The Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Tuesday announced that it would continue to march towards the federal capital after the government decided against giving any concession to the religious outfit.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting at Bani Gala wherein it was decided not to give any leeway to the TLP.
The meeting was attended by army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, Federal Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Bazdar and the province’s chief secretary among others.
The premier was briefed on the negotiations with the TLP. It was decided that further talks with the religious outfit would be held only if ended its protest march, which was currently in Muridke.
Rashid, who was leading the team negotiating with the TLP, said at a news conference later in the day that that the government had “no reservations” over any of the demands put forward by the religious outfit except for the shutting down of the French embassy and expulsion of its ambassador.
“It was decided [during the meeting] that this demand cannot be accepted.”
He warned that accepting this demand would have consequences.
“As Pakistan is the biggest nuclear force among Muslim countries, conspiracies are being hatched to impose sanctions on us,” he added.
The minister insisted that the country faced “immense international pressure” on the matter.
"You all can see what our economic situation is and France is leading Europe. All European countries are supporting France. Shutting down the French embassy here would affect Pakistan's relations with other European countries.”
The minister hoped that the TLP would agree to withdraw this demand for which it had given a deadline of November 2.
Rashid said the TLP had committed to end the protest and unblock roads by midnight on Tuesday.
"We are waiting for that, and I will get in touch with them again tonight at 8pm. After that, I will again talk to the prime minister."
Speaking in a video message, TLP leader Mufti Mohammad Wazir Rizvi said the government had failed to keep its word and the protesters would continue their march towards Islamabad from Muridke.
Wazir maintained that the TLP had unblocked the roads in Muridke as per its commitment.
“Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid has lied about us blocking vehicular traffic. The police have done that,” he added.
The TLP leader claimed that Muridke had been surrounded by police while trenches had been dug before Jhelum Bridge and Rawalpindi.
“These steps show that the ill-intention of the government, but we will overcome these obstacles.”
The TLP has been staging protests for the last several days demanding the release of their chief Saad Rizvi, his name taken off the Fourth Schedule, taking off the outfit’s name from the list of banned outfit, the shutting down of the French embassy and the expulsion of its envoy over the blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) published in his country.
Thousands of TLP activists left Lahore on Saturday to march on Islamabad, however, they decided to stage a “peaceful” protest in Murdike until the government accepted their demands till Tuesday.
A day earlier, Rashid had said the prime minister was returning from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and the matter would be taken to federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday (today).
With additional input from our correspondent in Lahore
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ