Banned group says it will ‘peacefully’ proceed to federal capital after Friday prayers as mark of ‘respect’ for Islam’s Prophet
The banned Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) on Thursday announced it will commence a “peaceful” long march toward Islamabad after Friday (today) prayers, as police across Punjab province continued a crackdown against its workers and supporters.
Announcing the long march from the group’s headquarters at Jamia Masjid Rehmatul Lil Aalamin in Lahore—where TLP activists have been staging a sit-in demanding the release of detained chief Saad Rizvi since Tuesday evening—senior leader Pir Ajmal Qadri said the “peaceful” procession would commence from the Multan Road location after Friday prayers. “If any hurdles are created, the party also has a Plan B to thwart any official attempts,” he warned as supporters cheered the announcement.
Contrary to the group’s stated demands over the past three days, Qadri did not link the long march to the continued incarceration of leader Saad Hussain Rizvi, stressing that it was intended to show “respect” for Islam’s Prophet. In his speech, he exhorted TLP workers to never abandon the mission of the late Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the group’s founder, even if “we are martyred in the march.” He also reiterated calls for the government to implement the agreement it had inked with the TLP last year to sever all diplomatic and economic ties with France. “The government better implement the agreement in true spirit or get ready to face the consequences,” Qadri warned.
Following the TLP’s announcement, police in Islamabad announced traffic diversions and blockades to bar the protesters from entering the federal capital’s Red Zone. Authorities have placed shipping containers on major thoroughfares to block all access, causing traffic snarls and movement difficulties for local residents.
Meanwhile, local media has reported that police in Punjab province have detained more than 1,000 supporters of the TLP, including dozens who are on the Fourth Schedule list of individuals suspected of sectarianism and terrorism. In Lahore, which has been the staging ground for the sit-in that commenced on 12th Rabiul Awwal, a group of rioters vandalized the Multan Road Orange Line train station and allegedly tortured two police constables. Authorities have also suspended internet and mobile phone services in areas of the Punjab capital with large TLP support, including Samanabad, Sherakot, Nawankot, Gulshan-i-Ravi, Sabzazar and Iqbal Town.
Speaking to media on Thursday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said there would be no restrictions against peaceful protesters. “If anyone tries to take the law into their own hands, they will face a swift response,” he added.