Govt accepts TLP’s conditions to end protests: Rashid

Signals unfreezing accounts, releasing its chief; minister says it is the third largest political party of Punjab


Our Correspondent October 25, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) seems to have cleared all its hurdles as the government on Monday gave a green signal for unfreezing its accounts, hinted at releasing its chief, and announced reconsidering the earlier decision of declaring the TLP a “proscribed organisation”, saying it is the third-largest political party of Punjab.

With the latest protest, it appears that the TLP is all set to make a political comeback in the next elections as the government has not only said that it is willing to honour its commitments made with the TLP chief during the negotiations held after the TLP took to the streets demanding the expulsion of French ambassador but made it clear that it doesn’t want any confrontation.

“Mentally, we should accept that it [TLP] is the third-largest party of Punjab and it has to do politics,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said at a news conference on Monday afternoon. “We do not want any confrontation; we want to end this daily quarrel,” Rashid added.

The interior minister revealed that the TLP’s demands include its removal from the fourth schedule, their workers’ release and the earlier decision of the federal cabinet that declared TLP a proscribed organisation. “We are sticking to our commitments,” the minister said. “Whatever promises we have made to them [TLP], we will abide by them.”

TLP is a “proscribed organisation” and both sides are discussing the matter, Rashid responded to a question, adding that the government reached an understanding with the TLP in this regard. Earlier, the government had not only banned the TLP but announced filing a reference for its dissolution in the Supreme Court.

“I found Saad Rizvi extremely cooperative when compared with other [TLP] leaders,” Rashid said, adding that he wanted to conclude the talks once and for all and did not want to see protests and rallies every six months disturbing peoples’ lives.

“I wish that matters conclude in the way they have been discussed with the TLP; we will honour our commitments; if something bad happens somewhere then what can I do,” he said, replying to another question about negotiation and commitments in that meeting.

To the question about the timeframe between the government and the TLP and freeing of the TLP chief, Rashid said that there were legal lacunae that the TLP chief “understands” but the other leaders do not as they keep on insisting to release Rizvi right away.

“Decisions can’t be made then and there; a legal process has to be followed,” Rashid said, adding that the premier will be apprised about the situation and negotiations upon his return and issues will be discussed in the federal cabinet meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

About the damage caused during the TLP protests, Rashid said, “Vandalism is illegal; no one should cause damage because Pakistani organisations have been banned internationally” for such activities. The minister said that he has met Rizvi twice and told him that France is heading the European Union right now and the world is against Pakistan’s atomic technology and the missile system because “we are the Muslim world’s biggest power”.

Read Protests disrupt life in Pindi

Reminding about economic crisis, Rashid said that he has told Rizvi that there is talk of sanctions in America and one point is left to be fulfilled in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plan, saying the TLP should also understand.

Rashid revealed that he had signed an agreement with the TLP and would present it in the National Assembly while further revealing that he did not go to jail to meet Rizvi but met him in Lahore.

Terming the negotiation with TLP “very good”, Rashid said that the matter belonged to the Punjab government but he was heading the negotiating committee because the TLP chief insisted.

The prime minister is returning from Saudi Arabia on October 26 and the matter will be taken to federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday, he said. Before going abroad, Rashid said, the prime minister had directed his Principal Secretary Azam Khan to revive and unfreeze the madrassa accounts.

On his request, he revealed, PM Imran had directed his principal secretary to convey the directions to the Federal Board of Revenue, saying it would be better to unfreeze their accounts as it would help monitoring what’s coming in and going out from those accounts. “Soon, the issue will be completely resolved,” he said.

At the news conference, Rashid said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) were protesting these days and they were more than welcome to continue their protests. “What response has the people given to the PDM, zilch,” he said, adding that the PDM spent two Fridays and got no response from the people.

The only attention that they are getting is on media, he said, emphasising that the media was free and the PDM should spend more time on media than blocking the roads and forcing the government to deploy police.

Read more: Rashid abandons Dubai visit amid violent TLP protests

“The next year is election year and we only have one problem that is inflation,” Rashid admitted. “God willing, Imran Khan will control it”.

Referring to the Pakistan and India cricket match, Rashid said that it wasn’t ordinary cricket; it was cricket plus. “Thankfully, I had already ordered to remove containers from the twin cities because the celebration was unmatched and it was Pakistan’s biggest victory on the cricket ground,” Rashid said. “For me, the final [match] was yesterday; my world cup ended yesterday; I’m least interested in what happens in the match with New Zealand or London [England] and afterwards.”

“My world cup was yesterday and Pakistan has won that,” a jubilant Rashid said, adding that a 10 wicket defeat to India was the biggest by Pakistan in the last 74 years. “Congratulations to the whole nation. If I had the power, I would have announced a holiday for celebration because the victory merits a holiday,” he said.

To a question that how did he predict Pakistan’s victory over India even before the match, Rashid smilingly said that he relies on his political reading of the situation and not on some “ilm” – futurology.

To a question about Pakistan’s match with New Zealand, Rashid laughingly said that Pakistan gave New Zealanders more security than the army they have and, perhaps, that’s what they couldn’t fathom. “My final is over; we won the gold medal yesterday,” he reiterated, referring to Pakistan’s thumping victory against India on Sunday.

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