A photo-journalist reacts while riot policemen clash with supporters of TLP in Islamabad on Tuesday. AFP
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
A religious party responsible for paralysing swathes of the country with anti-France protests will be banned, a senior Pakistani minister said on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid announced that the government has decided to ban the Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), whose supporters and workers are violently protesting across Pakistan for three days after the arrest of their chief.
The latest protests erupted after the detention on Monday of TLP leader Saad Rizvi, who has since been charged under anti-terrorism laws. He was taken into custody hours after calling for a march on the capital to again demand the expulsion of the French ambassador.
Supporters of TLP throw stones over the police armoured vehicle during a protest in Islamabad. AFP
Rashid told a news conference that the TLP leaders used to come to all rounds of talks with the government after issuing instructions to their workers regarding road closures.
"They were more prepared than us but today we've decided to ban the TLP and this file is going to the cabinet for the approval from today," the minister said.
Rashid said the TLP workers through blocking roads had stopped ambulances from reaching their destinations and impeded the transport of oxygen cylinders for COVID-19 patients.
He said that the GT Road and motorways have now been cleared for traffic. He said two policemen were killed and at least 340 injured in the violence "and the law is following those who blocked roads through social media and gave the message of unrest."
Rashid said the police personnel held hostage by TLP workers to gain leverage for their demands have now returned to their police stations.
"A single political party cannot lay claim to the matter of Namoos-e-Risalat as it is an issue close to the hearts of all 200 million people of this country,” Rashid said.
"We are in favour of protecting the Prophet (PBUH)'s honour, but the demand which they are seeking could have portrayed Pakistan as a radical nation worldwide," said Rashid.
He elaborated that the government was not prepared for the situation that arose over the past two days, however, the TLP "was very prepared."
The interior minister stated that we are politicians who have always indulged in politics, but never has killing, maiming or dragging police officers off motorcycles been a part of politics. He also lambasted the protesters for damaging public property.
"If there ever were any arrests warrants issued against me, or any other politician, we abide by them. We don’t ask our supporters to go on a rampage,” Rashid stated.
Saad is the son of a firebrand cleric and previous head of the TLP, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who died in November after leading massive anti-France demonstrations.
During those protests, TLP supporters brought the capital to a standstill for three days that saw heavy street fighting and authorities cut mobile phone coverage in Islamabad and surrounding areas.
Banned parties cannot contest elections, raise funds or even maintain a physical office.
"The TLP activists have two fuel tankers containing thousands of liters of petrol. They are throwing petrol bombs and stones at security officials, and also shooting bullets as the result of which 11 officials are injured," Lahore police spokesman Arif Rana said.
For quite some time, the area became a battleground between the police and protesters. The government servants had planned the protest for the past two weeks and had made announcements to the effect.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday that he and the protesting proscribed Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) have the same objectives that there was no blasphemy against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) but their methods were different.
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