Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday said the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) would be treated as a “militant” organisation in view of its persistent tendency to challenge writ of the state by creating chaos with the support of anti-state elements.
“On Tuesday, a clear policy decision was taken in a meeting, which was held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by the top leadership of Pakistan Army, intelligence agencies heads and all the authorities concerned, that the proscribed Tehreek-e-Labbaik will be treated as a militant group,” said the minister addressing a post-cabinet meeting news conference.
“We will not treat this organization as a political party,” he said while urging other concerned departments especially the Election Commission of Pakistan to play their role in this regard.
The minister said, the matter pertaining to the organisation would be dealt with in the same manner as of other terrorist organisations that were annihilated in the past.
Fawad said Pakistan had defeated terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida in the past. “Therefore, make no mistake in considering Pakistan a weak state. Whosoever has committed mistake of perceiving Pakistan as a weak state, they regretted," he added.
Referring to the long march of the TLP on the Grand Trunk (GT) road, he said that was a proscribed organisation and a militant group instead of religious one.
The proscribed TLP would not be allowed to challenge writ of the state at any cost, he added.
Last time, he said the government had made the details public as to how the social media accounts from India supported the TLP.
The minister added that all other institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), should play their role and treat the organisation in a similar way.
The TLP, he maintained, was supported by Indian accounts and a violent group. "Its demands and attack on the State are unacceptable."
Fawad said only the state had the right to resort to physical means, saying "challenging writ of the state is unacceptable".
"In today's cabinet meeting, it was decided that such activities will not be tolerated. We have so far exhibited restraint and have not stopped any civilian. We have not resorted to the use of power against the TLP.”
The minister further warned those “spreading fake news on YouTube and other platforms of the social media pertaining to the organisation”.
“Such people also comprise people from the media industry. We are asking you to drop the culture of fake news or we will come down hard on you.”
The minister recalled that six police personnel were martyred while more than 700 others were injured in clashes with the TLP activists last time.
He said it was a matter of lives and the integrity of the people of Pakistan and “we will go to all extents in ensuring it”.
“Do not complain to us later [when we resort to taking action].”
Fawad noted that the TLP was first founded in 2015 and it had now made a practice of taking to the streets and blocking them.
“The State has limits to its patience.”
The minister also added that certain groups imposing their viewpoint could lead to the State’s elimination.
Citing the treatment of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations, Fawad said no one should undermine the power of the State.
“You cannot blackmail the State of Pakistan. Some leaders of this organisation [TLP] won’t be affected by any potential unrest. They rather want it to take place.”
Informing the media about other cabinet decisions, the minister said the parliamentary affairs ministry was planning to write to the ECP to hold the next elections in Lahore through the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
“It is also being proposed to organise the forthcoming elections of the federal chamber of commerce and the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) through EVMs.”
Turning his guns towards PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Fawad termed it the responsibility of the provincial governments to control prices in their provinces.
He further said that the cabinet had been provided with a comparative, province-wise analysis of prices of essential commodities.
“The prices of wheat, ghee and petrol in Pakistan are still the lowest compared to the other countries in the region.”
Earlier in the day, at least four cops were martyred and dozens injured after TLP protesters clashed with Punjab police near Sadhoke, Gujranwala.
The fresh clashes between the TLP and the police came as the outfit resumed its march towards Islamabad after talks with the government fell through.
The TLP holds the stance that the government did not want to negotiate in a “serious” manner whereas the latter says that the outfit should let go of its demand pertaining to the shutting down of the French embassy and the expulsion of its envoy.
All other demands, including the release of the organisation’s chief Saad Rizvi, have been termed acceptable.
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