ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is to free more than 2,000 jailed activists of banned Islamist militant group TLP and allow the movement to contest elections, under a deal with the government struck to end weeks of violent clashes, negotiators on both sides said.
In return, the Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan has agreed to shun the politics of violence and withdraw its longstanding demand to have France’s ambassador expelled over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by a French satirical magazine, they told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The caricatures have triggered repeated demonstrations by the group to protest at what it considers blasphemy.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government banned the TLP after its protests turned violent earlier this year, designated it a terrorist group and arrested its chief Saad Rizvi.
The government and the movement said at the weekend they had reached an agreement to help end the clashes, but neither side gave details. Two members of the TLP’s negotiating team and one from the government side told Reuters the centerpiece of the deal was to lift the ban and allow the group to contest elections.
“The state has acknowledged that the TLP is neither a terrorist group nor a banned outfit,” another member of the TLP negotiation team, Bashir Farooqi, separately told local Dunya News TV.
In addition, the government has agreed not to contest the release of the group’s jailed leader as well as nearly 2,300 activists and to remove their names from a terrorist watch list, the three negotiators said. Punjab province Law Minister Raja Basharat said nearly 1,000 of the activists had already been released.
The settlement came after seven police officers were killed and hundreds more were wounded as they confronted thousands of TLP demonstrators marching up Pakistan’s busiest highway from the eastern city of Lahore to the capital Islamabad.
The group, which can mobilize thousands of supporters, was born in 2015 out of a protest campaign to seek the release of a police guard who assassinated a provincial governor in 2011 over his calls to reform blasphemy legislation.
It entered politics in 2017 and surprised the political elite by securing over 2 million votes in the 2018 election. The next national election is scheduled for 2023, and analysts expect political groups to start gearing up from early next year.
Despite the agreement, TLP demonstrators have refused to clear the Grand Trunk Road highway, which they have blocked for more than two weeks, until the government showed good progress on the agreement, its leaders said.
On Sunday, the government’s negotiating team claimed it had reached an agreement with the banned group, but declined to give details.
Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, who played a key role in the talks with other scholars, said details of the agreement would be made public in due course. He had said that the nation would see positive results within 10 days next week and declined to give details, saying that the voice of action prevailed over the voice of words.
According to sources, the government has assured the TLP leadership that the accounts and assets of the banned organization will be restored and the government will not continue minor cases against the TLP leadership and workers but the cases registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The decision will be made by the courts.
Government considering release of Saad Rizvi
While the steering committee of the federal government met for the second day in a row, the government is considering the release of Saad Rizvi, head of the Tehreek-e-Lubaik Pakistan (TLP).
Dawn newspaper reported that the government is trying to take seriously the matter of the meeting, sources told Dawn that they should not waste their efforts and the government. A long-term solution should be reached through the TLP agreement.
The committee, headed by Federal Minister Ali Mohammad Khan and comprising Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat, Home Secretary and Punjab Foreign Secretary, reviewed the steps taken to implement the agreement with the TLP, which was kept secret. Is.
The Federal Minister tweeted that the second meeting of the Steering Committee was held in Lahore to implement the agreement with the TLP, in which important decisions were taken and an implementation mechanism was worked out, the results of which will be seen from tonight.
The government will have to withdraw the appeal pending in the Lahore High Court Division Bench so that the order of the individual bench regarding the release of Saad Rizvi can be implemented.
Punjab government spokesman Hassan Khawar told Dawn TV that “there are some important issues that can only be resolved through legal means.”