Home Latest News TLP to be Considered ‘Militant’ Organization: Fawad

TLP to be Considered ‘Militant’ Organization: Fawad

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Chaudhry Fawad Hussain

Pakistan deploys paramilitary troops in Punjab province to tackle banned group’s long march on Islamabad, with ministers vowing to crush it

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government on Wednesday announced it now considers the banned Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party a “militant” organization, with both the information minister and the interior minister vowing that it will be “eliminated.”

“The cabinet has decided to treat TLP as a militant organization and it will be crushed as other such groups have been eliminated,” Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain told journalists in Islamabad following a meeting of the federal cabinet. “[The] Pakistani state has defeated major terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda” and can easily tackle a group like the TLP that does not have the same level of armament, he added.

“Yesterday, the P.M. chaired a meeting which was attended by the military leadership and representatives of intelligence agencies and relevant authorities. It was decided that the TLP would no longer be dealt with as a political party, but as a militant organization, and it would not be tolerated anymore,” he said, adding that the “rest of the country’s institutions” should also play their role in implementing this policy decision.

In his presser, Fawad reiterated allegations of the TLP being funded by “some groups from India,” adding that the neighboring country was also maligning Pakistan on social media. “The cabinet also decided to launch a crackdown, through the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, against people spreading fake news,” he said, without specifying what constituted “fake news” in light of the government barring broadcast media from covering the TLP protest and leaving an information vacuum that has been filled by social media.

Emphasizing that the TLP would not be allowed to challenge the writ of the state, the information minister noted that it had been blocking roads every few months on various pretexts since its establishment in 2015. “There is a limit to the state’s patience,” he said, without addressing the vociferous support the ruling PTI—including Prime Minister Imran Khan, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi—had offered the TLP while in opposition.

Maintaining that people had a right to their “ideas,” Fawad said they could not be allowed to take up arms to make themselves heard. “In today’s cabinet meeting, it was decided that such activities will not be tolerated,” he said, adding that six policemen had been martyred, and over 700 injured, in clashes with TLP workers in April. This month’s protest, he said, had already resulted in three policemen being been martyred more than 49 injured.

To a question on why the government had failed to pursue legal options to get the party banned after initiating the process in April, the minister claimed that a petition had “now” been finalized and would be filed in the Supreme Court to get the TLP declared a terrorist organization.

Punjab Rangers

In a separate press conference, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid announced that in light of the federal cabinet’s decision, the government had decided to deploy the paramilitary Rangers in Punjab province for the next 60 days to “maintain law and order.” He said the Rangers were being deployed under Section 4 (2) of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, read with Article 147 of the Constitution, on the requisition of the provincial government.

Warning that the TLP could be declared a global terrorist organization if it continued its agitation—a dubious assertion, as global terrorist organizations must have a global footprint, while the TLP is restricted to Pakistan—he said the situation would no longer be in Pakistan’s control if that happened.

Reiterating his claims that Islamabad was under pressure of “international powers” who wanted to impose sanctions on Pakistan, he said peace and stability needed to be ensured. He also alleged that the TLP had used automatic weapons against police, who had been armed with batons and tear gas shells.

Referring to a meeting with the TLP leadership, he claimed that he had informed that the French ambassador was no longer even in Pakistan. “But TLP activists are still on roads, which shows that they have some another agenda,” he claimed.

TLP claims

The banned TLP, meanwhile, in a statement described the interior minister as a “liar”, claiming he had not contacted them despite his claims. “Are these claimants of the state of Madina unable to respond to France? Have they become so enslaved to the Jews and the Christians?” read the statement, which renewed calls for severing of ties with France and the release of chief Saad Rizvi.

The TLP has claimed that at least 40 of its supporters have been killed by police though security officials have denied this. In the statement, the banned group warned that its demands would increase if the government continued to spill the blood of its “innocent” workers. It also urged the security establishment to step in and oust the PTI-led government. “The people should know that these faithless are neither loyal to the country nor the nation and the ‘captain’ is planted in the country for [sowing] discord and chaos,” it said, referring to the prime minister.

Clashes with police

Since the protests commenced last week, at least four police officials have been martyred and another 263 wounded. In a press conference, Inspector General of Punjab Police Rao Sardar alleged the TLP had been armed with automatic weapons and shot straight fire on the police. He claimed the TLP was trying to mislead the public through false claims on social media.

According to sources, police tasked with preventing the TLP’s entry into Islamabad have been equipped with anti-riot tools, including slingshots and glass balls, batons, rubber bullets, and tear gas shells.

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