October 25th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Federal Interior Minister on Monday said a possible deal with the proscribed Tehrik Labaik Pakistan to call off its march to Islamabad will be discussed in the federal cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
However, the proscribed party leadership stuck to its Tuesday night deadline saying if the government did not honour its commitments, party activists and supporters will resume their march to Islamabad from their temporary stopover camp at Muridke on the GT Road on Wednesday. On Saturday, the interior minister had announced that the TLP had agreed to put off their march till Tuesday to give the government time to implement a deal to release their detained chief Saad Rizvi and other detained activists as well as review the fourth schedule.
Addressing reporters at a news conference in Islamabad, Federal Interior Minister said Prime Minister Imran Khan would be arriving home on Tuesday after attending a climate conference in Saudi Arabia. “I’m trying to meet the prime minister tomorrow (Tuesday) and discuss the TLP standoff,” he told reporters. “We will put demands of the TLP in the cabinet meeting on Wednesday,” he announced.
TLP deadline till Tuesday night
The interior minister regretted that the TLP leadership had yet to accede to his request to open both lanes of the GT Road. However, a statement and videos shared by the party on twitter claimed that the activists had opened both lanes of the GT Road to traffic at Muridke.
According to the TLP statement, the government had taken till Tuesday to implement the agreement reached in talks on Saturday. “The TLP leadership has fulfilled its promise and opened the road. If the government does not implement the agreement by Tuesday night, the long march will move towards Islamabad on Wednesday,” reads the TLP statement shared on twitter.
According to a statement from the National Highways and Motorway Police, the N-5 national highway (GT Road) was blocked at locations of Sadhoki, Sufi Waters, Zafer Arcades and Muridke. The other locations blockaded on the N-5 included Jandiala at Wazirabad, Chenab Toll Plaza in Gujrat, diversion at Chakwal More at Sohawa.
TLP third largest political party in Punjab: Rashid
Reiterating his view that the party was a proscribed organisation, the interior minister softened his tone towards the party chief Saad Rizvi saying he found Rizvi very cooperative as compared to other leaders of the party during negotiations in Lahore. The minister disclosed that he had two meetings with Saad Rizvi at an undisclosed location in the provincial capital, negating earlier reports that he had met the detained chief at the Kot Lakhpat jail.
Rashid said the government team had reached an understanding with the TLP to call off their march to the federal capital to demand release of Rizvi under detention since April. The minister said he was trying to settle and resolve the matter with the TLP. “I wish we settle with the TLP as per our understanding with them,” he said but was quick to point the impediments that had previously marred their previous agreements with the party. “If something disrupts the understanding what can I do about it,” he shrugged.
The federal interior minister said the fourth schedule and release of workers were included in the negotiations with the TLP, adding that the government was bound to follow a legal process. “There are legal lacunas which Saad Rizvi understands while others from his party want that orders should be issued immediately,” he told reporters.
Rashid reminded reporters that the TLP is the third largest political party of Punjab. “The TLP has to carry on with its politics but we don’t want any day to day conflicts,” he said.
Rashid said the TLP leadership must understand Pakistan’s predicament regarding the major demand of the TLP for expulsion of the French ambassador over publication of the blasphemous sketches. He said there were many Pakistani parties that had been banned internationally over violence.
The interior minister said he had told Rizvi that France was currently heading the European Union. Indian and certain other nations were targeting Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes, he added. A resolution has been moved against Pakistan in the US for sanctions, he pointed out. “The country is currently facing an economic crisis,” he said.
The TLP must understand these issues, Rashid said. “I admit that I had agreed to the earlier demands of the TLP in this regard,” he added.
Normalcy returns to Rawalpindi
Life returned to normal in Rawalpindi with the restoration of metro bus service as well as opening of the major arteries to traffic. Shops, businesses, offices and educational institutions opened as usual.
According to announcement from the Rawalpindi traffic police, the Muree Road was opened to traffic.
Authorities had lifted blockades on other major roads but the containers remained placed on side of the roads in case the TLP resumes its march to the federal capital.
16 cases lodged against TLP protesters in Lahore
The Lahore police has filed 16 first investigation reports in different police stations against the TLP protesters over their sit-in outside Chowk Yateem Khana and vandalism during the long march. Cases were registered against party leadership and activists relating to offences of attempted murder, murder, and terrorism. Police registered 4 cases in Shafiqabad police station, 4 in Nawankot police station, 2 cases in Shahdara police station and 2 cases in Anarkali police station. One case each was registered in Sanda police station, Millat Park police station, Iqbal Town police station and Ravi Road police station.
According to the interior minister, the government had released 350 TLP activists detained in the crackdown ahead of the party’s march to Islamabad.