Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid has said that the Punjab government has decided to deploy Rangers in the province for 60 days to maintain law and order and to “deal with a proscribed organisation”.
Addressing a news conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, Rashid said it is feared that the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) may be listed amongst the internationally recognised terrorist outfits, saying “we won’t be able to handle their cases if that happens”.
“Therefore, we are handing over the powers to Rangers for the next 60 days to establish law and order in Lahore and the rest of Punjab,” he added.
The minister added that the government wanted peace to be established in the country, saying Pakistan was under “immense pressure”.
Also read: TLP will now be treated as militant organisation: Fawad
“The French envoy isn’t in Pakistan and we cannot shut the French embassy,” he said and added, “the proscribed organisation hasn’t fulfilled its promise, but I’m still firm on my word… and they should return peacefully.”
He stressed that three police personnel were martyred while over 70 others were injured as a result of an attack by the TLP activists in Sadhoke. “Eight of the injured personnel are stated to be in a critical condition,” he added.
Rashid further stated that the government had also reached out to the proscribed outfit six times and held wide-ranging talks with their leadership, but now the organisation has turned into a militant organisation.
Turning his guns towards the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Rashid said, “the government is going nowhere… please try to understand the sensitivity of the situation for the country”.
Rashid added that the Punjab government was also being given powers under the Anti-Terrorist Act of 1995.
“The agenda of this organisation is different than what is being projected,” he said and reiterated that the workers must return to where they came from.
The minister also informed reporters that Prime Minister Imran Khan summoned him twice today and inquired about the spread of fake news on social media related to the clash with the banned organisation.
Rashid maintained that no one can be allowed to play with the lives and properties of the people, warning the TLP workers to take the path of peace.
A notification for the deployment of Punjab Rangers was later issued by the interior ministry.
The interior minister’s presser came just hours after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that the government had decided to treat the proscribed TLP as a militant organisation, saying it would meet the fate as that of other terrorist organisations.
Earlier today, the TLP workers clashed with Punjab police force near Sadhoke in Gujranwala, resulting in the deaths of the personnel and injuries to hundreds.
Read more: Policeman martyred as TLP resumes march on Islamabad
The fresh clashes between the banned party and the police came as the outfit resumed its march towards Islamabad after talks with the government fell through.
The TLP holds the stance that the government does not want to negotiate in a serious manner whereas the government says that the TLP should let go of its demand pertaining to the expulsion of the French envoy. All other demands, including the release of the organisation’s chief Saad Rizvi, have been termed “acceptable”.