Pakistan News

Pre-emptive steps work against protest call by religious group

Pre-emptive steps work against protest call by religious group

ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: Despite a protest call by a religious group at Faizabad on Sunday, the twin cities remained open throughout the day.

Moreover, a number of events were organised as scheduled in Islamabad, including a Meena Bazaar by the Pakistan Foreign Office Women’s Association (PFOWA) in which a number of embassies established stalls.

After the protest call by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), containers were placed on greenbelts near the entry points of the capital but no road was closed.

Roads in twin cities remain open, events held as scheduled with no report of untoward incident

The TLP had planned the protest in connection with the death anniversary of those killed during its sit-in at Faizabad on Nov 25 last year. It had also demanded placing the name of Aasia Bibi on the Exit Control List (ECL).

However, a crackdown was launched against activists of religio-political parties before the protest during which a large number of people were arrested under Section III of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance. Even TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi was taken into custody.

An official of the district administration, requesting anonymity, said there were three main reasons – strategic, operational and tactical – that made it possible to keep the situation under control.

“Last year, it had become impossible to stop the protesters who held a sit-in at Faizabad and finally the matter was resolved after the resignation of the then federal law minister. However, this time the major benefit at the strategic level was that all institutions/stakeholders decided that they would not tolerate protesters and road blockades,” he said.

“Besides, no court gave stay in favour of the protesters to force us to hold negotiations with them, and no institution was in favour of the protest. This time we also got favour at the operation level. In the past the Punjab police allowed protesters to enter the capital to avoid law and order issue in the province. This time almost 2,000 people were arrested in Punjab.”

The official said in the past the administration took reactive steps after the arrival of protesters but this time an operation was launched four days before their arrival.

“Not only heavy deployment was made in advance but it was also made sure that no one would support the protesters. We directed all catering dealers not to provide food to the protesters. Seminaries were also told that their students should not participate in the protest. Moreover, we did not allow anyone from Islamabad to move to Liaquat Bagh due to which protesters could not gather at Faizabad or Liaquat Bagh,” he said.

Another senior officer of the district administration said a decision was taken to ensure that panic would not be created in the capital.

“In the past, it was a routine to block roads and suspend mobile phone and internet services but this time we decided that routine life would not be affected. Despite the protest call, we decided that the event of PFOWA should be held. Another event ‘Islamabad Eat’ was held at the Convention Centre and a large number of families participated in it.”

In the afternoon, the acting chief of TLP Shafique Amini announced to call off the protest. He said in consultation with TLP’s executive body it had been decided not to hold a protest. He demanded that in response the government should release the detained workers.

122 activists held in Rawalpindi

At least 122 TLP workers were rounded up after they scuffled with the police in different parts of the city. The number of people picked up by the police so far has increased to 450.

In addition, 82 activists were held in Jhelum, 57 in Attock and 14 in Chakwal as raids were underway in different areas.

Police used sticks and batons to disperse the TLP slogan-chanting workers who attempted to gather at Liaquat Bagh Chowk to block roads. Some of the activists were carrying stones and attempted to create law and order situation but riot police assisted by the Rangers foiled their attempt.

For some time the TLP workers were allowed to chant slogans near the DAV College Chowk but later the police started forcing them to disperse. Police in plainclothes as well as in uniform caught some of the activists one by one and bundled them into police vans.

Since the TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi was taken into ‘protective custody’, more than 425 workers were arrested in different cases during a crackdown across the Rawalpindi district. The crackdown was intensified ahead of the protest scheduled on Sunday in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

A majority of the TLP workers and activists rounded up by police were shifted to the Waris Khan police station. Of the 61 individuals picked by the police were shifted to Adiala jail on detention orders. However, the fate of 30 activists was yet to be decided as the police were preparing to register an FIR against them to arrest them formally.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2018

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