ISLAMABAD: Pakistani President Arif Alvi on Friday and Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday held meeting with religious leaders and sought their support against proscribed TLP whose activists are marching towards Islamabad.
President Alvi urged religious leaders to play their role in diffusing protests staged by an outlawed religious group in the country and promote Islam’s true message of peace, the state-run APP news agency reported.
Supporters of the banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party launched their protest march eight days ago, demanding the release of their top leader Saad Rizvi, who was arrested in April amid similar protests. The banned religious group is also calling for the expulsion of the French ambassador to Pakistan over the publication of anti-Islam caricatures in France last year.
The demonstrators left Lahore for Islamabad last Friday after violent clashes with law enforcement personnel and stayed in Muridke for three days, giving time to the government to meet the group’s demands.
The dialogue between the administration officials and TLP leaders, however, failed to make any headway, after which the protesters announced they were going to resume their march. Clashes between both sides have killed at least four policemen and two protesters so far.
“Islam stresses upon affinity and harmony among the mankind,” Alvi said in a meeting with a delegation of ulema of Ahle-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, led by Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, at the Presidency.
“Since the establishment of Pakistan, Ulema always played a significant role in providing moral and religious guidance to people, besides standing with the state in difficult times.”
The participants deliberated upon various options to address the current situation in a peaceful manner and emphasized on resolving the matter through negotiations.
He noted that the current government raised voice against Islamophobia and for the sanctity of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) at all international fora, and advocated it in an effective manner.
“Islam is a religion of peace and urges the mankind to practice brotherhood and tolerance,” the Pakistani president said. “It also stresses upon protecting the lives and property of each other and discourages acts of violence.”
The religious scholars assured the president of their support in resolving the tense situation in a peaceful manner.
On Friday, members of Pakistan’s top security body, the National Security Committee (NSC), praised the police force for showing restraint against violent TLP protesters who continued to march toward the federal capital.
“The Prime Minister stressed that no group or entity will be allowed to cause public disruption or use violence to pressure the government,” said the statement. “Taking serious note of the unprovoked violent attacks committed by TLP members, the Committee resolved not to tolerate any further breach of law by this proscribed group.”
While emphasizing that all Pakistanis had the right to peaceful protest, the statement said that TLP activists were deliberately employing violence against public property, state officials, and ordinary citizens to create instability in the country.
“All organs of the state [are] ready to act as per the law to protect the life and property of citizens,” it added.
Pakistan’s interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed earlier acknowledged that there was no breakthrough in talks with TLP leaders, though he added the state was willing to go to any length to establish its writ.
He said the prime minister was likely to address the nation on Saturday to explain his administration’s position on the issue.
Information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain also urged TLP protesters to go back to their homes, clear the roads, and resolve the issue peacefully.
He said the government did not want bloodshed or confrontation and was trying its best to resolve the matter through negotiations.
Hussain, however, made it clear that any negotiations with TLP leaders would take place within the country’s legal and constitutional ambit.
“The state will not tolerate gangs that seek to impose their agenda at gunpoint,” Hussain added.