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Police officers launch tear gas while stand on shipping containers used to block the road during a protest rally by the banned Islamist political party Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan in Lahore. Image Credit: REUTERS

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday made it clear that the government would not be blackmailed by the proscribed outfit Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and would deal with it as a militant organization.

We will not allow the TLP or anyone else to challenge the writ of the state, the prime minister said while addressing a cabinet meeting.

Later at a press conference, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced to deploy the Rangers for 60 days in the Punjab province while the regular armed forces would also be used in case police and civilian security forces needed reinforcement to control the mob.

He said the French ambassador was not present in the government but the TLP was acting on an agenda. We cannot close down the French embassy as it would have serious global repercussions, he said.

Federal Minister for Information & Broadcasting Fawad Hussain Chaudhry said that the decision to use force against the TLP was taken in view of the violent acts by the outfit’s workers, road blocks, murder of policemen and attacks on the civilians by them.

Enough is enough

“There is a limit to the state’s patience and that limit is now exhausted. We have engaged them for the last couple of months but now they have not left an option of dialogue for us but to use force and use it relentlessly,” said Fawad Chaudhry.

In the past we have defeated terrorist organisations like Al Qaida and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and dealing with TLP is not a big deal, he said, “We don’t want to give the impression to the world that mob is ruling Pakistan.”

Earlier, soon after the expiry of the deadline given by the TLP, the protesters resumed their long march towards Islamabad from Muridke, a city in Punjab however, they were stopped by the police in Sadhoke and were not allowed to march beyond Jhelum.

3 policemen killed

Three policemen were on Wednesday and 70 were injured in clashes with the TLP protesters shortly after they resumed their march. According to him, the protesters were opening straight fire on the police which was not acceptable.

Earlier, speaking to the media in Islamabad before the cabinet meeting, Chaudhry had said that the long march going on GT Road should “end immediately.”

TLP not a ‘religious’ party

Fawad Chaudhry said the TLP was not a religious party rather it was a militant outfit that didn’t have roots among the masses.

The government has also decided to approach the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and ask how a militant outfit was registered as a political party, he said.

Their claim of being a better Muslim or Lover of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) than us is controversial as the Prophet never did what they are doing (roadblocks, arson, violence, etc).

Security beefed on GT Road, Islamabad

At least 15,000 police personnel were deployed on Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) Gujranwala to contain the protesters’ march after the protesters started heading towards Islamabad.

Authorities in Islamabad and adjoining Rawalpindi have once again closed roads using shipping containers. The Metro Bus Service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been suspended.