Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has stated on Wednesday that the government has called Rangers to maintain law and order in Punjab for two months, after recent clashes erupted with the banned outfit, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
While addressing a presser in Islamabad, the minister stated that a summary in this regard has been sent to the federal cabinet for approval. He still maintained that he has requested the banned outfit to end their protest.
It is pertinent to note that recently, another episode of violence erupted between the police forces and TLP supporters near Sadhoke in Gujranwala district on Wednesday, leaving at least four policemen were martyred and over 250 injured.
Earlier, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry stated that TLP will be treated as a “militant” group and not a religious party, therefore, it won’t be allowed for them to challenge the writ of the state.
Later, Shiekh Rashid claimed that the group is working on “another agenda, so I am authorising Punjab govt to call in Rangers.”
The minister revealed that he had spoken to the TLP authorities at 3:30am last night and “told them that the French ambassador is not even in Pakistan. This shows that they have another agenda.”
The minister went on to reveal that earlier the group vowed that all the blocked roads would be reopened soon.
The minister in this regard added that he has given directive to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take stern action against those spreading fake news on social media.
The minister said that TLP could be banned internationally for taking law and order in their hands, as three policemen had been martyred and 70 injured, of whom eight were in critical condition.
“It could be included in the list of international terrorists and then we would not be able to do anything in their case,” Rashid stated.
He added that it was being said that he was being “too flexible” in the matter. “But this is my political thinking of keeping the doors open [for talks].”
The minister further stated that certain “international powers” wanted to impose sanctions on Pakistan and “had their eyes on the country’s nuclear programme”.
“This is the sixth time the TLP has done this,” he said, adding he was being “compelled” to do this press conference. “They [TLP] have become militants. In Sadhoke, they fired at police with Kalashnikovs [but] the cops only had lathis.”
Rashid further revealed that “just like in Karachi”, he was deploying Rangers under Article 147 of the Constitution (which allows the provincial government to entrust its functions to the federation) on the request of the provincial government.
As per the reports, the notification stated that Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) have been entrusted powers in terms of Section 4(3)(i) of ATA within Punjab to prevent the commission of terrorist acts and scheduled offences under ATA, to exercise powers of police officers provided in the Code of Criminal Procedure, read with Section 5 of ATA for a period of 60 days.
Adding to that, Punjab IG Rao Sardar Ali Khan has stated that TLP has repeated its history of damaging state property and harming police officials.
Punjab government spokesperson Hasaan Khawar stated that “[They want] that laws are made according to what they desire, and foreign and internal decisions are made according to what they want.”
He added that “Today, dozens are injured […] they fired bullets straight at us which injured 253 officials and killed four. Are police officers and law enforcers not lovers of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)?”
He added that “Protecting the people of the province is our responsibility.”
Earlier today, Fawad Chaudhry has stated that the banned group will not be allowed to challenge the writ of the state and will be treated as a “militant” group and not a religious party.
While addressing a presser, Chaudhry said that the banned group was established in 2015 and since then, their agenda has been to come out on the roads and block them. “But there is a limit to the state’s patience”. Adding to that, he said that people have a right to their “ideas” but can’t be allowed to take up arms if their ideas are not heard.
“In today’s cabinet meeting, it was decided that such activities will not be tolerated. We will not tolerate those who challenge the writ of the state,” he stated.
“No one should make the mistake of thinking that the state is weak. Those who made this mistake later realised they were wrong”, he added.
Fawad Chaudhry went on to state that the TLP had no “status” or access to arms like other terror groups. He said that a “show” had been staged the past six times, and the government had shown “great restraint”.
The minister said that last time, six policemen were martyred and more than 700 injured in clashes with TLP workers. Now, three cops have been martyred in two days and more than 49 are injured, he said.
“We don’t want blood to be spilt but some of their [TLP’s] leadership don’t care about whether people are killed. They want blood to be spilt on the roads” he added.
He further stated that “A clear policy decision has been taken. The banned TLP will be treated as a militant party. We will not treat them as a political party […] the rest of the country’s institutions should also play their role.”
It is pertinent to note that the TLP had launched protests in Lahore on the 12th of Rabiul Awwal, to put pressure on the Punjab government for the release of its chief, Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, the son of its late founder Khadim Rizvi.
Saad Rizvi has been kept in detention by the Punjab government since April 12 for “maintenance of public order”.
TLP had earlier announced to march on Islamabad, prompting the government to block the routes leading to the capital. However, TLP leader Pir Ajmal Qadri had later said the purpose of the move was “respect for the Holy Prophet (PBUH)”, while also demanding Rizvi’s release.
In a fresh episode of violence by TLP workers, at least three policemen were martyred in clashes with them.
On Monday, Rashid had assured to fulfil the commitments the government made with the TLP during negotiations a day earlier, saying the matter would be discussed during a federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
A day later. Rashid had said that the government did not have any “reservations” on the TLP’s demands and there was agreement on all issues discussed with the group — except for the matter of the French ambassador’s expulsion.
On Wednesday, the group had accused the minister of lying about the settlement of matters between the party and the government.
The TLP has now declared to depart from Muridke soon for their announced destination of Islamabad.