-Interior Minister announces ban on TLP under Rule 11(b) of Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997
-Hails law enforcement agencies for clearing road blockages
-Condemns violence in the protests
-Says govt won’t compromise over violent demonstrations
By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
Islamabad: Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Wednesday announced that the government had decided to ban the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), whose supporters and workers have been carrying out violent protests across the country for three days after the arrest of their chief.
In a tweet, he said the religiopolitical outfit would be banned under Rule 11(b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997. Rashid said the Punjab government had recommended a ban on the organisation, for which a summary was being sent to the federal cabinet.
Addressing a news conference in Islamabad earlier, Rashid said TLP leaders used to come to all rounds of talks with the government after issuing instructions to their workers regarding road closures.
“They were more prepared than us but today we’ve decided that a ban on TLP will be placed and this file is going to the cabinet for the approval from today,” the minister said.
His statement comes hours after law enforcement agencies and officials moved to clear TLP activists from roads in different cities of the country as protests entered a third day.
Rashid in his remarks said the TLP workers through blocking roads had stopped ambulances from reaching their destinations and impeded the transport of oxygen cylinders for Covid-19 patients.
He noted that GT Road and motorways had now been cleared for traffic. He said two policemen were killed and at least 340 injured in the violence “and the law is following those who blocked roads through social media and gave the message of unrest”.
According to the minister, the police personnel held hostage by TLP workers to gain leverage for their demands have now returned to their police stations. He said the government was still committed to present a bill
regarding Namoos-i-Risalat in the National Assembly and had held several meetings in this regard with TLP leaders. “It was our effort till the last moment to convince them to agree on a resolution to be presented in the assembly, but all of our efforts were unsuccessful,” he said, adding that a major reason for their failure was that TLP activists “wanted to come to Faizabad chowk and Islamabad at any cost”.
The minister said the TLP had done “extensive preparations” for their protest, which were effectively countered by police. He called upon TLP members “who are running the media” to surrender, saying they were mistaken in their belief that they could create problems for the government through social media.
“We want a document that exalts the flag of the Prophet (PBUH), but what you are demanding gives an impression of us being an extremist-minded state to the world,” he told the TLP leadership. Answering a question, Rashid said the government had kept Faizabad closed “as a precaution” and the interchange would be reopened by the evening.
Asked why the situation hadn’t changed despite the current administration coming into power, Rashid said in the recent violence police stations were attacked and policemen were abducted and brought down from their motorcycles and beaten up.
“When we did politics and opposition, we would allow ourselves to be arrested whenever a warrant was issued; we did not use to torture police through our workers and people didn’t use to die in ambulances [because of us],” he added. The minister stressed that the TLP was being banned “not on the basis of the political situation but because of their character”.
Earlier in the day, Rashid said that the government would deal with an iron fist with those who take the law into their own hands, State Media reported.
Chairing a meeting in Islamabad to review the law and order situation, he directed law enforcement agencies to ensure the writ of the state at all costs. He said that Pakistan Rangers had done an excellent job in collaborating with the police and the administration to clear the roads of protesters.
In the evening, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said traffic was flowing normally on all important roads across the country. “Crowds have neither been able to blackmail the state in the past nor will they be able to in the future,” he tweeted.
He said “in a democracy, different groups are allowed to present their point of view but no one can blackmail the government by force.”