Two TLP supporters killed in clash with Lahore police

Lahore: Agencies

At least two supporters of the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan were killed and 50 injured in a clash with the Lahore police Sunday afternoon.

The protesters had gathered outside the party’s Saddar office and were chanting slogans against the arrest of TLP chief Saad Hussain Rizvi. A police team was sent to the area at 8am to clear the protests.

During the operation, a clash broke out between the two groups near Multan road. Bullets were fired and stones were pelted. Eleven police officers were injured.

“Workers attacked police with petrol bombs,” Lahore police spokesperson said. The injured officers have been rushed to a hospital.

He said that a mob of supporters barged into the Nawankot police station and held DSP Umar Farooq, five constables, and two Rangers officials hostage for hours. They reportedly tortured them as well.

Following this, a heavy contingent of police and security teams have been deployed to the protest sites.

Protests by TLP supporters erupted in major cities across the country Monday afternoon. The demonstrations lasted for three days in which hundreds of police officers were injured.

Thousands of supporters were arrested and booked for attacking police officers and blocking roads.

Meanwhile, workers of TLP “brutally tortured” a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and took him, as well as four other officials, hostage on Sunday, spokesperson for Lahore CCPO Rana Arif told Dawn.com.

Police said the violence occurred after “miscreants” — an apparent reference to TLP workers — attacked a police station and abducted the DSP, adding that it acted only in “self-defence”.

“Today in the early morning, miscreants attacked Nawankot Police Station where Rangers and Police officers were trapped inside the police station and DSP Nawankot kidnapped and taken to the markaz,” the Punjab police said in a statement, referring to the TLP headquarters.

It added that “at least one oil tanker with 50,000 litres of petrol has been taken by the miscreants to the markaz.”

According to the statement, the miscreants were armed and attacked Rangers/police with petrol bombs.

“Police and Rangers pushed them back and took back the possession of the police station,” it said, adding that police did not plan or conduct any operation against the mosque or the madressah.

“The action, if any, was in self-defence and to protect public property.”

An official report showed 15 injured police personnel were under treatment at different hospitals in the city. Arif said the security personnel were subjected to “brutal torture” by TLP workers.

Meanwhile, at least three protesters were killed and several others injured during the clash, according to the party’s workers.

A TLP spokesperson said the clash started when police launched an operation to clear the area around Lahore’s Yateem Khana Chowk, where workers of the banned party have been staging a protest since earlier this week.

In a video message, TLP spokesperson Shafiq Ameeni said that “[We] will bury [those killed] when the French ambassador exits the country and our agreement (with the government) is implemented.”

Videos on social media showed people carrying away the injured and tending to them. However, some users pointed out that the videos were old and were shared without context.

TLP workers wielding sticks and stones also climbed atop the Orange Line Metro Train, while speeches were being made through the area mosque to call people for support, according to the city police spokesperson. He said the protesters were pelting stones at police and Rangers personnel.

The TLP also shared a video of a senior official of Punjab police, who was allegedly abducted by its workers on Sunday. The injured police official, assumedly under duress, said that an operation was being carried out to clear the area outside a police station when he was “captured” by the “enraged” crowd.

He said that three people were killed and several others sustained bullet wounds, appealing for a way forward through dialogue.

The TLP was formally banned by the federal government earlier this week after its supporters staged three days of violent protests across the country, resulting in deaths and injuries to several policemen.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad later in the day, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said the situation in the area around Yateem Khana Chowk was “tense”, adding that the government would take a decision on disbanding the TLP and the matter would be taken to the cabinet by April 20.

“If [TLP] has to be disbanded, the law ministry and Attorney General [of Pakistan] will be working on this and a reference will be filed.”

When asked whether any negotiations were taking place between the TLP and the government, Rashid replied in the negative.

He said blasphemy was not acceptable to the government in any condition “but for the peace of this country and to remain alive in the world, [we] had to take some inevitable steps for which we were mentally not prepared”, referring to the ban imposed on the TLP.

Answering a question, Rashid said the government will make full efforts to ensure that all roads and highways remain open on April 20.