November 17th, 2020
The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has called off its sit-in around Faizabad after announcing a four-point agreement with the federal government which according to the party had accepted all of its demands. The TLP had also dispersed in earlier protests in Islamabad following agreements with the federal government.
A party spokesman released a copy of the handwritten agreement which had signatures of Pir Noorul Qadri, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Ijaz Shah, Federal Interior Minister and Hamza Shafqaat, Deputy Commissioner, Islamabad. The TLP workers dispersed from Faizabad after a speech from TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
Speaking to his supporters in the early hours of Monday, TLP supremo Khadim Rizvi denied that his workers had intended to ransack the French Embassy in Islamabad saying the party manifesto expressly forbids causing damage to public property and lives. He said if any of his workers has caused harm that should have been reported to party leaders. He said their demand was only for the removal of the French ambassador and not to set ablaze the embassy. Rizvi said they had come to protect the honour of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). He accused the police of high-handedness in arresting his workers from their homes and mosque across the country.
Rizvi also cautioned media professionals against siding with those spreading disinformation about the party. He warned that those who spread fake news should know what punishment the religion entails for lying. “We are not the lords but just the watchmen of our religion,” Rizvi told his supporters.
The TLP chief blamed the government for losing out on Kashmir to India saying the disputed territory cannot be taken by just protesting on roads for half an hour. He offered that if the government was really interested in liberating Kashmir, they could have him garner public support with his speeches across the country. He said the party would avenge the desecration of Babri Mosque in India, adding that Agra’s Taj Mahal and Delhi’s Jamia Mosque belonged to them.
Rizvi said he was ill but had come to the sit-in to praise workers for their resolve in participating in the march against the publication of blasphemous caricatures in France.
On the conclusion of Rizvi’s speech, an announcement was made by the TLP that the protest has ended, asking workers to disperse from Faizabad Chowk and return to their homes safely. Earlier, TLP Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief Shafique Amini announced to the crowd at Faizabad that the federal government has acceded to their demands and sought a little time to send back the French ambassador. He said the government would also not appoint an ambassador to France. He said federal ministers Ijaz Shah and Pir Noorul Qadri along with Islamabad DC Hamza Shafqaat had signed a written agreement with the TLP. The demands of boycotting French goods and release of all TLP workers without filing of any cases against them have also been accepted.
What’s in the agreement?
According to the agreement, the government will take a decision from the Parliament regarding expulsion of the French ambassador within three months. Secondly, the government will not appoint its ambassador to France. Thirdly, the authorities will release all the arrested workers of the TLP. Lastly, the government will not register any case against the TLP leaders or workers even after it calls off the sit-in.
Government officials said Prime Minister Imran Khan had tasked Qadri with holding talks with TLP to bring about a peaceful resolution. News reports quoted Qadri as saying that he was in Lahore when the PM called him and both discussed the situation. There was no official confirmation from the government of the agreement, but the interior ministry issued a notification regarding immediate release of all those arrested during the past two days from different parts of Punjab.
Following the dispersal of the TLP workers in the morning, traffic returned to normalcy across the twin cities. Mobile phone service was also restored in the localities. Schools, shops, businesses and offices opened normally on Tuesday.
As many as 86 TLP workers who had clashed with the police in Rawalpindi and unlawfully staged protests were arrested and shifted to Adiala jail. According to police sources, 400 people in Rawalpindi have been arrested since Sunday.
Around 26 police officials, including DSP Tariq Mehboob, SHO Abdul Aziz, two sub-inspectors, three constables, 10 Elite Force and three Dolphin Force personnel, were injured in the clashes with TLP supporters.
Following the pact, the government was widely criticized on social media for succumbing to pressure from the aggressive cleric who has held the government hostage several times in the past.