Lahore: Three workers of banned radical Islamist party Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) were killed and scores injured in a fresh operation launched by Pakistani security forces here on Sunday against the outfit that carried out violent protests to force the government to expel the French ambassador over a blasphemous caricature published in France last year.
Rangers and police on Sunday morning launched the operation at the TLP headquarters (Chowk Yateem Khana) Lahore to remove thousands of workers camped there, blocking the main Multan Road.
During the operation, three TLP activists were killed and dozens injured. A senior police officer is among several law enforcers suffered injuries, a senior police officer told PTI. “As the number of TLP supporters was in thousands the Rangers and police could not manage to disperse them in a three-hour operation,” he said, adding that the law enforcers ended the operation fearing loss of more lives.
During the operation, the protesters also held a senior police officer, Omar Farooq Baloch, hostage and tortured him, he said.
In a video message released by the TLP, Baloch, who had head injury, urged the Imran Khan government not to kill fellow Muslims and abide by the agreement his government signed with the TLP over expulsion of the French ambassador. Police have failed to recover Baloch from the TLP’s custody so far despite having negotiations with it.
Punjab police spokesperson Rana Arif also confirmed death of three persons during the law enforcement agencies’s operation. He said a dozen or so police officials were ‘brutally tortured’ by the TLP workers.
“Today in the early morning, miscreants (TLP workers) attacked Nawankot Police Station (which is close to TLP headquarters) where Rangers and police officers were trapped inside the police station and Deputy Superintendent Police (Omar Farooq Baloch) was kidnapped and taken to the TLP Markaz (headquarters),” the Punjab police said in a statement issued here on Sunday afternoon.
“One oil tanker with 50,000 litres of petrol has been taken by the miscreants to the Markaz. The miscreants were armed and attacked Rangers and police with petrol bombs. Police and Rangers pushed them back and took back the possession of the police station. Police did not plan or conduct any operation against the mosque or seminary,” the statement said.
In a video message, a TLP spokesperson Shafiq Ameeni said, “Police attacked us at Lahore Markaz on Sunday morning in which a large number of our workers have been martyred while many are injured. We will bury our dead till the French ambassador is expelled and our agreement with the government is implemented.”
The government on Friday had announced completion of the operation against TLP in the country which had begun Monday last. After completion of the operation, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said four policemen were killed and over 600 injured in the four-day violent clashes between the law enforcers and TLP workers across the country.
“I want to pay special tribute to our police force for their heroic stand against organised violence intended to create chaos to blackmail government. Four policemen were martyred and over 600 injured. Our nation is indebted to these heroes and we will look after the families of the martyrs,” Khan had said in a tweet on Friday.
The Pakistan government had blocked the access to social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram – from 11am to 3pm on Friday in connection with the law enforcement agencies’ operation against the TLP protesters who refused to vacate some main roads and highways in Lahore and other parts of the Punjab province.
The cellular and internet service has been suspended in some parts of Lahore including the area housing the TLP headquarters till Sunday.
The government this week banned the TLP. A notification declaring TLP as a proscribed organisation was issued by the Ministry of Interior shortly after the federal Cabinet approved a summary to ban the party.
The government has also imposed a ban on the media coverage of TLP and any police action against it. In compliance with this, none of the broadcast media in the country reported police action against the TLP in Lahore on Sunday.
The TLP workers had blocked all major roads and highways in the country mostly in Punjab on Monday last after the Imran Khan government arrested it’s chief Allama Saad Rizvi.
The TLP had given the government April 20 deadline to expel the French ambassador over a blasphemous caricature published in France last year.
Punjab police spokesperson Rana Arif said more than 3,200 workers and leaders or TLP have been arrested in Punjab since clashes broke between Islamists and law enforcers.
He said all four policemen killed during clashes belong to Punjab police. TLP claims that over a dozen of its activists have been killed in clashes and hundreds of them injured.