Outlawed TLP converts march into sit-in after ‘successful negotiations’

Shahid Aslam Special Correspondent - Lahore

24th Oct, 2021. 10:59 am

Supporters of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) take part in a protest march towards Islamabad from Lahore on October 23, 2021. Photo: AFP

The outlawed Tehreek–i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) Sunday morning decided to convert their march towards Islamabad into a sit-in till their demands are met after talks with the government “ended successfully”, confirmed ministers.

“Talks between the government and demonstrators have ended successfully,” announced interior minister Sheikh Rashid. He also shared that he will hold a press conference on the matter today.

The government’s negotiating team led by Rashid had held the talks with the supreme council of the outlawed TLP to prevent further clashes between marchers and law enforcement agencies.

The clashes, which erupted since Friday, have already taken several lives on both sides, besides injuring multiple people.

However, the demonstrators rather than marching towards Islamabad have decided to stage a sit-in till their demands are met at Muridke.

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat shared that the banned outfits workers will stage their sit-in on the road between Sheikhupura and Gujranwala. He also shared that all roads that were closed in Punjab will be opened.

Meanwhile, Federal Religious Affairs Minister Noor ul Haq Qadri, who was also part of the negotiating committee, said that the leaders of the outlawed party have “assured” the government that their workers will not engage with the police. The demonstrators will continue their protest peacefully where they are, he added.

“After their [TLP] demands are fulfilled, the protestors will end their protest peacefully,” said Qadri. He also assured that the police and security agencies will not intervene if the protest is peaceful.

Talks went on for over eight hours: sources

According to sources, the talks that were held late Saturday night went on for over eight hours at an undisclosed location in Lahore. Other stakeholders were also part of the negotiation process, they added.

Officials, privy to the matter, shared that TLP chief Saad Rizvi constantly remained part of talks via telephone.

Sources claimed that both the sides have signed a written agreement according to which all the cases against TLP leadership, including its chief, will be withdrawn and all the detainees would be set free by Monday or Tuesday. Rizvi is currently detained at Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore and is facing multiple cases.

Officials claimed that the government has assured the TLP that names of their leader added in the Fourth Schedule would also be removed immediately. Similarly, notifications mentioning Rizvi a prescribed person as well as TLP a banned outfit would also be withdrawn.

Regarding the major demand of TLP to expel the French ambassador from Pakistan, both sides agreed to implement the earlier agreement in which it was promised that the matter would be taken to the parliament and the final decision would be taken by the parliamentarians.

Following the successful negotiations, the TLP leadership has also communicated to its protesters to stay at Muridke and directed them not to move towards Islamabad till promises by the government are met.

Officials told Bol News that the TLP leadership have made it clear to the government that they will not call off their long march until all demands are met. It was also agreed that the protesters would stay on roads peacefully but would not close roads, they added.

Federal ministers arrive in Lahore

As the banned outfit continued its march towards Islamabad on Saturday, the federal government sent a high-level delegation to hold talks with the TLP.

The delegation was led by Rashid and included Minister for Kashmir Affairs Ali Amin Gandapur and Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri.

Rashid, who was in Dubai to watch Pakistan’s match against India in the T20 cricket World Cup, had returned to Islamabad on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directive.

As soon as Rashid arrived in Lahore he chaired an important meeting to review the grim law and order situation in the province.

The meeting was attended by federal and provincial ministers including Qadri, Gandapur, Basharat and Punjab Minister for Public Prosecution Chaudhry Zaheeruddin.

The meeting was held before Rashid along with the government’s team left for talks with the leaders of the banned outfit at an undisclosed location.

Lahore, Islamabad on high-alert

Panic had gripped Lahore and Islamabad after authorities blocked several roads in the cities on Saturday as the protest by the TLP continued.

Meanwhile, the banned outfit on Saturday claimed that five of its supporters had died in clashes with authorities in Lahore, while the police said that two cops were martyred in the unrest.

On Friday, more than 1,000 people from TLP gathered after prayers to demand the release of their detained leader, blocking roads and firing projectiles. Later, they turned their protest into a long march towards Islamabad.

The TLP has previously been behind major anti-France protests that earlier this year led to the embassy issuing a warning for all French citizens to leave the country.

TLP leader Saad Rizvi was arrested in April when the government outlawed the party in response to violent anti-France protests.

Supporters had threatened to move in convoys towards Islamabad, where police had closed off roads using shipping containers.