Tension simmers as Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan announces long march to Islamabad

Lahore police have allegedly detained over 1,000 activists and workers of the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) during a crackdown that was intensified across the Punjab province after the group announced a long march to Islamabad after the Friday prayers, Dawn reported.

Dozens of fourth schedulers of the proscribed group were also among those taken into custody from all 36 districts of the province besides at least 40 in Lahore, the report said.

An official said the situation was not as alarming in other parts of the province as it was in Lahore where around 900 workers and second-tier leadership of the TLP were protesting outside the Jamia Masjid Rehmatul Lil Aalamin on Multan Road.

Tension escalated in the city on Thursday after a group of charged workers vandalised the Multan Road Orange Line train station near the protest venue, damaging CCTV cameras and infrastructure there. They also snatched a bus of a government educational institute and tortured two police constables, the Dawn news report said.

There were also reports that the TLP activists blocked roads in some parts of the city with containers and other vehicles and got into heated arguments with commuters for demanding removal of the blockade.

In the wake of this situation, the Lahore police lodged five cases against TLP workers, the official said, adding the government also suspended internet and mobile phone services in the TLP strongholds of Samanabad, Sherakot, Nawankot, Gulshan-i-Ravi, Sabzazar and Iqbal Town.

Announcing the long march on Islamabad, TLP leader Pir Ajmal Qadri 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 told a charged crowd at the protest site.

In what appears to be a change of heart, the group delinked the march from the release of its incarcerated leader, Saad Hussain Rizvi, the report added.