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LAHORE: The Punjab government finally arrived at an agreement with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah faction led by Dr Ashraf Asif Jalali late on Friday, without having to involve a ‘guarantor’.

Following the agreement, the protesters, who had been camping on The Mall in front of the Punjab Assembly for a week, dispersed.

The major takeaway in the agreement for Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s administration was convincing the protesters to take back their demand for Law Minister Rana Sana­ullah’s resignation, at least for now.

Earlier, Mr Jalali had refused to show flexibility in the matter and remained persistent in his demand for Mr Sanaullah’s resignation, apparently because of some ‘controversial’ comments he had allegedly made regarding the Ahmadi community. They have now decided that Mr Sanaullah would have to appear before Sargodha-based cleric Pir Hameedud Din Sialvi and clarify his position. However, if Pir Sialvi was not satisfied with the law minister’s clarification, he would have to go.

Sanaullah to retain job if Pir Sialvi accepts clarification regarding ‘controversial’ remarks

What was particularly noteworthy in this episode was that the team constituted to negotiate with Mr Jalali was led by Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique, an indication that the Punjab chief minister does not trust anyone in his over 40-member provincial cabinet to spearhead parleys with protesting clerics.

The protesters and the government have agreed that the report which is to be filed by the committee led by Senator Raja Zafarul Haq, will be made public by Dec 20. All those arrested during the protest in connection with the Khatm-i-Nubuwat drive will be released and FIRs against will them quashed. “A committee comprising clerics of various schools of thought will be constituted to determine the number of loud speakers in a mosque. Legislation will be made in the light of recommendations of the committee by Jan 16. A united ulema board will review curricula regarding Islamic teachings,” says the agreement. The two parties have agreed that the agreement between the federal government and the Tehreek-i-Labbaik will be implemented in full.

Provincial Ministers Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman and Rana Mashhood Ahmed were part of the Punjab government’s team, in which Lahore police chief retired Capt Amin Wains, a DIG, commissioner and three provincial secretaries were present. Abid Ashraf Jalali, the brother of Asif Ashraf Jalali, was leading the negotiating team of the Jalali group.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Rehman said that it had taken them three days of holding marathon sessions with Mr Jalali’s team to arrive at the agreement. Commenting on reports that the PML-N government had convinced Mr Jalali to call off the protest after offering them an alliance in the upcoming election, the minister said, “In elections, alliances between political parties could not be ruled out. However, the government team did not offer the Tehreek-i-Labbaik (Jalali faction) any seats in the election to convince it to end the sit-in. Ulema and mashaikh had helped us in the negotiations...besides Mr Jalali is not a hardliner.”

Sanaullah’s fate

According to the Jalali group, the provincial law minister will have to go if he failed to clarify his position before Pir Sialvi. “We have not withdrawn our demand for Sanaullah’s resignation...We have left this matter to Sialvi sahib to decide till Dec 3,” said Dr Asif Jalali.

Earlier, MNA Sheikh Muhammad Akram had claimed that 14 federal and provincial lawmakers of the ruling Pak­is­tan Muslim League-Nawaz had submitted their resignations to Pir Sialvi.

Mr Rehman confirmed that around half a dozen PML-N legislators had submitted their resignations to Pir Sialvi because their constituencies had a large religious vote bank on which the Pir held considerable sway.

He said Mr Sanaullah was ready to offer his explanation to the clerics about the controversial comments allegedly attributed to him.

Minister Zaeem Qadri had travelled to Sargodha to request the religious leader to withdraw his demand to summon Mr Sanaullah. However, Pir Sialvi had reportedly asked the provincial law minister to submit his resignation to him first and then seek his pardon.

Mr Sanaullah told Dawn that some MNAs and MPAs had gone to meet Mr Sialvi. The law minster is expected to meet him today (Sunday) in Sargodha.

Commenting on rumours regarding Mr Jalali’s resignation from the Tehreek-i-Labbaik, Jamil Baig, the Jalali group’s spokesperson, told Dawn that Mr Jalali had not made any such announcement in fact, he wanted all Ahle Sunnat factions under one umbrella.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2017