Police on high alert as banned group announces it will unveil new agitation strategy on Thursday evening if chief remains imprisoned
The Interior Ministry on Wednesday directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to block all internet services in several areas of Lahore that are facing renewed protests by the banned Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), as the Punjab capital’s police were placed on high alert to avert any threat to law and order.
According to a notification, all forms of internet—data services, WiFi, fixed-line DSL—have been blocked in the Samanabad, Sherakot, Nawankot, Gulshan-e-Ravi, Sabzazar, and Iqbal Town areas of Lahore. Claiming the action was being taken “for maintaining law and order,” the notification did not provide any date for restoration of internet services.
A day earlier, the banned group commenced a massive sit-in on Multan Road near its Masjid Rehmatul-lil-Aalemeen headquarters to coincide with celebrations for Eid Miladun Nabi on the 12th of Rabiul Awwal. Hundreds of the group’s supporters vowed to continue their protest until the Punjab government ordered the release of chief Saad Hussain Rizvi, who has been imprisoned since April under “maintenance of public order.” Initially detained for three months, his imprisonment was extended in July. They also demanded the government fulfill its agreement to expel the French ambassador from Pakistan to protest the publication of blasphemous caricatures in the European state.
Addressing the participants, senior TLP leader Syed Afzaal Hussain Shah said that if Rizvi were not released by 5 p.m. on Thursday (today), the group would unveil a plan for fresh agitation nationwide. The threat has sounded an alarm for police in Lahore, who say they are on high alert but are awaiting orders from the Home Department before taking any action against the sit-in.
While no security operation has been launched to dislodge the sit-in—which has caused traffic snarls across Lahore—more than 100 clerics belonging to the TLP have been placed on the Fourth Schedule by the Punjab Home Department. Individuals suspected of sectarianism and terrorism are usually placed on the Fourth Schedule and are barred from accessing their bank accounts or leaving the country without permission from the government.
Sources within the Home Department have said that it is considering recommendations from various district commissioners for further additions to the Fourth Schedule.
According to a spokesperson for Lahore police, Capital City Police Officer Additional IG Ghulam Mahmood Dogar has reviewed the situation and devised a security plan to avoid any untoward incident in light of the banned group’s history of violent agitation, including attacks on security forces.