The spokesman for Punjab government, Malik Ahmed Khan, said on Wednesday that arresting Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and other Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) leaders is proving to be difficult for the provincial authorities.
The TLP chief and TLYRA leaders were declared proclaimed offenders by an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on Tuesday.
Speaking to DawnNewsTV regarding the ongoing TLYRA protest at Lahore's Data Darbar, Khan said Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah is in constant contact with the protesters and is trying to convince them to abandon the sit-in. He said the government wants the protest to conclude through dialogue.
Yesterday, Rizvi had threatened to hold nationwide protests if the government fails to fulfill the terms agreed in the controversial army-brokered agreement during the Faizabad sit-in last year.
But "the demands made in the Faizabad agreement cannot be fulfilled as the Islamabad High Court has already declared the agreement null and void," Khan told DawnNewsTV.
The contentious Faizabad agreement had led to the resignation of the then law minister Zahid Hamid in return for the TLYRA promising they would issue no fatwa against him.
Leaders at the protest had announced on Tuesday that if the conditions stated in the Faizabad agreement — which had become a cause of much controversy for carrying signatures of an army general as a mediator — are not met, they will announce their future course of action via a press conference on Wednesday.
"There are some elements present at the sit-in who can create a violent situation if the government uses police action [against them]. We want to avoid a Faizabad-like situation at Data Darbar," Khan said, explaining why the government is erring on the side of caution while dealing with the protest.
The protests at the capital's Faizabad Interchange had begun last year after a change to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath via the Elections Act 2017 came to the fore. Despite the government terming it a clerical mistake and immediately moving to bring the document back to its original form, the opposition and TLYRA demanded action against those involved.
Violent protests then spread across the country after the federal government used force against those camping at Faizabad. The protests were eventually called off when the government accepted most of their major demands under an army-brokered 11-point agreement.
Among other demands of the protesters were for the Raja Zafarul Haq report — containing details of the investigation into the clerical error — to be made public, the release of all arrested protesters, formation of committee to suggest action against those who used force against protesters and full implementation of an earlier agreement between Punjab government and TLYRA.
Following the signing of the agreement, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court had questioned its legal standing, saying that "none of the terms could be legally justified".
"How can cases filed under the Terrorism Act be dismissed?" he had asked during a hearing at the IHC regarding the sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange.
Meanwhile, the TLYRA top brass, after discussions today, postponed their planned presser, telling the media that they will continue their sit-in until at least Friday, when they will announce their plans.
Pir Afzal Qadri, a senior leader of TLYRA, said they have extended their deadline by two more days on the request of the negotiations team.