ISLAMABAD - Islamabad police have launched a crackdown against the activists of the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) after TLP’s refusal to withdraw its call for protest on November 25 (today).  The city administration is busy taking measures to ensure that life continues in the city as normal.

The TLP had insisted on coming to Rawalpindi refusing the government’s proposal for alternative arrangements. According to the Information Minister the TLP has become a continuous threat to the life and properties of the citizens and is doing politics under the guise of religion. The minister said the government did its best to convince the party against convening for the protest but they refused every offer and incited violence.

The crackdown came ahead of Rizvi’s call to party members to observe martyrs’ day on November 25. He had asked workers and supporters to gather at Faizabad in the federal capital.

According to the sources in the local police, a large-scale operation has been started against the TLP workers in Islamabad like other parts of the country. According to the police officials, 198 workers were arrested from various parts of the capital in the crackdown for violation of section 144Cr.PC and they would be prosecuted under section 188. SSP (Operations) supervised the crackdown.

The police picked active leaders of the organization amidst calls for protest. The audio and video messages were put on social media by the TLP leaders to invite the workers to assemble at Faizabad interchange — a strategic point for both the protesters and the law-enforcing agencies when it comes to routine life in the city. Messages with warning against the appeals for the protest and becoming part of the ‘propaganda’ launched in the wake of news of arrest of Maulana Khadim Rizvi were also seen on the social media and the violators were warned of strict action by the FIA. Pir Muhammad Afzal Qadri, a TLP senior leader in a video message said that the government attacked Namoos-e-Risalat and freed a blasphemer. He said both the Army and Imran Khan are being backed by the Qadianis. Qadri corroborated that police was raiding their mosques in order to arrest leaders. He said it’s high time to come on the roads for the sake of Namoos-e-Risalat. In the crackdown, the Bhara Kahu police picked at least 17 persons including Qari Abdur Raheem Chishti of Jamia Masjid Anwar-e-Madina,

Bhara Kahu, Islamabad; Muhammad Khateeb Mustafai of Jamia Masjid Shama-e-Risalat, Bhera Pul; Muhammad Sultan of Omer Masjid, Dhok Mohri; Hafiz Nadeem Qadir of Mangoo Town; Abid Shehzad of Ghosia Rizvia Mazhar-e-Islam, Bhara Kahu; Zaheer Ahmed of Uthal village,  Bhara Kahu; Malik Muhammad Safeer of Muslim Town, Sadiqabad, Rawalpindi; Muhammad Zeeshan of Bhara Kahu; Abdur Razzaq of Jamia Masjid Farooqia Mohalla Nain Sukh, Bhara Kahu, Islamabad; Farmanullah of Jhuggi Stop, Bhara Kahu, Islamabad; Muhammad Nabi of Jhuggi Stop, Bhara Kahu, Islamabad; Noor Muhammad of Jhuggi Stop, Bhara Kahu, Islamabad; Siam Hayat of Murree; Zahidullah of Bhara Kahu, Islamabad; Kamran Amin of Jamia Hameedia, Bhara Kahu, Islamabad; Muhammad Faizan of Ghosia Masjid Simli Dam Road, Bhara Kahu, Islamabad and Usman of Shah Pur Bhara Kahu, Islamabad.

Around 100 police personnel were deployed at Faizabad interchange where the TLP had last year staged a 20-day long sit-in. The district administration had also sealed the Red Zone by placing containers on the roads as a precautionary measure. Law-enforcers were seen patrolling on the city roads. The situation remained peaceful and roads were open for traffic in the city. According to a post by Deputy Commissioner Islamabad on social media, all roads of Islamabad were open for traffic. He said Rangers and police were deployed for security and to maintain law and order. Strict action was to be taken against anyone who tried to breach the law or disturb public tranquility, he added. He also appealed the public not to take rumors seriously.

According to the sources in the police, all the security arrangements have been taken in Islamabad in view of the protest call. The federal capital administration has decided to take help of Punjab police and FC as well. Around 3000 personnel of Punjab police will be reaching Islamabad by Sunday morning, according to the officials who talked to The Nation. Rangers have also been engaged for the purpose. The police sources said that around 200 activists have been arrested in the crackdown.

According to the security plan, the federal capital has been divided into two zones. Red Zone has been declared as highly sensitive. Around b1000 personnel of law enforcement agencies would be deployed around the Red Zone, according to the plan. The administration and police have been asked to ensure that no one closes any of the city roads. The crackdown comes weeks after the TLP led a three-day protest across the country against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman whose blasphemy conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court at the end of October 2018. The demonstrators during the protests had termed the chief justice liable to be killed and had called for a rebellion against the army chief “because he is a non-Muslim”. This had led to Prime Minister Imran Khan issuing a stern warning to the agitators and telling them: “Do not clash with State”. Two days later, however, the TLP had agreed to end the nationwide protest sit-ins after reaching an agreement with the federal and Punjab governments under which the latter agreed to initiate the legal process to put Aasia Bibi’s name on the Exit Control List and refrain from objecting to review of the court judgment.

The TLP, in turn, had offered an apology “if it hurt the sentiments of or caused inconvenience to anyone without reason”.

In November 2017, TLP workers staged a weeks-long sit-in at the Faizabad interchange that had virtually paralysed the federal capital.

The protesters were demanding the resignation of then law minister Zahid Hamid. Days later, the then PML-N government launched an operation against the protesters which failed when the authorities had to succumb to TLP’s demands and Hamid resigned.