Undeterred, thousands of TLP workers head towards Gujranwala as protest continues for 2nd week
The rally comprising thousands of workers of the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) left Kamoke and neared Gujranwala city on Thursday morning, as life in the areas surrounding its route continued to remain disrupted.
Some 4,000 TLP workers travelling on the Grand Truck Road in large trucks and buses along with their supplies, as stick-wielding activists of the group guarded the procession from all sides.
The rally was expected to continue its journey towards Islamabad after crossing the Qila Chand bypass.
The TLP demonstrators have blocked the GT Road in Gujranwala district from both sides since Wednesday, causing hardship to the area residents in their commutes. From Kamoke tehsil to Jhelum, cellular services have been suspended for 24 hours.
Educational institutions along GT Road have also been closed because of the uncertain situation.
Meanwhile, Rangers and police personnel took positions near the Chenab river and Wazirabad border. Security officials plan to stop the TLP activists near the Wazirabad-Chenab river area instead of Gujranwala city, according to police sources.
In view of the situation caused by the TLP rally, the Pakistan Railways announced that three trains between Lahore and Rawalpindi — Subak Kharam, Islamabad Express and Rawal Express — would remain suspended today for both inbound and outbound services.
The Peshawar-Quetta Jaffar Express will also be suspended for the Peshawar-Lahore leg today, while the Green Line will remain suspended between Lahore and Rawalpindi.
All other trains will function according to their schedule and route, a PR spokesperson said.
The developments come a day after the government decided to crush the TLP by all means and resolved that the army, Rangers and police would stop participants of its long march from entering the federal capital.
The decision was taken by the federal cabinet in its meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan following which Rangers were requisitioned in Punjab for 60 days to maintain law and order in the province.
The government categorically announced that it could not meet the TLP’s demand of closing down the French embassy in Pakistan and revealed that there was no French ambassador in the country.
“The cabinet has decided to treat TLP as a militant organisation and it will be crushed as other such groups have been eliminated. The Pakistani state has defeated major terrorist organisations such as Al Qaeda,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said at a post-cabinet meeting press conference.
The government’s announcement had come after at least four police officials were killed and another 263 wounded, many of them seriously, when violent activists of the TLP clashed with 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.
Punjab Inspector General of Police Rao Sardar said the charged mob of the proscribed organisation martyred four police officials and injured 263 others.
While briefing the media, he said: “TLP activists were armed with automatic weapons and shot straight fire on the police,” The use of arms against the law-enforcement agencies by the banned outfit was a matter of serious concern, the IGP added.
On its part, the TLP claimed that two workers of the organisation had died in the clashes with police and 41 had been wounded.
A TLP spokesman said police had used excessive force against their peaceful rally. However, the group’s claim of deaths of its workers could not be confirmed independently.
Police said the TLP was trying to mislead the public by making false claims on social media and posting some video clips from the past.