TLP ‘agrees’ to call off march on Islamabad

Minister says talks with religious outfit 'almost complete'


Our Correspondent October 24, 2021
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid addressing the media in Islamabad: AFP/FILE

LAHORE:

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on Sunday said the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had agreed to call off its march to Islamabad after a "partially successful dialogue" with its leadership.

Rashid, who came to Lahore after abandoning his Dubai tour following violent clashes between the TLP and Punjab police, added at a news conference that the talks with the religious outfit were "almost complete" and the first round of dialogue went “very good”.

As per the talks, the TLP will not march towards Islamabad but stage a "peaceful" sit-in on GT Road in Muridke, about 50 kilometres away from Lahore.

The minister said the TLP activists would stay in Muridke till Tuesday evening.

“The government will try to manage the situation by that time,” he added. “Of the 7,000 arrested TLP activists during the last protest, now only 176 are in jails.”

He said the talks with the TLP lasted more than eight hours, hoping that the situation would return to normalcy soon.

"The administration has been told to remove all the containers in Rawalpindi and Islamabad except those placed on GT Road," he added.

In response to a question whether TLP chief Saad Rizvi would be released, Rashid said: “Inshallah”.
The minister also promised that the issue pertaining to the expulsion of the French envoy to Pakistan will be tabled in the National Assembly as agreed upon in the previous agreement with the TLP.

He added that the cases against TLP activists would be withdrawn by Tuesday or Wednesday.

He said the TLP negotiating team members would come to the interior ministry on Monday (today) to continue talks.

“We will make all efforts to resolve all outstanding issues to come to a positive end.”

He said that the TLP’s complaint about not giving any positive response to the previous agreement with the organisation for the last six months was true.

“I also met with Saad Rizvi to have a detailed discussion with him.”

He further said the government would also release the TLP activists detained over the past few days.

The minister later tweeted that 350 TLP activists had been released so far and the government was still waiting for the outfit to open both sides of the Muridke road as per the decision.

Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said the government would "seriously consider" the demands of the TLP.

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He added that the police would not touch the protesters, who had agreed to remain peaceful.
"Roads will be kept open," he said. “The protesters will end the sit-in being held in Muridke peacefully after the demands are met.”

The government has sought two days to meet one of the primary demands of the TLP -- the release of its chief Saad and the removal of his name from the Fourth Schedule.

Sources said initially, Saad, who is detained in Kot Lakhpat Jail, refused to meet the government's negotiation team on Saturday night, but then he joined the dialogue via telephone.

The TLP said it would call off its protest in return for the release of Saad and other its activists from jails and the removal of its chief's name from the Fourth Schedule.

The TLP also demanded that the government should drop terror charges against its leadership besides withdrawing the appeal filed against the Lahore High Court order allowing the release of Saad.

On Saturday, the security situation in Lahore and Rawalpindi remained tense due to clashes between the members of the religious outfits and law enforcement personnel.

The clashes resulted in the death of three policemen and two Labbaik workers, as per confirmed reports. Another TLP worker died after the police reportedly shelled the TLP camp on Saturday morning.

On Tuesday, the TLP had announced that it would turn its main Eid Miladun Nabi rally in Lahore into a protest sit-in and urged the government to ensure implementation of the agreement reached with the party earlier this year.

On Thursday evening, it had announced a march on Islamabad as the government had failed to fulfill its demands.

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