LAHORE: Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi, who was recently released from jail after nearly seven months in detention, foresees his party as a “kingmaker” in the 2023 general elections, saying that its vote bank will likely get a massive boost in Punjab and Sindh, provided that the polls are held in a free and fair manner.
In an exclusive interview with Newsweek Pakistan, Rizvi said: “No opposition will be able to function and no party will be able to make government without the support of the TLP,” as he went on to claim that his party’s vote banks in Punjab and Sindh had experienced a massive boost since the last general elections.
“The TLP enjoys good support in both provinces and its vote bank has increased manifold compared to last elections,” he told the magazine.
Saad Hussain Rizvi stated that “No opposition will be able to function and no party will be able to make government without the support of the TLP,” as he went on to claim that his party’s vote banks in Punjab and Sindh had experienced a massive boost since the last general elections.
He further stated that “The TLP enjoys good support in both provinces and its vote bank has increased manifold compared to last elections.” Rizvi revealed that he foresees his party as a “kingmaker” in the 2023 general elections by stating that its vote bank will likely get a massive boost in Punjab and Sindh, provided that the polls are held in a free and fair manner.
When asked about other political parties approaching him following his release and the chances of the TLP forming electoral alliances with them, Rizvi said they were ready to talk to all parties. However, he added, a final decision on the matter would be taken after taking into consideration ground realities ahead of the elections.
To another question about women joining his party, Rizvi said they were willing to giving as much as 50 per cent representation to women in the TLP.
“We will not only encourage women to join the party on reserved seats, we plan to bring them on general seats as well,” he said.
Rizvi’s comments come less than a month after his release from Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail on November 18 in the aftermath of an agreement with the government. The agreement had come following days of protest by his party workers, who also clashed with police, and were marching towards the capital. The details of the agreement were not made public.
Police had arrested Rizvi on April 12 as a “pre-emptive measure”, ahead of planned protests by the TLP as the party’s April 20 deadline for the implementation of the its demands — including the expulsion the French ambassador, severing ties with France and boycotting French products over blasphemous sketches of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) — neared. The next day, police had registered a first information report (FIR) against the TLP chief under sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997.
His name was later placed on the Fourth Schedule — a list of proscribed individuals who are suspected of terrorism or sectarianism under the ATA — on April 16.
Rizvi’s arrest had led to three days of violent protests across the country, following which a ban was placed on the party under the anti-terror law. This episode of the protest had reached a climax when Lahore became a battleground as TLP workers and policemen clashed, with the former taking 11 policemen hostage, who were released when the government and the TLP began talks.
However, the protest was called off on April 20, following a second round of talks between the government and the TLP, with Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid announcing that the government would present a resolution on the expulsion of the French ambassador in the National Assembly (NA) on the day.
A session of the NA was then called the same day during which a resolution was tabled to discuss and decide on the expulsion of the French ambassador from Pakistan. But since then, the assembly has not taken up the matter again.
However, at that time, Prime Minister Imran Khan had made it clear that the government had no intention of lifting a ban on the TLP.