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Activists from Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party throw teargas shells back towards the police during a protest where they march towards capital Islamabad from Lahore on October 23, 2021. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Several Pakistani cities including Islamabad and Rawalpindi remained partly disturbed following a protest called by the banned radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party.

Law enforcement agencies and security forces were put on alert to ensure peace and stability. Nearly 500 Rangers personnel and a contingent of 1,000 Frontier Constabulary (FC) officials will join the Islamabad police to contain the activists. TLP supporters have announced extending the protest from Lahore to Islamabad to pressurize the government to release their leader.

The government decided to hold talks with the group following Friday’s deadly clashes between the TLP activists and police in Lahore, which resulted in the death of three policemen and the injured of several others including the protestors. The group claimed that five of its supporters have died in the clashes.

On Saturday, the government announced a three-member team, which consists of interior minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, religious affairs minister Noorul Haq Qadri and Punjab law minister Muhammad Raja Basharat to deal with the radical party leaders who are accused of playing the “Long March card” to pressurize the ruling government. “The government believes in resolving issues through dialogue,” Qadri was quoted as saying by a local TV network Geo. He added that protecting the lives and property of people was the top priority for the government.

The TLP said in a statement that it had formed a three-member committee to hold talks with the government but failed to stop its followers to halt the protest in many cities including Rawalpindi.

What TLP group is demanding?

TLP workers are demanding the immediate release of their leader, Saad Rizvi who had been arrested in April for threatening countrywide protests, calling for the expulsion of the French Ambassador from Pakistan over depictions of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in France. Pakistan government has refused to cave in to pressure to expel the French envoy but was apparently ready to discuss the release of the TLP leader if the protest march is halted immediately.

The TLP key leader Saad Rizvi is still under police custody while Punjab Police has also registered cases against more TLP workers following the deaths of three security personnel. The TLP is now seeking the release of all its workers and withdrawal of cases against others.