After a long round of negotiations with the Punjab government, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Friday early morning called off its protest in Lahore and other cities.
Life in Lahore was disrupted on Thursday when TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi ordered his workers to "come out on streets" until the party's demands were met. The workers had choked the provincial capital's major roads while smaller protests were also held in other cities of Punjab, including Sialkot, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Kasur, Mandi Bahauddin, Chunia, Multan, Faisalabad and Muzaffargarh.
The announcement to end the protest was made by the TLP's central council around 6am today. According to TLP's chairperson Pir Afzal Qadri, the government has agreed to fulfill the terms of the Faizabad agreement that was brokered last year. Government officials reiterated that the report over the controversial amendment made in the Elections Act 2017 — prepared by a Raja Zafarul Haq-led commission — would be made public, he said.
Qadri also claimed that the government had agreed to drop the cases registered against TLP leaders and workers.
TLP leader Rizvi had been holding a protest at Lahore's Data Darbar since April 2, demanding that the government fulfill his demands. The protest had escalated on April 12 (Thursday) as the party's workers spilled out on the streets of major cities of Punjab, blocking major roads and national highways.
The Punjab police, while calling additional force from adjoining areas, were reluctant to use force. “The first priority remains a peaceful resolution,” said a senior police officer of Lahore. “Even if force is used as a last resort, it would be done with utmost restraint and be kept to the minimum,” he said. “Negotiations are still underway for the peaceful resolution.”
Talking to Dawn, TLP spokesman Pir Zubair Ahmad said his party was open to talks and no offer in this regard would be refused.
Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmad Khan, while speaking on the cases registered against TLP leaders, told Dawn: "The only sticking point is court orders which have put the legality of the agreement under question and declared TLP leaders proclaimed offenders. This area would require directives from the court and the government would take up the matter with the court. The rest has been agreed upon and the ball is now in the court of the TLP.”
Ahsan Iqbal terms TLP protest "pointless"
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who is on a tour to China, had also appealed to Rizvi to end the protest. In a statement, he termed TLP's protest "pointless" since the government had already accepted all the party's demands.
"Raja Zafarul Haq's report has been presented in court. In order to avoid conflict, we even let go our law minister," Iqbal said, adding that protests by TLP were ruining Pakistan's image internationally.
"Protests like these are the reason behind Pakistan's placement on FATF's (Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering) grey-list," he said. He further said that the enemies of Pakistan use these protests to portray it as a violent country when in reality it is a peace-loving, moderate nation.