major cities of the country during the month of Ramadan to maintain law and order.
Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat said in a tweet: “All roads in the capital, including exit and entry points, have been clear for traffic.”
A heavy police contingent is also deployed in Bhara Kahu and Faizabad while all roads leading to the French embassy are blocked.
There are reports of seven death including two policemen during the violence clashes between the Islamists and police in Punjab province and Karachi. TLP claimed that 12 of its workers have been killed by police.
A spokesperson for the Punjab police said that two policemen were killed and over 300 suffered injuries in the province after the violent protesters of the TLP attacked them with clubs, bricks and firearms.
He said several injured policemen are fighting for their lives in hospitals.
Interestingly, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government which is fully backed by the military establishment had signed an agreement with the TLP in November last agreeing to expel the French ambassador.
The TLP launched a massive protest in November last year against the cartoons but dispersed after the agreement with the government to expel the ambassador by February. The deal was extended until April 20.
The government had promised to take action on the demands of the TLP by bringing a legislation in the parliament.
Ahmed said that the government was committed to introduce the law but the TLP refused to accept the draft and demanded a stricter version which, he said, “would have isolated Pakistan in the world”.
The TLP shot to fame in 2017 when it held a massive protest for three weeks in the busy Faizabad interchange near Islamabad. It lifted the lockdown of the city after the then government sacked the law minister. (PTI)