As march rumbles on, NSC to chart course

Moot called to discuss situation emerging out of ‘illegal activities’ of the proscribed group, says Fawad


Rizwan Shezad/Muhammad Shahzad October 28, 2021

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE:

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday summoned a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) on Friday (today) to discuss the situation arising out of the violent protest by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) which resulted in casualties of the law enforcement personnel and disruption of routine life.

The NSC meeting will be held on the heels of the federal government’s decision to deploy Rangers in Punjab for 60 days. Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Prime Minister Imran had convened the NSC meeting in view of the ongoing internal security situation.

“In view of the situation arising because of the illegal activities of the proscribed organisation, Prime Minister Imran Khan has convened a meeting of the National Security Committee tomorrow (Friday). Other issues related to the national security will also be considered in this meeting,” Fawad tweeted on Thursday.

In addition, Fawad ruled out possibility of negotiations with the TLP until it cleared all roads and handed over the culprits, who martyred policemen during the recent clashes. He also urged the “patriots” to distance themselves from the TLP protests and return home instead of becoming part of a campaign which, he said, “is tantamount to terrorism against state”.

In April, the government had declared TLP a banned outfit and announced to file a reference for its dissolution in the Supreme Court. It is expected that the NSC might deliberate on this option in its 35th meeting on Friday. However, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) had directed the media to stop coverage of the TLP protest.

The continued protest of the TLP had earlier forced the government to sit for negotiations with it. However, the TLP pressed ahead with the march. Reportedly, there was another attempt to hold negotiations with the TLP leadership in the early hours of Thursday, but it also failed to produce result.

The marchers had now reached Gujranwala. On its way, there were fierce clashes between the protesters and the police in Lahore and near Muridke, in which several policemen died in the line of duty, while hundreds of others sustained injuries.

One of the injured policemen died of his injuries in a hospital in Lahore on Thursday. In a tweet, the information minister shared a picture showing son of Constable Ghulam Rasul, looking at his father’s coffin, with caption: “Inshallah, your blood will be revenged”.

The announcement of the top-level security forum came after a second attempt to resolve the issue through negotiations failed. A few reports suggested that the government had reinvigorated its efforts for negotiations with the TLP leadership on Wednesday night after deadly clashes near Muridke.

Read Govt refuses to give leeway to TLP

Reportedly, special arrangements were made and high-profile personalities from Lahore were moved to hold dialogue at an undisclosed location. However, the talks failed to produce any result and the TLP resumed its march.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government on Thursday decided to give a “free-hand” to the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to counter the ongoing violent protests. The decision was taken during a meeting chaired by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in Lahore.

Those who attended the meeting included Law Minister Raja Basharat, Punjab Chief Secretary Kamran Afzal, government spokesperson Hassan Khawar and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Rao Sardar Khan. Buzdar directed the LEAs to take all possible measures to maintain law and order.

The law minister directed the LEAs to take immediate steps to identify those who opened fire at the police during the recent protests. He stressed that legal action should be taken against the persons identified without any delay.

Meanwhile, the TLP marchers, who spent the night at Kamonki, resumed their march towards Islamabad on Thursday, however, authorities posed no resistance to their movement. It was learnt that over 15,000 policemen of the Lahore police had been called back from Muridke.

By nightfall, the marchers had reached Gujranwala. The marchers also held funeral prayers for their deceased colleagues. They said that the march would continue on Friday.

Sources said that the government was determined not to let protesters cross a river bridge near Wazirabad, where heavy contingents of police and Rangers had been deployed. Sand-filled containers were placed there while trenches had been dug and safety walls of the bridge had been removed.

Condemnation

Meanwhile, tweets from several ministers suggested that the government had clearly drawn a line and was ready to take action against the TLP unless it took a step back. National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf said in a tweet that the TLP has crossed the “red line” and “exhausted the state’s patience”.

Warning all individuals and groups from challenging the writ of the state, the NSA said that the state would never shy away from protecting each and every citizen from any form of violence as it’s the basic principle of national security.

“They have martyred policemen, destroyed public property, and continue to cause massive public disruption,” Yusuf stated. “Law will take its course for each one of them and terrorists will be treated like terrorists with no leniency… there will be ‘NO’ armed militias of any sort in our country.”

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari also took to Twitter saying that the state had laws against terrorism and militancy, warning the protesters that the restraint shown by the government so far should not be mistaken as weakness.

“Killing of policemen & other LEAs & any act of terrorism by the TLP or any gp (group) will be dealt with, with full force of the law. Restraint by the govt so far shd (should) not be mistaken as weakness. Let there be no ambiguity on that count,” she said.

Without naming the TLP, Planning Minister Asad Umar also criticised the protest. “Murdering Muslim representatives of the state, destroying public property in your own country and creating chaos all in the name of religion is no service to religion,” he stated. “It is simply doing what the enemies of Pakistan and Muslims would want to see.”

(WITH INPUT FROM TALIB FARIDI)

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