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Radical Islamist group TLP threatens to bring Islamabad to a standstill

The Imran Khan-led government made it clear to the group that its demand to shut down the French embassy cannot be met.
Supporters of the banned Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) walk with others as they prepare to march on towards capital Islamabad, during a protest, demanding the release of their leader and the expulsion of the French ambassador over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, in Gujranwala, Pakistan. (REUTERS)
Published on Oct 28, 2021 11:12 PM IST
Written by Shankhyaneel Sarkar | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a radical Islamist outfit, continued to force the Imran Khan-led government to release their party chief Saad Rizvi and expel the French ambassador as ten of thousands of its supporters marched towards Islamabad.

The protesters of the radical Islamist group are now in Gujranwala which is 80kms from Lahore and 220kms from Islamabad. The protests demanding the release of Rizvi also blocked Lahore’s link to Rawalpindi

“Police and Rangers are deployed on the route but unlike Wednesday, the law enforcers did not stop the TLP workers on the order from the top as some government functionaries have engaged its leadership in talks,” a government official from Pakistan’s Punjab province told news agency PTI.

The move shows a change of strategy as four policemen and as many TLP protesters were killed in clashes along with 400 other people injured. The death toll due to the clashes rose to 19 as 11 TLP workers and eight policemen died following the clashes between the government and the TLP a week ago.

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The Imran Khan-led government made it clear to the group that its demand to shut down the French embassy cannot be met. The group began demanding the ouster of the French envoy and ban on French imports after French president Emmanuel Macron earlier this year defended the freedom of expression of artists who drew caricatures of Prophet Mohammed, an act considered blasphemy across the globe. The Pakistan government released 350 jailed TLP members to appease the outfit but the group refuses to back down.

The Pakistan Railways also suspended railway services for the day between Lahore and Rawalpindi and Islamabad due to the protests. The Imran Khan-led government however announced that the protesters will not be allowed to reach Islamabad, where the group plans to hold a sit-in till the government accepts its demands.

The Imran Khan government continued to stress that the police, Army and the Rangers will stop the TLP from entering Islamabad. “The cabinet has decided to treat TLP as a militant organisation and it will be crushed as other such groups have been eliminated. The Pakistani state has defeated major terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda,” Fawad Chaudhry said earlier.

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