ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid has arrived in Lahore to lead government efforts for negotiations with the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) after violent protests left more than five people dead in the provincial capital.
The minister, who arrived on a special plane to the provincial capital to lead the dialogue with the TLP leadership, is chairing a high-level meeting to take stock of the situation in the wake of the bloody protests.
The meeting is being attended by Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, Kashmir Affairs Minister Ali Amin Gandapur, Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat, the police chief of Punjab among other officials.
During the meeting, the government is expected to take “important decisions” regarding the banned religious party. Provincial government officials will also brief Rashid on the security situation with respect to TLP.
Earlier in the day, Rashid abandoned his two-day visit to Dubai and returned to Pakistan in the wake of the worsening security situation in the country amid violent clashes between the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan protesters and the Punjab police.
Rashid had left for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to watch a cricket match between India and Pakistan. Both archrivals will face each other at the T20 World Cup in Dubai on Sunday at 7 pm.
In spite of protests by the banned TLP seeking the release of their chief Saad Rizvi and expulsion of French envoy, Rashid had taken a two-day leave from PM Imran Khan to watch the cricket match.
He, however, was directed by the premier to skip the match and return to handle the situation.
Meanwhile, the security situation in Lahore and Rawalpindi remains tense due to clashes between the religious outfit’s members and law enforcement personnel.
The clashes have resulted in the death of three policemen and two Labbaik workers, as per confirmed reports.
However, in a statement issued around noon, TLP leader Mufti Wazir Rizvi claimed that the Lahore police used tear gas on asleep party workers and also alleged that TLP workers came under ‘straight firing’ from the police.
The police operation on Saturday has resulted in at least one fatality, he said, adding that the bodies of the deceased TLP men will accompany the banned outfit to Islamabad.
The Metro Bus service and public transport have been suspended as the violent protests entered the second day. Rangers have taken control of the metro tracks to keep the TLP workers at bay.
In Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab and the starting point of the TLP march, clashes between the banned TLP and police have left at least five people, including three cops, dead since Friday. The number of the injured is reportedly in dozens.
In the light of the security situation, internet and mobile services have been suspended in Shahdara, Shafiqabad, Ravi Road, and Shahdara Town.