ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE/ KARACHI: Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry Tuesday said the federal cabinet had approved deployment of Rangers in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Jhelum and Bahawalpur for maintenance of law and order.
Briefing the media persons here after attending the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Fawad said dictation to government from any party or group was indigestible.
He said a party or a group could present their demands in a democratic way upon which negotiations could be held but decision-making could not be left to any party or group. When his attention was drawn towards violence and agitation in various parts of Pakistan, the minister emphasized that things would be fine soon.
“No group or party must even think of dictating the government or the state. If a state allows this, then it will disintegrate and there will be chaos,” he said. The minister said any student group, lawyers’ body, or religious group could present their demands and there could be talks thereon in a democratic manner, but there was no room for dictation to the government or the state.
The government, he said, wanted peace and tranquility and did not want disturbance of law and order. He said it was highly improper to hinder the movement of oxygen cylinders, as already around 4,100 coronavirus patients needed extreme care.
“Special arrangements are being made for smooth transportation of cylinders. Pakistan is the fifth-largest state and we cannot leave it to groups or parties to dictate their decisions,” he said.
Meanwhile, talking to reporters after attending the federal cabinet meeting, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the cabinet had reviewed the political and law and order situation in the country.
Answering a question, he said no decision had been taken about anyone’s release. He dismissed reports of violence and assured that all will be well soon. He said the government had decided to take a strict action against the law-breakers and to reopen several roads, entry and exit points that were closed off due to protests.
Earlier, chairing a high-level meeting at the Interior Ministry, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed decided to take action against those disturbing law and order. He directed suspension of cellular and internet services for 24 hours in areas where the law and order situation had deteriorated.
On the other hand, a meeting chaired by Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat decided to deploy the Rangers along with the police at 16 points in Lahore. The minister said assistance from the Pakistan Army could be sought if the situation worsened.
He warned that no one would be allowed to take the law into their own hands and directed the officials to immediately arrest law-breakers and file cases against them. Meanwhile, over 30 people were injured during an hours-long clash between the law enforcement agencies of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and the TLP activists. At least eight policemen sustained injuries in the clash.
Rawat, Tarnol, Committee Chowk (Rawalpindi) and Bhara Kahu, Athal Chawk, Tramari Chowk and other adjacent areas declared sensitive were epicentre of the clash where the law enforcement agencies threw teargas shells to disperse the mob and resorted to lathi charge. Two cops were martyred and 40 others injured, while three TLP activists were reportedly killed and dozens injured during the daylong clashes in Lahore between the law-enforcement agencies and TLP activists on the second consecutive day of clashes on Tuesday.
The TLP activists and the police continued confronting each other with clubs, batons, stones and even firearms at over 22 points in the provincial capital. A police van and public and private properties were also torched by the protestors. Few reports of violence against the commuters seeking way to reach their destinations were also reported.
The protestors refused to let ambulances pass at few points. There were reports of death of TLP activists in violent conflicts. The TLP has claimed over one dozen deaths countrywide. Throughout the day, traffic in the provincial capital remained disrupted, as the protestors had gathered at over one and half dozen points in the city.
Traffic was suspended on the main roads and the entry/exit points of the city. Cases have been registered against the TLP chief Saad Rizvi and a large number of activists by various police stations under the Anti-Terrorism Act, Pandemic Act and other sections of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Rizvi along with other TLP leaders and activists has been booked for murder of Constable Muhammad Afzal in Shahdara. Rizvi had announced a sit-in on April 20, expressing disappointment over the government’s failure to implement the agreement.
The TLP wants that Pakistan should sever its diplomatic relations with France and expel its ambassador over repeated publication of state-patronized blasphemous caricatures. Commuters throughout the city and provincial capital faced difficulty in reaching their destinations.
The police also came out to maintain law and order but soon after their appearance on the roads, the situation turned violent, as the TLP activists resorted to violence. The police also used force. As a result, a series of conflicts at multiple points in the city took place.
Violent clashes were reported at Shahdara. A police constable, Muhammad Afzal, received serious injuries at Shahdara and died. At Chung, the protestors even fired at the police. Two policemen received bullet injuries at Chung, while over 40 cops were left injured in the violent clashes.
The police also resorted to tear gas shelling and baton charge to disperse the protestors. The TLP also claimed death of its activists. At few points, the police succeeded in removing the protestors. However, they after sometime they regained their positions.
The Rangers also patrolled the city and kept on dispersing the protestors. A Rangers Jawan was also injured. Meanwhile, TLP activists continued their protests and sit-ins across the country on Tuesday, demanding the release of Saad Hussain Rizvi.
The protests and sit-ins disturbed the flow of traffic. Even railway crossings were not spared which multiplied the problems of the people. Rajana Police registered a case against 126 TLP activists for attacking and injuring six cops, tearing their uniforms and snatching away their helmets and shields during their protest staged between Monday and Tuesday.
Rajana police registered cases against 36 nominated and 90 unidentified persons. Traffic remained blocked on all four roads leading from Rajana Chowk to Faisalabad, Chichawatni, Toba Tek Singh and Pirmahal as the TLP activists set tyres on fire and damaged a number of cars and vehicles.
Meanwhile, dozens of irritated workers of TLP armed with sticks and stones attacked police force at Bahawalpur Bypass in the predawn hours on Tuesday when the police were trying to maintain law and order and clear gridlocks at the bypass connecting Multan-Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan Bahawalpur roads.
Four cops were injured critically while the condition of two was stated to be critical. The cops were quickly shifted to Nishtar Hospital in very critical condition. Hardly 150-200 TLP workers started gathering at Bahawalpur bypass Monday night and chanted slogans for the release of Saad Hussain Rizvi.
An ambulance coming from Bahawalpur got stuck in the traffic jam. Meanwhile, the divisional administration and regional police in a joint operation dispersed TLP workers and opened Bahawalpur bypass.
On Tuesday morning, around 1,350 police personnel and Rangers rushed towards River Sutlej Bridge where they started operation clean-up and restored 16 hours long blocked traffic. Meanwhile, at Bhokan Pattan Bahawalnagar, hundreds of TLP activists continued their protest demonstration and sit-in and on Tuesday despite heavy deployment of police and Rangers.
They also tortured the police cops. The police continued its crackdown on the TLP activists in different cities and arrested 15 activists. More than 56 activists of TLP were arrested by police in Hafizabad during a crackdown.