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LAHORE: Trouble for the embattled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz is not over yet as it has shifted from the Abbasi government to the Shahbaz administration in Punjab after another faction of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) that is camping on The Mall has included more ‘pressing demands’ in the agreement it had signed with the Punjab government some weeks ago.

On Monday, the federal government had an agreement with a TLYRA faction led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi to end the 20-day Faizabad sit-in.

However, for the Punjab government the test has just begun. As the TLYRA faction led by Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali has refused to end the sit-in on The Mall till the acceptance of all its demands by the Punjab government.

A three-member team of the government headed by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique had negotiated with the TLYRA leadership and agreed that Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah would appear before a board of clerics to explain his position regarding his comments about the Ahmadi community.

On Tuesday, Mr Jalali came up with a demand for law minister’s resignation, in addition to some more strict conditions.

A PML-N leader, who is holding negotiations with Mr Jilali’s faction, asked it to withdraw its demand for Mr Sanaullah’s resignation because Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was not ready to accept it. “Let me tell you...unlike the Abbasi government, the Shahbaz administration will not go for Sanaullah’s resignation,” he told Dawn.

Tehreek-i-Labbaik refuses to end Lahore sit-in till acceptance of all its demands

Mr Sanaullah told Dawn that he had already called on a board of ulema to clarify some video clips (about his comments on Ahmadis) and they had been satisfied.

He said the federal government had already signed a six-point agreement with the TLYRA and Mr Jalali was part of it. “Now responsibility lies with the guarantor to implement the agreement,” he said, adding that Mr Jalali was angry as he was not taken on board by Mr Rizvi. “We will not accept any more demand of the protesters,” Mr Sanaullah made it clear.

Saad Rafique having the blessing of the Punjab government had signed a six-point agreement with Mr Jalali’s four-member team when the TLYRA activists were leaving for Islamabad to hold a sit-in. Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry and Islamabad Deputy Commissioner retired Mushtaq Ahmed were other members of the government team.

According to the agreement, blasphemy convict Christian woman Aasia Bibi would not be allowed to leave the country and the government would implement the court decision in her case.

“Those responsible for change in the Khatm-i-Nubuwat clause should be identified and punished and the government should take ulema on board in this regard. The ban on use of more than one loudspeaker in mosques should be lifted forthwith. A consultative committee of ulema should be constituted to see matters related to those conspiring against the Khatm-i-Nubuwat and the misuse of this law,” the agreement says.

“Now Mr Jilali who says he is the main stakeholder of this matter, and not Khadim Hussain Rizvi, has added more strict conditions to this agreement which are not easy for the government to accept,” the PML-N leader said, adding that the protesters seemed to have “some other designs”.

To give a goodwill gesture to the Mall Road sit-in protesters, Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday ordered immediate release of leaders and workers of the TLYRA who were taken into custody a few days ago.

Sit-in continues

The TLYRA continued its sit-in on the Mall on Tuesday.

Talking to Dawn, Tehreek leader Asif Jalali said his movement’s three demands had not been met so far. These include resignation of the Punjab law minister for his controversial remarks, Qisas for those killed during the nationwide sit-in and making public the report of Raja Zafarul Haq-led committee.

“The government had promised to provide the Haq report within 20 days. It has been more than 20 days now,” he said, adding that the withdrawal of FIRs against those arrested during the sit-in and their release was a secondary issue.

About the longevity of the sit-in, Mr Jalali said only the Tehreek leadership could decide when to wind up, but it would most probably happen only after these demands were met.

So far, he added, the Punjab government had only offered to send its law minister to explain his point of view and background of the controversial statement, which had not satisfied the movement.

With the main artery of the city blocked, a huge traffic mess was witnessed on The Mall and all adjoining roads. The situation was so bad that the motorists on some sections of the roads covered a distance of half a kilometre in two hours or so.

This bumper-to-bumper mess was witnessed on Lawrence Road, Moang Road, Fane Road, Safan Wala Chowk, Cooper Road, Kashmir Road, Laxmi Chowk and its surroundings where the traffic was diverted from The Mall due to the sit-in.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2017