Govt gives clean chit to TLP, blames political activists for vandalism

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ISLAMABAD: Giving a clean chit to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) whose three-day long protest against the acquittal of Aasia Bibi had brought the country to a standstill, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi accused workers belonging to other political parties of resorting to violence during the protests.

Briefing the Senate on Thursday, the minister said it was political workers from other parties that had come out on the streets and resorted to violence, adding that the TLP has distanced itself from the vandalism during the sit-ins.

“We showed TLP the footage of the people being violent on the streets and they distanced themselves from the people in the video,” the minister told the upper house as he defended the ultra-religious TLP.

“We met with the TLP leadership yesterday and I will soon brief the prime minister on what transpired during the meeting.”

In a ‘strong’ message to vandals, the minister said those who “challenged the writ of the state and take the law into their own hands will not be given any concessions as the government will make an example out of them”.

Justifying the deal with the TLP to end the protests, the interior minister said the agreement was signed to avoid “bloodshed”. “Naya Pakistan does not believe in bloodshed,” the minister claimed. “The government will not use bullets against its own citizens. We will embrace our citizens and hold dialogues with them.”

It merits mention here that the TLP led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi took to streets soon after the top court’s acquittal of Aasia Bibi and blocked major arteries countrywide. The sit-ins led by its leadership publically denounced judges—part of the bench that absolved Aasia— and urged army personnel to rebel against Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa for his alleged involvement in the release.

After PM Khan’s aggressive stance against the protesters in a televised address, the government subsequently caved in and signed a five-point agreement. The agreement was widely criticised by the media, civil society and opposition parties.

Under the five-point agreement, the government said it would not object to the review petition filed against the acquittal of the Christian woman and would “initiate a legal process” to place her name on the ECL.

The protesters had sent at least four Lahore police personnel to hospital beside violence in several cities of the country. The protesters had also torched vehicles. However, the minister told senators that not a single drop of blood was spilled during the three days.

Afridi pointed out that protestors had apologised in the agreement that was signed. “To petition the court to review the case is a legal right,” the minister said.