ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain has said Saudi Arabia would release at least another 85 Pakistani prisoners on Eid Al-Adha, and a special plane would be dispatched to bring them back.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the release of about 2,100 Pakistani prisoners from the kingdom’s jails during a high-profile visit to Islamabad in February 2019.
Since then, hundreds of Pakistani prisoners involved in petty crimes have been released as a goodwill gesture of the kingdom.
“This is good news,” Hussain told the media after the cabinet meeting, announcing the Saudi decision to release more prisoners over Eid.
He also said the federal cabinet would uphold a ban on the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) under the country’s anti-terrorism laws for killing policemen, attacking law enforcement personnel and disrupting public life in April when the religious political party held nationwide protests.
The government outlawed the TLP in April after it blocked main highways, railways and access routes to major cities, assaulting police and burning public property. Four police officers were killed and more than 500 wounded.
The violence erupted after the government detained TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi ahead of a planned countrywide anti-France campaign to pressure the Islamabad government to expel the French ambassador in response to the publication of cartoons in France last year depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
The TLP has presented four main demands in the talks with the government. They included expulsion of the French ambassador, release of the TLP leader and around 1,400 arrested workers, lifting the ban on the group and the dismissal of the interior minister.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said expelling the French ambassador would only cause damage to Pakistan, and diplomatic engagement between the Muslim world and the West was the only way to resolve disputes.
“The federal cabinet has decided to uphold the ban on the TLP party,” Hussain said, adding that the country’s law ministry and attorney general would approach the election commission to get the registration and election symbol of the party cancelled.
The minister also ruled out the possibility of the party emerging again under a different name and using a new election symbol. “The law will take its own course now,” he said.
The federal cabinet also approved three public holidays on Eid Al-Adha, from July 20 “The NCOC [federal pandemic response body] proposed five public holidays on Eid, but the cabinet approved only three,” Hussain said.