- Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar condemns incident, says no one can be allowed to take the law into their own hands
Three police personnel were martyred in clashes on Friday with demonstrators from a banned TLP who rallied to demand the release of their leader and the expulsion of the French ambassador over blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
The officers were hit by a vehicle as thousands of activists from the TTP movement gathered in Lahore for a march on the capital Islamabad.
Police fired teargas after TLP supporters attacked a security checkpoint, during clashes across the city, police spokesman Arif Rana said.
"They had assured us that they would remain peaceful but they turned violent," he said.
TLP media coordinator Saddam Bukhari said police attacked a peaceful rally but Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, who confirmed the deaths of the officers, condemned the demonstrators. "No one can be allowed to take the law into their own hands," he said.
Following the April clashes in which TLP activists blocked highways, railways and access routes to cities and battled police, the authorities arrested their leader, Saad Hussain Rizvi, and banned the TLP.
Authorities had been trying to negotiate with the TLP, which rallied its supporters outside its Lahore headquarters for the last two days, but the negotiations broke down and the TLP called on supporters from around Pakistan to converge on the capital Islamabad.
The main arteries to and from Lahore and Islamabad were blocked with shipping containers to prevent demonstrators entering the city. The diplomatic enclave in Islamabad, where most foreign embassies are located, was also blocked off.
Earlier today, the Punjab government formed a committee that would hold talks with the TLP as the group began its long march to the capital.
In a Twitter message, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar announced the formation of the committee that comprises provincial Law Minister Raja Basharat and Prosecution Minister Chaudhry Zaheeruddin.
Meanwhile, amid separate protest calls by the TLP and opposition parties against the government, authorities suspended the Metro Bus service in Rawalpindi and blocked roads in Islamabad and Lahore.
The TLP is protesting against the detention of its party chief Saad Hussain Rizvi while the opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), has announced a series of countrywide demonstrations against inflation.
In a bid to stop the protesters from marching to sensitive areas, the Lahore district administration placed containers at various points such as the Samanabad turn at Multan Road and at the Grid Station Stop. Containers were also placed at the Dubai Chowk in Iqbal Town's Boulevard area.
The provincial government also suspended internet services around Multan Road, Grand Battery Stop, Iqbal Town, Nawankot, Samanabad, and Sabzazar areas of Lahore.
The notification issued on October 20 stated that internet services were to be suspended in the said areas with immediate effect till further request for reopening. It may be mentioned that all these areas have been sealed with containers.
Metro Bus service was also suspended in Rawalpindi over fears of law and order situation while several roads in the city's inner areas were blocked. Containers were placed on the Sixth Road leading to the Faizabad area while the Faizabad Ojri Camp road was sealed off.
The city's administration said that the Metro Bus will only operate from the IJP Road Stop to the Pakistan Secretariat while it will remain suspended from Saddar to Faizabad.
TLP's long march
On October 21, the TLP had announced that it will start a long march towards Islamabad today (Friday). It stated that the group also had a 'Plan B' in case its members were stopped from marching on the capital.
Hundreds of TLP workers have been participating in a sit-in in Lahore to exert pressure on the Punjab government for the release of its party chief.
The TLP said that their demand for the implementation of an agreement reached between them and the government earlier this year remained unmet.
PDM's protest plan
Meanwhile, the PDM is holding anti-government protests across the country against rising inflation and growing unemployment after Friday prayers in numerous parts of the country which will be attended by leaders and workers of the PDM’s constituent parties.
Protest rallies will be taken out in several cities including Lahore, Sargodha, Peshawar, Swat, Changla and Karachi.
A protest schedule has been issued for various districts and divisions of Punjab including Sargodha, Khushab, Mianwali, Bhakkar, Jhang, and Jauharabad.