- Security has been tightened, and additional law-enforcement personnel have been deployed along various routes in Punjab
As the situation related to the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protest continues to evolve, Prime Minister Imran Khan has convened a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on Friday (tomorrow).
In a tweet, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that in view of the situation arising out of "illegal activities of the banned outfit", the PM has called a meeting of the NSC.
He added that other issues related to national security will also be considered in this meeting.
After deadly clashes with law-enforcement agencies, workers of the banned TLP continued their march towards Gujranwala in a bid to press the government to accept their demands.
The TLP have been demanding the government to expel French ambassador and shut down the French embassy in Pakistan.
On Wednesday, activists of the proscribed organisation had set up camp on the Kamoke portion of GT Road and vowed to march towards Islamabad.
All business centres and educational institutions in areas near the GT Road are closed while the flow of traffic has been completely suspended on the main thoroughfare due to the TLP protest.
The schedule of trains has also been affected after the government decided to suspend the operation keeping in view the current situation.
Meanwhile, as part of government's strategy to stop the protesters from marching towards the capital, the authorities have dug up a trench on GT Road near Chenab Bridge while containers have also been placed. In addition, the road from Wazirabad to Sialkot has also been excavated.
Govt-TLP resume talks: reports
Negotiations between the government and TLP resumed again after earlier efforts failed to yield any result, it was reported.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid and Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri are representing the government.
The TLP is demanding release of its chief Saad Rizvi from imprisonment, withdrawal of cases against the party workers and presenting a resolution against France in parliament.
However, the government had stated that the cases of TLP workers will be decided by the court. It also asked the banned outfit to withdraw from the GT Road and other main highways before release of the TLP chief from jail.
'State will protect citizens'
Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf said the TLP has crossed the "red line".
"As the basic principle of national security, the state will never shy away from protecting each and every citizen from any form of violence," he added.
He stated TLP has exhausted the state’s patience. "They have martyred policemen, destroyed public property, and continue to cause massive public disruption," he said.
The NSA said that the law will take its course for each one of them and terrorists will be treated like terrorists with no leniency. "There will be no armed militias of any sort in our country," he remarked.
On the other hand, the government has tightened security on the route of the protest and additional law enforcement personnel have been deployed to counter any untoward situation.
Punjab’s home department has deployed Rangers personnel in eight districts of the province. The Rangers force has been deployed for 60 days in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala, Chakwal, Gujrat and Faisalabad districts.
Govt treats TLP as militant outfit
On Wednesday, Fawad Chaudhry said that the cabinet decided to treat TLP as a militant organisation, adding that no one could challenge the writ of the state.
He stated that the TLP will not be dealt as a political party but as a militant organisation.
Violent clashes continue
At least four police officials were martyred while several suffered injuries when TLP workers clashed with the police near Muridke and Sadhuke on Wednesday.
The fierce clashes broke out after the TLP tried to resume its march on Islamabad to pressurise the government to accept its demands.
Inspector General of Punjab Police Rao Sardar said the charged mob of the proscribed organisation martyred four police officials and injured 263 others.
He claimed that the TLP activists were armed with automatic weapons and shot straight on the police. The IGP added that the use of arms against the law-enforcement agencies by the banned outfit is a matter of serious concern.
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 from entering the city. The diplomatic enclave in Islamabad, where most foreign embassies are located, was also blocked off.