LAHORE/Rawalpindi - More than 1,100 followers of Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan including the top leadership have been sent to jails for one month as authorities imposed Section 144 to maintain public order in Punjab.

The provincial government Saturday banned all types of public gatherings, use of loudspeaker and display of weapons as part of a strategy to quell protests following a massive crackdown against the religious group.

The move comes a day after TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi was arrested in a dramatic police operation from Lahore’s Nawan Kot neighbourhood.

TLP chief Afzal Qadri was also detained by police in Gujranwala early Saturday.

Both the firebrand clerics were shifted to “safe houses” since they have been taken into protective custody.

The TLP leaders claimed as many as 500 of their activists have also been detained in Sindh.

As for Punjab, a police official told The Nation that more than 1,800 followers and supporters of Rizvi were detained by police during the province-wide crackdown.

“At least 1,135 people have been sent to different jails for one month period. The rest of them were released after proper verification,” the official said. The arrests were made under Section-3 of the “Maintenance of Pubic Order ordinance.”

The official, who wished not to be named, further said that TLP leaders Afzal Qadri and Khadim Hussain Rizvi were moved to safe places on Saturday.

Rizvi-led TLP had held countrywide protests for three days following the acquittal of a Christian woman in a blasphemy case early this month by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Large scale vandalism was witnessed in many parts of the country during those three days as angry people, provoked by the clerics, attacked public and private property, blocked roads, torched vehicles and injured travellers.

The TLP had again given a call for public gatherings and protest rallies for today (Sunday) to observe the day as what they termed Youm-e-Shuhada-e-Khatm-e-Nabuwwat.

There were apprehensions the group could again create violent scenes and the government therefore acted proactively this time and hunted down the TLP cadres before they could go for another rowdy round.

There were no roadblocks anywhere in Punjab on Saturday and vehicular traffic was moving on all city roads, national highways, and motorways without facing any hindrance.

As the things stand, hopefully, no one will dare challenge the writ of state and create law and order situation today (Sunday) as well.

“The crackdown has not ended yet”, the police official told The Nation. “Police are ordered to immediately arrest the troublemakers. Nobody will be allowed to block any road or crossing,” he said. “We have successfully established the writ of the government and will never allow anybody to disturb peace.”

Security has been heightened across the province on the orders of Punjab Police Inspector General Amjad Javed Saleemi, who is personally monitoring the law and order situation.

A source in the Central Police Office said that tens of thousands of police guards are deployed around key government installations, markets, and roads all over the province.

Earlier on Friday night police launched a major operation in Lahore and arrested Khadim Hussain Rizvi, his close aides, and hundreds of his followers. At least five people were injured during clashes between police and supporters of Rizvi when police launched the operation near Grand-Battery bus stop on Multan Road.

Prominent among those arrested from Lahore were Arif Sattar Qadri, Muhammad Imran, Muhamad Rafique, Maulana Muhammad Asif, Maulana Mufti Sana Ullah, Munir Ahmad Jalali, Khurshid Ahmad, Jamshaid Khan, Qari Naeem, Zahoor Ahmad Jalali, and Ahsan Ali.

Police, despite stiff resistance, entered the mosque where Rizvi resides in a Hujra (room). Following his arrest, protesters pelted police with stones as cops launched the late night operation in the residential locality.

During the operation, authorities suspended electricity supply to the entire area. Police also had to fire tear-gas shells and it arrested many of the protesters who were then bundled into vans and sent to lockups.

Information Minister Fawwad Chaudhry Friday tweeted that Rizvi had been placed in protective custody because he refused to withdraw the call for protest on Sunday.

In a press statement, Lahore DIG (Operations) Waqas Nazir said that the “overall law and order situation of the city is under control.” He said all divisional SPs, DSPs and SHOs are directed to ensure foolproof security arrangements for sensitive installations located in their respective areas.

“Police will take stern action (against troublemakers). Police Reserves are ready to face any circumstances and Section 144 will be implemented fully,” the DIG forewarned.

To a question about TLP’s nationwide protest call for today (November 25), a Punjab government official said, “Although the entire TLP leadership is [already] under arrest yet the police will not leave any stone unturned to maintain peace and law and order in the province.”

In the crackdown on TLP in Rawalpindi district, police on Saturday detained as many as 221 leaders and activists of the religious group.

Similarly, according to police sources, 102 TLP leaders and activist were detained during raids in Attock, Jhelum and Chakwal.

The TLP activists were detained by police under Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) and were sent to Adiala Jail.

According to sources, Rawalpindi police following directions of IGP Amjad Javed Saleemi and City Police Officer Abbas Ahsan launched the massive crackdown against TLP cadres who were planning to take out rallies and stage protest at Faizabad today.

They said that the police swooped into houses, shops and even in the mosques to arrest the TLP workers and leaders.

Firebrand cleric Mufti Haneef Qureshi was arrested by a team of Sadiqabad Police Station and was later shifted to lock up, they revealed.

Similarly, a Rawat police party arrested former TLP candidate for NA-59 Malik Taj from Ranotara Mosque located at IC Raika Maira.

Police also raided on seminaries in the limits of PS Kallar Syedan and arrested 6 activists of TLP.

Rawat police also held caretaker of Jamia Rashidia Qari Yousaf Rashidi, who belonged to Maulana Fazlur Rehman group.

As many as 6 activists of the TLP were picked up by police during raids from Mandra, sources said.

In Gujar Khan, police teams detained more than 25 TLP activists from the tehsil and shifted them to jail.

A total of 102 activists and leaders of TLP were arrested in Attock, Chakwal, and Jhelum and held and shifted them to jails.

 

Meanwhile, Rawalpindi City Police Officer Abbas Ahsan deployed heavy contingent of police on GT Road and at the Chakri Interchange to thwart any possible attempt of the TLP workers to block the roads for traffic. The police are being assisted by Punjab Rangers.

A heavy contingent of police was deputed at Chakri Interchange under supervision of DSP Saddar Circle Farhan Aslam to maintain law and order situation.

In Gujar Khan, a police team under the supervision of ASP Shehzada Umar Abbas was assigned the task to foil the attempt of TLP protesters to block the road.

Reportedly, New Town police also held some shopkeepers who refused shutting businesses on police orders. The police also instructed the petrol pump owners to stop selling fuel after midnight.

SHO New Town Javed Iqbal Mirza did not attend his cell phone when contacted by this correspondent to know his version over arrest of shopkeepers.

A detained TLP activist identified as Saeed Ullah escaped from the custody of Police Station Waris Khan SHO Hafeez Ullah Niazi.

Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner Dr Umar Jahangir on his social media handle tweeted, “Life in the twin cities is perfectly normal and there is no hindrance of any sort. Please go about your daily life. Have a good day”.

But contrary to the claim of the DC, the district government and police brought containers at Nawaz Sharif Park, Double Road, Liaquat Bagh, Committee Chowk, Katcheri and Airport Road to block the roads to foil the protest plan of the TLP activists today (Sunday).

“TLP activists had been arrested to avoid any untoward situation and sit-in any part of the district”, said DC Dr Umar Jahangir while talking to media men.

He said that as many as 205 had been people arrested from the district under section 3 of the MPO and they had been shifted to Adiala Jail.

The DC said that Section 144 had been imposed in the district under which no rally and gathering of the people more than four was allowed. He said that the home department had imposed the Section 144.