LAHORE: At least three policemen were killed on Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators from the banned Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) clashed with police on Wednesday, killing and wounding several people from both sides.
The clash broke out at a rally of the banned TLP on a highway in Sheikhupura district just outside the eastern city of Lahore, a spokesman for the Punjab police said on Wednesday. The protests have gathered in Muridke and are marching towards the federal capital territory.
“TLP activists used SMG, AK 47 and pistols to target police officials as the result of which several officials were martyred,” the spokesman told a news agency. He said there were no details of the number killed but there were around 25 wounded.
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 apart. Several workers of the outfit also took several policemen, among them a senior superintendent of police, hostage during fresh clashes.
The group said several of their activists had also been killed or wounded. Thousands of TLP activists have blocked Pakistan’s busiest highway since Friday, demanding the release of their leader and the expulsion of France’s ambassador over the publication by a satirical magazine of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.
After negotiations with the government failed, the demonstrators began marching towards the capital Islamabad on Wednesday. Police said they had tried to block the march, which triggered the clashes. The highway sit in followed clashes in the eastern city of Lahore on Friday that killed three police.
In a statement, TLP claimed that police used force to disperse the protesters near Sadhoke, injuring over 50 workers. The banned outfit also claimed that police used teargas, water cannons, and bullets to target the crowd. “Instead of trying to resolve the issue, the use of violence by the government was further complicating the situation,” said a TLP spokesperson.
The banned outfit tarted its march towards Islamabad from Muridke where it had staged a sit-in for the past three days. The provincial government has deployed a large number of police officials on GT Road to stop the march. It has also dug up trenches on the highway before Chenab River in a bid to stop the supporters of the religious outfit.