TLP activists continue
marching towards Islamabad,
ignore all govt warnings

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ISLAMABAD: The proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) resumed its march from Gujranwala on Friday, with thousands of activists travelling in cars, buses and on foot continuing their journey towards Islamabad.

Participants of the protest march spent the night near the General Bus Stand on the Grand Trunk Road and resumed their rally in the morning, despite Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s Thursday night warning to the TLP to call off its march or face “consequences”.

The rally, which comprises around 5,000 participants, reached the Gujrat-Chenab toll plaza after stopping at Rahwali to offer Friday prayers. A heavy police contingent was deployed at the toll plaza.

TLP activists

A senior official earlier told Dawn that the next TLP-police encounter was expected at two major security points that had been established at Chenab and Jhelum rivers, the only route for the march to reach Islamabad.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Friday that negotiations were underway between the government and Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s (TLP) detained chief Saad Hussain Rizvi on ending the proscribed group’s march to Islamabad.

Briefing the media after a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) convened by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Ahmed said the government wanted to “amicably” resolve the matter of the protest march, which has disrupted life in several Punjab cities for two weeks.

The minister announced that Prime Minister Imran would address the nation on Saturday about the current security situation, saying “he will present the entire situation before the nation and his speech will explain the narrative of the government.”

He said four policemen had been martyred in clashes with TLP workers, while more than 80 had been injured, eight of them critically.

SADHOKE: Police Personnel fire tear gas on the workers of TLP activists

“We stand by our position and we are waiting for them (TLP) to abide by their commitment to open the GT Road.”

Ahmed said it was also expected that Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri would talk to the TLP leadership again.

Referring to one of the TLP’s demands, the minister said the government had taken the matter of the French ambassador’s expulsion to the parliament, adding that the opposition would not vote in favour of such a move.

He noted that TLP protesters were heading to Islamabad for the seventh time. “People are facing difficulties, the demonstrators should review their stance,” he said.

Prime Minister Imran had convened the NSC meeting on Thursday to devise a strategy for tackling the TLP’s march that is heading towards Islamabad.

“In view of the situation arising out of the illegal activities of the banned party, Prime Minister Imran Khan has convened a meeting of the National Security Committee tomorrow. Other issues related to national security will also be considered in this meeting,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had announced.

The meeting was attended by key members of the federal cabinet, the services chiefs and the intelligence agencies’ heads.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Ahmed had called on the TLP to stick to the promises it had made with the government, warning that “things will be out of my hands” if the group failed to do so.