* Citizens suffer as authorities block roads in Islamabad and Lahore; suspend metro bus and internet services
OCTOBER 23, 2021
Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar on Friday announced that the provincial government has decided to form a committee to negotiate with the proscribed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) as the outfit staged protests to demand the release of their leader Saad Rizvi.
“We have formed a committee, consisting of senior members of the Punjab Cabinet Raja Basharat and Chaudhry Zaheeruddin to negotiate with the [banned] Tehreek-e-Labbaik,” Buzdar wrote on his Twitter handle. “According to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PUBH), we all need to work together for peace and harmony in the country,” he wrote.
The announcement came as at least three policemen were killed in clashes with banned TLP activists in Lahore. According to a private TV channel, during the stampede a vehicle of the protesters hit the personnel of law enforcement agencies, resulting in the death of two police officials. The two of the three deceased were identified as police Head Constable Ayub and Constable Khalid Javed.
According to a statement issued by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar three policemen died in the clashes. He offered condolences to the families of martyrs and directed officials to take stern action against the culprits.
The police fired teargas after the TLP supporters attacked a police checkpoint, police spokesperson Arif Rana said. They had clashed with the police at several places in the city, he said. “They had assured us that they will remain peaceful but they turned violent,” he told Reuters.
In a statement, Lahore DIG (Operation) Spokesperson Mazhar Hussain said that several others were also injured and taken to the hospital in critical condition. “Protesters also hurled petrol bombs on officials,” he said, adding that officials tried to prevent them from vandalising and damaging public property. “The angry mob also used sticks and pelted stones,” he said, adding that officials were showing restraint despite the violence.
A TLP media coordinator, Saddam Bukhari, said the police attacked the peaceful rally that was on its way to Islamabad. In a separate statement, a spokesperson for the banned group said that workers had endured the “worst shelling in history” and were “attacked from all sides” near the MAO College bridge. The spokesperson claimed that 500 workers had been seriously wounded while 15 were in serious condition.
On Thursday, TLP leader Pir Ajmal Qadri had said the “peaceful” procession would begin after Friday prayers. “If any hurdles are created, the party also has a Plan B to thwart any official attempts,” he had told a charged crowd at a protest site in Lahore. Authorities suspended the Metro Bus service in Rawalpindi and blocked roads in Islamabad and Lahore as the government braced for protests organised separately by a banned outfit and opposition parties in the above-mentioned cities.