Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party shout slogans during a sit-in protest in Lahore on October 20, 2021, demanding the release of their leader Hafiz Saad Hussain Rizvi, son of late Khadim Hussain Rizvi, founder of hardline religious political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: The police in Islamabad and Rawalpindi were put on high alert and major intersections and highways were sealed with containers as authorities brace for two separate protests by the banned Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) and opposition parties.

On Friday, extra police forces were deployed and metro bus service was suspended in Rawalpindi after the banned radical group TLP announced to extend sit-in from Lahore to Islamabad.

Dozens of TLP activists were reportedly arrested in Lahore where the group has been staging protests for the last few days. The group is demanding the Punjab government release its chief, Saad Rizvi, who was arrested on April 12 for threatening countrywide protests.

In April, the Pakistan government declared the TLP a proscribed organization under anti-terrorism laws and banned the party over violent countrywide protests that resulted in attacks on civilians, ransacking of public and private properties and the death of two police officers.

TLP’s fresh protest coincides with the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDM) demonstration across Punjab province against price hikes in the country.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad has urged the protesters to remain peaceful and warned that the government will take action against those who take the law into their hands. Meanwhile, the Punjab government has formed a committee comprising two provincial ministers to negotiate with the proscribed group to call off protests.

What TLP protestors are demanding?

After days of staging protests in Lahore, the banned TLP announced to launch of a “long march” towards Islamabad on Friday. They are demanding the release of their jailed leader and the expulsion of France’s ambassador over depictions of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) in France. The demand to expel the French ambassador is deemed unacceptable and irrational by the government as it could lead to severing ties with the entire European Union which is Pakistan’s key trading partner.