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ISLAMABAD: The protests demonstrations continued in several parts of the country including twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad for the second consecutive day after police took into custody the leader of far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).

Several major intercity highways as well as different routes in twin cities were closed by police as protests remained continued despite baton charge by the police on the protesters.

Amid sporadic violent clashes between protestors and law enforcement agencies, a significant number of the country’s major arteries remained blocked, which – to some extent – also disrupted business in the twin cities.

In a statement, the spokesperson for the party, Tayyab Rizvi, said the protests would not be called off till the “French ambassador is deported”.

He said that more party workers were arriving at areas from where other supporters were earlier arrested by law enforcement officials.

Instead of freeing the detained TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi and going for talks with the party, the federal government also decided to deal sternly with the elements creating unrest in Islamabad.

The decision was reached at a jointly-held meeting chaired by Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, Minister for Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri. Inspector General (IG) Punjab police joined those in attendance through a video link.

Mulling upon the ongoing situation, the participants agreed to not let anyone take the law into their hands, and deal strongly with those doing so.

The Interior Ministry also issued directions for suspending internet services in the sensitive areas of the federal capital. The services will remain suspended in Taramri, Faizabad, T Chowk Rawat, Expressway, Athal Chowk and Bhara Kahu for the next 24 hours.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rasheed said everything would be alright. “Nothing had been decided about release of anyone,” he said in response to a question about the government’s plan for TLP chief.

The paramilitary troops have also been deployed in Islamabad for the security of the Red Zone, diplomatic enclave and all important government buildings in the federal capital.

As the protests continue, the federal government also deployed the paramilitary Rangers at Islamabad’s Faizabad Bridge, IJP Road and Dhokri Chowk.

In federal capital, Murree Road is closed to all types of traffic and Bhara Kahu is also blocked as the protesters have barricaded it with trucks.

Rawal Road, Tramri Road, Faisal Avenue, Express Road and Margalla Road were open for traffic, a spokesperson for Islamabad Police said.

Jinnah Avenue, Srinagar Highway as well as 7th, 9th, 10th and 11th Avenue were open for traffic, he said, adding Ataturk Avenue and Shahra-i-Dastoor were also open for all kinds of traffic.

He urged citizens to avoid travelling unnecessarily and adding that officials were working to address the issues being faced by the people.

The TLP has been demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over the publication of blasphemous caricatures. In November last year, the party staged a sit-in in Rawalpindi, which ended after an agreement with the government.

The TLP announced on November 17 that the government had accepted all its four demands. The TLP had released a copy of the handwritten agreement, carrying signatures of Qadri, then interior minister Brig Ejaz Shah (retd) and the deputy commissioner, Islamabad.

The agreement said the government would take a decision from the parliament regarding the expulsion of the French ambassador within three months, would not appoint its ambassador to France and release all the arrested workers of the TLP.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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